Friday, 24 April 2015


I should be getting on with commissions, but I needed a little light relief. Home alone this week, so I am working very long days to non-stop trance to whistle the time away. Plus I have been waiting for a parcel to arrive, which has made me rather house bound. I've missed my mid-day walks.

So this, along with my Propaganda Posters, is what I have been working on this week. This rather enormous piece isn't my usual it has to be said... but something I have wanted to do for a couple of months. It's a spin off from the exhibition we are holding here in Spain this summer (see below). The painting is not finished yet, but I need a break from it (as usual). Two 11 hour days have taken their toll. I might re-visit it towards the end of the week. Work for Kew is planned for this weekend and then hopefully this courier will arrive so I can finish this cotton job. Oh it's good to be busy. Then of course, there's Mork... the Artichoke... etc etc. There never seems to be enough time in the day, especially when you have a cat.

Pomegranate Work in Progress
'Persephone' a work in progress, Gouache, 841mm x 1189mm
Thinking of re-naming this 'No tits, No nostrils'...

Sense of scale

The Incredible Exploding Pomegranate

If you are an artist or a maker you might be interested in an exhibition I am organising with Roberta Gordon-Smith and Kitty Shepherd. We are still welcoming submissions to participate - the closing date is at the end of the month. If you are interested please follow the links below. We have Alexei Sayle, Andrew Birch, Gillian Singer and Peter Capaldi (Dr. Who) on the selection team so you will be in good company! There will be a van for UK artists, which will leave London at the end of the May. If you want to use the van, we will need a small contribution to fuel and the crossing. Please see our terms and conditions. 

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Friday, 17 April 2015

Überwältigende Blüten by Rosie Sanders

A new book is out by the marvellous Rosie Sanders. You can view the book here. It looks deliciously tempting. Might have to get one for my tea breaks.

£25.78 on Amazon with free delivery 

This is what Rosie has to say about her work for the publication: 

"With each picture I start a new language. Every time this feels strange - it is as if it is the first image that I have ever painted. The first steps can be extremely difficult, as there is only white paper in front of me and nothing to which I can relate, so I have to be very careful. It's only when I dive deeper into the work and a sense of order comes in to the picture when the language works and brings the image to life. If that happens, it can be very exciting!"

Rosie Sanders regularly paints Tulips, Iris', Anemones, Amaryllis', Roses, Orchids and Gladioli scaled up into enormous paintings. She is also often referred to in the botanical art world as the "master of light" because she frequently lights her subject matter from behind. Against the light the leaves and flowers appear transparent and start to reveal new colours and tones. It's rather magical. 

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Gossypium herbaceum

I am currently sat in my bedroom with the shutters down again. I'm listening to 90s trance after playing catch up on Radio 4. Never been a fan of Radio 4 if I am honest... too much talking - I find it difficult to listen to the conversation properly whilst painting. I have, however, become completely entranced with 'A Brief History of Ideas' this week, as they discuss what an IDENTITY is. Mum heard it first whilst working in her pottery and thought - 'gee whizz, Jess would like this' and sure enough I did. It's precisely the sort of thing I want to be listening too whilst working on my portraits. I recommend all the programmes.

Cotton (Gossypium herbaceum)
Cotton (Gossypium herbaceum) - a work in progress. Watercolour 21 x 29.7cm
So I am in my room becuase I am working on small things. A commission for a clothing magazine. There is a funny story that comes with this, as when I was in Granada with my cousin Poppy a few days ago we came across a cotton shop that had sprigs of a cotton plant in the window. I pointed it out to her and said 'THAT Poppy, you see it? THAT thing there! That is my WORST nightmare'. She looked at me perplexed. Realising that she didn't understand I said: 'Well, its white and its fluffy. You try and depict that in watercolour. The flowers are even worse as they are usually white or yellow'. She then nodded her head in agreement that the cotton plant is indeed a botanical artist's arch enemy.

Cotton in the shop window in Granada, my only source material out here!
Twenty four hours pass and the phone rings... it's a commission that I hoped would come in. Whoppeee! 'Oh no... what's that you say? Cotton?! You want me to paint cotton?!'. And so there you have it, the power of intuition.  This is a quick job, I have a fortnight to do it in before print, so I have had to get cracking, using images I have collected from my time in London. Not the way I really like to paint, but it's a fascinating project which I just so happen to be enjoying. I take it all back - cotton is actually really rather cosmic and very enjoyable to paint.  They have the most amazing, severely serrated bracts that contrast the soft fluffiness of the cotton bolls. 

So here are just a few of the paintings I have started over the past two days. Lets hope the company like them. They are all still very much works in progress, but you get the idea.

Cotton (Gossypium herbaceum)
Cotton buds (Gossypium herbaceum) - a work in progress. Watercolour 21 x 29.7cm

Cotton flower and seeds (Gossypium herbaceum)
Cotton flower and seeds (Gossypium herbaceum) - a work in progress.

Cotton (Gossypium herbaceum) - a work in progress.

Close up on developing cotton bud
Close up on developing cotton bud (Gossypium herbaceum)

Catalogue for the exhibition at the Jonathan Cooper Gallery

The Exhibition Catalogue for upcoming show at the Jonathan Cooper Park Walk Gallery in London is now available on issuu here. The show will be celebrating 25 years of the Shirley Sherwood Collection and is a must see for any botanical art fans. I myself am gutted that I can't go, as I got an invite in the post. Instead, I have to stay at home and look after my mum's new cat Jeremy. 

Jeremy looking suave

Jeremy looking rather rediculous

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Inky Leaves Mini Films

I have my cousin Poppy staying with me this fortnight. It's been brilliant having her around. She's been helping in the studio and been busy keeping me company - something I think I might have needed. She also provided me with an extra pair of hands, which subsequently meant that I could get some short films made...

Thursday, 9 April 2015

A Question of Identity Part Two

It has been exhaustingly silent on the Inky Leaf radio frequency this Easter but I can conciliate that it has been busy in my head (when is it ever not?!). As such, I have a lot to write about, but irritatingly, I can't seem to organise my thoughts and theories coherently into a blog post. I have been milling about everything for a number of days and well today I just decided I am going to have to bite the bullet and go straight in.

Parades in Granada during Semana Santa

So... where was I? Oh yes, last week I put Darth vader to one side as I just can't seem to conquer him right now and picked up my 'propaganda posters', which I also didn't finish. They are now currently all pegged on a washing line across my studio, staring at me accusingly. My back is to them when I paint. It's slightly un-nerving turning my back on eight versions of myself, but they all look so devoted to the cause that it's even more unnerving to look straight at them. The consequence of this is they are encouraging me to paint even when I am not in the mood. 

Wisteria which has just burst into flower right outside my window
So I began another load of work, this time for the RHS. I really want to submit some work to the Picture Committee this year. I have fannied around for long enough and I need something to focus on. I am therefore painting a huge Artichoke Leaf and a Wisteria. I am enjoying the leaf (quelle surprise). This was idea that popped into my head in October when I moved here and thankfully I have now found a window to get on with it. 

Artichoke Field just around the corner from our house
So yes, I was rather happily getting on with the leaf and then I entered another shadow phase and ever since then I have literally jumping in and out of the shade. I didn't want to mull around all week being idle - I have to get on with it, so I picked up a board and painted myself again. I suddenly found I was able to paint, even though I couldn't paint the leaf and this situation intrigued me. I found the entire process of doing a self portrait incredibly therapeutic and started to think back to the posters and then to all self portraits in general. I wondered if Van Gogh painted himself to deal with his black dog and then remembered Frida Kahlo and all of her paintings - the emotion, the turmoil. So to conclude this account, whilst watching a crucified Jesus being carried along the streets with men and women dressed in black dripping candle wax all over the floor, I have moved on from plants to people. 

Easter Sunday, the dress changes from black to white. These chaps with the pointy hats are called penitentes - they  are those who are doing penance for their sins. They wear the pointed hats to hide their identity.

Philosophy of the Self Portrait

So I ask myself - why am I painting myself? I hate myself. I suffer from a crippling low self esteem and I can't think of anything worse that to look at myself in depth. I realise though, that the answer is really quite simple - it is a question of existence. It's the spirit trying to show a body that it exists. Personally, for me, I get the feeling that this is a very serious stage in my development as both a human being and an artist, so I have to nurture it and give it the attention it needs. I can't turn my back on this requirement. I need to look at myself and draw a representation, whether it be true or fanciful. Maybe its all about finding myself so that I can do the other botanical works that my head wants to do. Maybe this is all part of the journey and I can't cross to the far shore until I have done this excruciating work on myself.

Popular trees just starting to come out into leaf at the beginning of last week
It is true to say that I have never taken any form of portraiture seriously, I always preferred Vincent's landscapes to his portraits, but that was because I was ignorant and I didn't grasp their true importance, or maybe I did understand them, but the ego rebelled. Now though, I feel understand... Whilst also healing themselves, artists such as Vincent and Frida used their own emotions, (rather than avoiding them), to make something which remains to be of useful to all of us. By representing their inner and outer selves and meticulously documenting the facets of their existence, they are able to communicate to the masses via an empathetic state which is beyond their physical being. To analyse oneself so thoroughly is deeply enlightening and, from what they have left behind in the material world, these artists continue to challenge our perceptions of reality and question where our identity lies.

Selfie - a work in progress
Regardless how much we try to change our appearance, we are trapped within our selves as our identity lies beyond the physical. Using art is an extension of our physical existence, I believe that we can travel time and space. We can project an idea, a moment, a feeling into the future and we can also review the past. I consider this to be an incredibly powerful tool. The self portrait therefore not only heals and reveals, it also communicates. Despite being a material object, it is almost as if the document were living and breathing. It's us, but with a superpower - as it also has the ability to travel beyond on another plane and enter worlds that are so very different to our own.   

So, with that in mind I feel I have to continue on the path of self portraiture. It's frustrating, as it wasn't what I wanted to do with my time, but I trust that the urge to look at myself in this way has occurred for a reason, and for that I have to embrace it with open arms and dive straight in.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

New Book by The Chelsea Physic Garden Florilegium Society

by Andrew Brown

Contributions from Christopher Bailes, Phillip Cribb and Anne-Marie Evans

Due out: May 2015

ISBN: 9781851497966
Publisher: Antique Collectors' Club
Size: 300 mm x 237 mm
Pages: 176 (78 colour illustrations)
Price: £35.00

I am rather excited about this upcoming publication. It will include several carefully selected plates taken from the garden's botanical illustration archive alongside information about the taxonomy and uses of the plants.

You glimpse inside the book on Amazon here and there is an information sheet here.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015


Saw this pretty cosmic tool and thought some of you might be interested in it. It's not sort of thing if I am honest, but I can certainly see the appeal... 

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Magdalena Franczuk and Ashkan Honarvar

I have always been a huge fan of collage so naturally I rather like the work of Magdalena Franczuk and Ashkan Honarvar. You can see more here if you are interested. Happy Easter! I am off to Granada now to watch the last of the processions.