Wednesday, 22 July 2015

A special letter

I have always considered the lifeline of a botanical illustrator to be a bit different to the majority. I say 'the majority', as I am sure there are other professionals that have an existence like ours, such as farmers and great architects. What I am talking about here, is how we work with time. I believe that we live slower. We have to wait sometimes years for something to come into flower and our work is often seasonal. We live like trees. We take our time soaking up mother nature, interpreting it, sorting it and combining its elements to make something extraordinary. That is what we do and to do it properly, I feel, takes time. 

Last week I made a several trips to our letter box. It's a black box hung on the wall outside of our house here in Spain and requires a small key to open it. It's currently a very hot place to be, as it is on a south facing wall, so its a trip that needs to be done in the early morning, usually on the way back from my walk. It is usually my responsibility to check the house post, but I rarely do it on a daily basis. The reason for last week's toing-and-froing was because I was eagerly waiting to hear from the RHS after I submitted four pieces of my work for a preliminary judging. On Monday, I checked the post as usual - nothing. In the afternoon I later saw an update from Claire Ward saying that she had been accepted. I was so pleased for her, and happier still to think that my letter was on its way. I just assumed I'd get mine a little later as I am further away from the Londinium hub. After an hour of thinking about it, I decided to do a second daily check on the hot, black letter box - and there it was.

I have been wanting to submit work to the RHS since 2008 when I was working for Plymouth City Museum. I remember being sat at my cluttered desk, (littered with random natural history specimens such as eggs, butterflies and feathers) and having a sneaky look at the guidelines during my lunch break. Ever since then, I have made small steps towards this goal. 
Sat under something that I was hoping to paint as part of my RHS theme - there's a hint for you!

Sven years on and I finally felt that I might have reached an acceptable standard to be in with a chance of being accepted and with this in mind, I visited London to drop off my work for review in June. A month passed and the letter arrived, it is good news. 

Beers lined up in case it was bad news and I needed to drown my sorrows.
It was good news, so in the end I only had a couple.

And this brings me back to time because after a seven year growing season to get from seedling to sapling and a months wait for some mulching, I now have a maximum of five years for further development. It's a long process. I am hoping to put on a sudden growth spurt and get a collection ready for 2017, but one just doesn't know what lies ahead. One thing is for sure, I am not going to rush this one. I am taking my time to plan and organise my thoughts into something coherent and (hopefully) beautiful.


  1. Congratulations Jess,

    Great news and well deserved.
    Next stop - a gold medal !!

  2. Huge congrats Jess, Its been my ultimate ambition too, so proud to finally make it to this point with such great company too :) xxxx

    1. Thanks Claire - big congratulations to you too! Can't wait to see your work on those boards.