Saturday, 27 February 2016

Ruby Ricin

Botanical illustration of a ricin leaf
Botanical illustration of a Ricinus leaf, on the drawing board, when I last photographed it
It's been a productive time in the Inky Leaves studio and once again 'time' is doing it's own thing and not obeying the simple laws of logic. Luckily for me, time is moving very slowly, at a moment when I thought it would be zooming past. This is excellent news as not only must I be enjoying life to the max (I feel like I have crammed in a lot), but I must still be managing to keep up a good painting pace. All I have to do now is paint out three more 'medium sized' leaves before the second week of May and I am on track. This is how one does thirty six pieces in 12 months. 

Botanical artist
Artist at work...

Botanical Art Ricinus communis
Up close - work in progress on the Castor Oil Plant (Ricinus communis)

This fortnight saw the birth of a ruby-coloured ricin (castor oil plant) leaf called Rina. As a juvenile leaf she has this fantastic purply-coppery colour. I love the leaves of the castor oil plant; they always look so menacing, if a little creepy. The new leaves are very sculptural and can appear almost metallic in the way they reflect the light. Whenever I see them I always think of Karl Blossfeldt (click on link for latest exhibition tour dates) and feel that he would have liked to have done something with a Ricinus leaf. Astonishingly, I first decided that I wanted to paint this species back in 2006 when I ran away from Edinburgh for a weekend in Paris. I remember seeing a clump growing in the municipal gardens of Les Jardines des Plantes and decided there and then that I would at some point paint it. Of course during those days I wasn't really a painter - I was studying for my Masters in botanical taxonomy - and it wouldn't be for another ten years when I'd finally get round to it. I am happy it took this long - it's given me the space to not only work out how I wanted to depict it, but also to develop the skills required to do so.

Botanical Art Studio
Studio shot for a sense of scale (Ricinus communis)

Copper coloured leaf
Ricinus communis leaf - work in progress

So there you have it - Ricinus. I am not sure if you have noticed yet, but I haven't been posting any pictures of the leaves finished. If you want to see them finished, you'll have to come to the show! I will update you as to when this is nearer the time, but it is likely to coincide with next years RHS London Botanical Art Show.

Moving on from deadly plants...

This week the weather has turned a bit cold and 'mis' here in Spain and we have snow forecast, although it looks more like hail at the moment. The swifts have arrived in some areas and the daffodils have just come out into bloom. Surprisingly, the bulbous plants here are much later than the ones in the UK and I can only put it down to our cold nights. So naturally this inclement weather has kept me focused - staying indoors rather than sloping off outside. I am slowly climbing the mountain of 36 pieces in a year. The plan is to also paint six pieces for 2017's RHS show this summer, which will hopefully take me to the first week of September, when, if all goes well, I will be painting 15 smaller pieces on vellum whilst touching up the other 15 larger leaves. I realise it's an insane painting programme, but it is not fun unless it is bonkers. Last night, in theme with the effort required to climb piles of plant-based work, gigantism and being slightly mad I dreamt I climbed a Seville Orange. I was smaller than the size of a pithy dimple, which I hasten to add, were like craters. It smelt fantastic as I dug my heels into the skin and clawed my way up to the top stem. I managed to complete the climb, which I am taking as a positive omen and wasn't too exhausted as the fragrant oil was invigorating.

Vine Leaf

With the sky now lobbing balls of ice at my window, I have managed to start another leaf called Victoria. It's a decaying grape vine leaf (I don't blame her, it's freezing outside). There are some fantastic colours in this one which I am very much looking forward to describing with paint. 

Botanical illustration of a grape vine leaf
New piece - work in progress - decaying grape vine leaf (Vitis vinifera)

Botanical illustration of a grape vine leaf
Working on the grape vine leaf 

News Flash

Talking of grape vines, I have heard on a vine made up of grapes that there will be another Mrs. Delany exhibition.  Will keep you posted as soon as I have more info but I sp0tted the news as a tweet on Angie Lewin's feed - printmaker extraordinaire. 


  1. Your huge leaves are just spectacular. Thank you for sharing your process! :)

  2. Thank you for commenting - I am delighted that you like my recent work. It's always so lovely to hear from people and I am touched that you have taken the time to send a message. Thank you.