Our Town: A botanical artist’s studio blooms with new work

Botanical art exits at the intersection of art and science, says botanical artist Jean Emmons.

Editor’s Note: “Our Town” is an occasional column, presented in partnership with Vashon Island Visual Artists, spotlighting members of the vibrant visual arts on Vashon. This week’s artist is Jean Emmons, an award-winning botanical artist.

Botanical art exits at the intersection of art and science. While very close to its sister genre botanical illustration, botanical art is to hang on a wall. Every botanical artist must be familiar with botany, or plants can lack structure and authenticity. The technical process requires an artist to slow down and really look carefully. An apple is not just an apple.

Botanical art touches on so many vital issues. Loss of plant diversity, loss of pollinators. Plants that are NW natives today, might not be in a few years.

“There have been some bright spots in this difficult time,” said Jean Emmons, who lives and works on Vashon. “More time means I can paint 100 layers, instead of the usual 60. I lose myself for hours, painting the tiny folds and flares of irises or poppies. As I move my head a fraction, the color shifts, and I see more. I am never done.”

“Botanical art is a small but very international genre. Thanks to Zoom and close-up cameras, we’ve been able to observe each other’s working methods in studios from Paris to Tokyo. It’s brought the tribe of botanical artists closer together.”

Emmons has won two Gold Medals and “Best Painting of Show” from the Royal Horticultural Society, London. She also won the American Society of Botanical Artists Founders Award for Excellence in Botanical Art. Recent awards include, “Best in Show” at the ASBA’s 21st International and The New York Botanical Garden Bronze Medal in the New York Botanical Gardens’ 4th Triennial.

Recent books featuring her work include “Plant: The Art and Science of Botany,” by Phaidon Press, “RHS Botanical Illustration, The Gold Medal Winners,” by Charlotte Brooks, “The Shirley Sherwood Collection, Modern Masterpieces of Botanical Art,” by Shirley Sherwood, and “Botanical Art Techniques,” by the American Society of Botanical Artists.

For more information see jeanemmons.com. To find out more about Vashon Island Visual Artists, visit vivartists.com.