Researching at the Eden Project.
It has been quite sometime since my field trips have taken me to the Eden Project, in Cornwall. The most recent body of work I have been illustrating has taken me to explore medicinal plants. This was inspired by an artwork I was commissioned to paint last year of Valerian officinalis, for the Royal College of Physicians. Looking into some of the possibilities of plants I could illustrate was a wider subject than I could have ever imagined. Plants offering huge and varied medicinal properties, it has been quite a task to choose which ones interest me aesthetically and also with regards to their syncretises together as a collection of artworks.
Whether you are visiting a natural location or an organised garden such as The Eden Project, it is always good to be organised with your time there and make the most out of your trip. I have been fortunate over the past 13 years to work with some of the specialists at the Eden Project on various illustration commissions. This time around I was very lucky to arrange some time with lead horticulturist Hetty Ninnis, in the rainforest biome. From our previous emails I was able to let Hetty know exactly the plants I was interested in illustrating so she could take me straight to them, rather than countless hours that could have been spent trying to find them all in such a wondrous and chaotic environment.
That said as you can see from my photographs after I had all the research notes and images I needed, there was enough time to be distracted and inspired by all the other fascinating plants and flowers growing and maturing across the biomes. With each trip I make to The Eden Project it is so lovely to see the changes and growth of such an awesome vision.
Research for the Studio
In an ideal world if you can obtain any of the plants you wish to study and take them back to the studio this certainly makes accurate studies an awful lot easier. When this is not the case record details of plants using photography alongside notes and sketches. At the Eden Project it is completely forbidden to remove any type of plant matter from the Biomes, without authorisation. Understandably when some of these highly exotic plants have come from many corners of the world, we only have to look back to the Victorian era to see how catastrophically wrong well intended distribution of exotic plants led to some of todays problematic invasive species.
This time around I had to record my dissections by photographing the flowers on site and was very thankful to Hetty for digging up one of the plants so I could get some great images of the rhizomes. It is always worth making a few useful contacts with horticulturalists, scientists and specialists in the field. The knowledge and experience they can offer you is often invaluable.
Buying prints from the Mediterranean Series
If this blog post has inspired you to take a little part of Eden home then please do look at my series of prints in the Mediterranean Series. Each print is signed and of a limited edition. This is a very unique collection, originally commissioned using plants chosen from the Mediterranean Biome. Years on the original tiles produced using my original artworks still align the white walls curving through the gardens, and are not available to buy anywhere else. To view the collection visit my online store using the link.
Visiting the Eden Project.
If you haven’t had the chance to visit the Eden Project in Cornwall, it is well worth the journey. I have been going since the very first week of their opening and always find something new and exciting to see. The experience of the rainforest biome just gets better each time as the plants and trees are now maturing to such an extent where they almost reach the roof. This time the Mediterranean biome was an absolute joy, particularly on a cold January day you could almost forget you were in Cornwall with relaxed feeling of escape. The sensory planting that has been landscaped beautifully across the biome and has an extensive range and varieties of interesting plants.
To plan your visit use this link for more information http://www.edenproject.com