Elaine Searle

artists statement

  • I consider myself a botanical artist rather than illustrator. The intent of my plant ‘portraiture’ is to reveal the character of the sitter, be they shy beauty or thumping thug. Some describe my work as subtle and moving.

    I sometimes choose to focus on flower backs or roots as I think this helps the viewer to reconsider the commonplace. 

    Directing light to enhance or disguise form, texture, colour and detail allows me to add drama. I also enjoy manipulating the illusion of space, building paintings in complex layers (think stage sets) with compositions which may crop.

    When not painting I love to travel and teach. I have a passion to introduce botanical art to as many people as possible.
    Elaine Searle July 2018

biographical timeline

  • 26 October–25 November 2018

    SBA Exhibition,
    Palmengarten, Frankfurt, Germany

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    I am exhibiting these two paintings as part of the group show ‘The Seasonal Garden’

    This forms The Society’s fifth bi-annual exhibition at this location
  • August 20-30 2018

    The College Herbal,
    A Florilegium celebrating the 400th anniversary of the Pharmacopoea Londinensis

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    2018 is the 200th anniversary of the founding of Royal College of Physicians.

    A book The Illustrated College Herbal, Plants from the Pharmacopoea Londinensis of 1618 by Jane Knowles, Henry Oakeley, and Gillian Barlow was published on May 11th.

    An exhibition August 20-30 will form part of their celebration.

    I am one of 80 artists participating. The plant I have painted is Eryngium maritimum (Sea Holly) which grows on the shingle banks of the North Norfolk coastline not far from my home.
  • 2017

    Group exhibition July 2017, The Halesworth Gallery, Suffolk

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    In July 2017 a botanical art exhibition was held at The Halesworth Gallery, Suffolk as part of the 200 year celebration of the birth of Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker.

    J D Hooker was Charles Darwin's closest friend and one of the greatest British botanists and explorers of the C19th. For twenty years he served as director of the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, succeeding his father, William Jackson Hooker.

    The exhibition featured works of students, staff and Alumni of Chelsea School of Botanical Art.
  • 2017

    Painting included in ‘The Tradescant Orchard’ exhibition, The Garden Museum, London

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    Photo used with kind permission of Katherine Tyrell.
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    I am excited that my painting on vellum of heritage variety Prunus ‘Kirke’s Blue’ (see detail) was selected for an exhibition about The Tradescants – famous C17th plants hunters and gardeners to King Charles I.

    The Garden Museum reopened with five new galleries, the country’s first Archive of Garden Design and new and improved facilities including a bigger, brighter café and two education rooms.

    The Museum is located on the south bank of the Thames opposite The Palace of Westminster and Tate Britain.
  • 2016

    Appointed Course Director, Diploma Course, Chelsea School of Botanical Art

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    Update: In 2018 after two years as Course Director of The Diploma in Botanical Painting at Chelsea School of Botanical Art I am stepping down.

    I shall continue to teach certain topics on the Diploma and also a series of themed short courses for the school.
  • 2016

    Accepted as Fellow of the Linnean Society, London

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    The Linnean Society of London is the world’s oldest active biological society. Founded in 1788, the Society takes its name from the Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus (1707–1778) whose botanical, zoological and library collections have been in its keeping since 1829.

    I was honoured to be accepted as a Fellow which gives me access to interesting events and one the World’s most extensive Natural History Libraries.
  • 2015

    People’s Choice Award, ASBA Annual Meeting, Miami, Fl

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    As a member of The American Society of Botanical Artists, I like to attend their annual meetings whenever I can. Its a chance to meet up with the many botanical artists friends I have made through this organisation from all over the world.

    The annual meetings are held in a different US city each year. At the Miami meeting in 2015 I was delighted to get the peoples choice award for my graphite drawing of artichokes.
  • 2014

    Two of my commissions this year

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  • 2013

    Talas Award at 16th Annual International ASBA at The Horticultural Society of New York

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    This Rhubarb with roots was my first ever entry into a jurored ASBA show and won an award.
  • 2012

    Invited to paint for The Transylvania Florilegium

    I was very honoured to be invited as part of the first group of botanical artists to paint wild flowers at Zalanpatak, a village of only about 150 inhabitants deep in the wooded countryside of Transylvania in central Romania. It was an unforgettable journey back in time as the village still uses heavy horses for transport. We also visited the high pastures which were simply stunning.

    Three works (Stachys germanica L. Downy Woundwort, Digitalis grandiflora Mill. Large-flowered Yellow Foxglove and Carlina acaulis Stemless Carline Thistle have been selected for inclusion in the Transylvania Florilegium presently being created under the umbrella of the Prince of Wales's Foundation Romania to record in a permanent way the flora of Transylvania.
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  • 2010

    Exhibited as part of ‘Amicus Botanicus’, London

    I exhibited work in the second exhibition of the group at he gallery in Mayfair, London
  • Spring 2008

    Painting selected for inclusion in Volume 1 of The Highgrove Florilegium

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    With the help of former Head Gardener of Highgrove David Howard, HRH The Prince of Wales chose a representative selection of plants in the garden of Highgrove in Gloucestershire for inclusion in The Highgrove Florilegium.

    I was honoured to be invited along with many leading botanical artists from around the world to paint examples of these plants and trees. The painting of Crocosmia ‘Emily McKenzie’ was selected for inclusion in Volume 1 (image not shown above).

    Anne-Marie Evans OBE, MA FLS, the artist who developed the diploma course in Botanical Painting at the Chelsea Physic Garden, led a selection panel who ensured that the paintings met the highest standards.
  • 2008

    Exhibited as part of ‘Amicus Botanicus’, London

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    As one of the founding 11 members of the Amicus Botanicus group – I exhibited a series of paintings of Peonies on vellum and paper at their inaugural show.
  • 2008

    Awarded RHS Silver Gilt Medal, London

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    This painting of Echeveria lauii was one of a series of six paintings of succulents which was awarded an RHS Silver Gilt medal
  • 2007

    Work selected for 12th International Exhibition, Hunt Institute, Pittsburgh PA

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    This painting of Astrophytum myriostigma var. nudum was one of two of my succulents selected for the Hunt. One was retained in their permanent collection.
  • 2006

    Awarded Diploma (Distinction) in Botanical Painting

    In 2004, following a BA Hons and a long career in design for retail and packaging, I joined the two year part-time Diploma Course in Botanical Painting of the English Gardening School based at Chelsea Physic Garden, London. During this intensive course I received excellent tuition from Helen Allen, Mariella Baldwin, Gillian Barlow, Anne Marie Evans OBE and Pandora Sellars.