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A Q&A with digital botanical illustrator Natasha Coverdale

Ahead of Natasha Coverdale’s exhibition Digital Botanical opening at the Garden Museum on 15 November, we chatted with the digital artist to find out more about her work and the inspiration she found in the museum archives for the exhibition:

Natasha Coverdale

How did you come to digital illustration, when did you realise you wanted to use it as your artistic medium?

I was a graphic designer for 15 years before I started Studio Coverdale. I noticed that any packaging I designed I would want to add a pattern or illustration wherever I could… Working with a Wacom tablet and pen was very comfortable to me as I used it everyday. In 2018 I was exploring the reproduction of an antique French textile and was inspired to use bright and contemporary colours in wild abandon! In the 1700’s they would have had such limitations with colour – I could use as many as I wanted! Then making the digital tangible as a giclée (also using paper made in an English factory established in the 1700’s) – all changed for me. When my first print sold I was encouraged to make much, much more…

Natasha Coverdale’s studio

What’s a typical day in your life as a digital artist?

My day is usually broken up into three sections – the morning (and I wake up about 5am) I manage my social media – orders and admin. Midday- ish I pack and plan and connect with manufacturers – and then the sweet afternoon I am able to sit down and get creative. I feel I can treat myself to this once all of my work chores are done. But, sometimes I wake up and I am very, very moved to illustrate and I will then do my best to clear the day. Maybe I would have seen something and feel quite passionate about exploring a particular direction. l fall into that piece and its detail, I am obsessive with it and my flat mate will return to a dark home and I would have been immersed in illustration all day – perhaps hunched in a weird place as I don’t want to move or lose the flow…

Natasha Coverdale work in progress

Where do you find inspiration for your work?

Although I have a garden – my bedroom has a terrible view and when I started I wanted to create a print for myself – something that I could at look from my bed and transport me to another place. A view of a beautiful garden. So this is my main aim and continues to be… Immersion. I still test out new prints beside my bed to make sure they do the trick.

I do like to rummage in antique shops and flea markets – looking at how flowers are presented in old textiles. Travel and exploration always helps to ignite fresh feelings. The possibilities of new places to then visually escape to on my return. I have to add that often what excites me looks nothing like the art piece it has inspired…

Jupiter Garden

What has been one of your favourite or most challenging pieces to make?

Oooh that is hard. Jupiter Garden really made my business. But the most recent print that I create is always the best in my mind. As I feel that I am constantly challenging myself to add better perspective and more detail and visual treats within. Honing my craft. I want to make sure that although I am digital – I have a wild and playful movement to my work.

My A0 centre piece in this exhibition ‘Arigato Darlin’ was inspired by my recent travels to Japan. Whilst there I purchased some beautiful Gold leaf from Kanazawa – where it is made. I hand applied this delicate gold to the piece. Keeping the print in perfect condition, and using the opulent gold was a challenge – but I love the results! I would like to do more gilding.

Arigato Darlin’

Can you tell us about the works you’ve created for the Garden Museum exhibition, and how you used the inspiration you found in our archive and collection?

I chose to display some of my favourite and my most popular fantasy garden and floral pieces. I wanted a brimming wall of visual thrill! As I sell online this is a great chance for folk to see the paper quality and vivid colours in person. I was very happy to use this opportunity to go really BIG and hang my murals too!

It was such a joy to be able to access the archives. Filled with vintage seed packets and beautiful botanical engravings – I was in inspiration heaven! But surprisingly – what really caught my eye were the Sutton’s Seed Catalogues. Their covers had absolutely dreamy gardens on them! In particular the 1993 Catalogue. Wow – now that’s a garden I want to escape to! With what looks like a very happy grandfather, it reminds me of my own childhood. I have snuck a few cheeky little heart symbols in a flower in the print too and, of course, Derek the tiny punk iguana is there to find as well – as he is in all of my prints.

Suttons Seeds 1993 Catalogue, Archive of Garden Design

Are you working on any other exciting projects you’d like to mention?

Ooh yes, at the beginning of next year I will launch a full collection of my fabric and a rather delicious velvet Ottoman made in a collaboration… I can’t wait! But a big drive for me is to create a large immersive space and create some 3D pieces – perhaps exploring plaster cast… all in the pipeline!

Finally, as we are the Garden Museum, can you tell us about your relationship with plants, gardening and nature?

My gardening persuasion tends to be more practical rather than aesthetic and based around tasty food or natural dying opportunities… Strangely I have little luck with growing flowers but I do very much enjoy growing vegetables and I find propagating herbs extremely satisfying! I have a large Rosemary that I planted over 10 years ago that I am very attached too – although she’s quite straggly now… I am sure I have excitedly given her babies to most of Brighton and Hove. I do love a bit of wild mess. But I do so wish I would have a bit of luck with Peonies! Oh how I dream of having a small holding and a polytunnel…

I am also fascinated by plant folklore and most of my fantasy florals have names and a unique botanical profile. English hedgerows really make me swoon… there is so much to find hidden within – a buzzing world! Certainly next on my mind to interpret…

Natasha Coverdale: Digital Botanical is open 15 November – 14 January, with free entry: find out more

Follow Natasha on Instagram for more behind the scenes: @studiocoverdale

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