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Surrey Artist - Angeline de Meester

PUBLISHED: 20:48 24 July 2007 | UPDATED: 14:46 20 February 2013

Gardening took on a new importance to Angeline when she became a botanical artirst

Gardening took on a new importance to Angeline when she became a botanical artirst

Botanical illustration is currently enjoying a resurgence in popularity with artists and collectors. Angeline de Meester, an artist from Woldingham, talked to Tinx Newton about the pleasure she derives from the study of plants

Botanical illustration is currently enjoying a resurgence in popularity with artists and collectors. Angeline de Meester, an artist from Woldingham, talked to Tinx Newton about the pleasure she derives from the study of plants



For many years, Angeline de Meester's artistic expertise and interest lay in her jewellery business. But a few years ago, a desire to literally 'get back to the drawing board' lead her to investigate other areas of art and she stumbled across botanical illustration and became captivated by the beauty of this ancient art form.

Angeline further discovered its complexities and delights when she enrolled on a botanical illustration course at the prestigious English Gardening School which is based in the Chelsea Physic Garden in London. She graduated with distinction from earlier this year and is full of praise for the quality of the course and its tutors.

"The Chelsea Physic Garden is wonderful in itself," she says. "It is like a secret garden hidden amongst the chaos of London - my children always love it there, and it was a magical place to study."

Angeline studied botanical illustration, which involved a year of intensive study at the English Gardening School and a year of working alone on her own projects. She was surprised at how dedicated she became at analysing the construction and anatomical aspects of the plants.
"Prior to the course, my only horticultural knowledge was that of the average gardener," she says. "I had re-designed and planted the garden at our house in Woldingham, but I knew nothing about plant families or the fascinating construction of plants."

For many years, Angeline's area of expertise was in the jewellery business. Following a foundation art course at Epsom College of Art and Design, she studied jewellery design at Central St Martin's College of Art and Design in London. She then spent 15 years building up a successful jewellery business, and travelled abroad to gain export experience. Her travels took her to Sri Lanka, India and finally the USA where she settled in New York for four years.

"While I was there I met an Englishman," she says. "We married, and when we were expecting our first child, we decided we decided to return to our roots so that the children could enjoy the greenery of England."

Angeline and her family returned to live in her birthplace of Woldingham, and with a large house and garden, and three small children, she had to re-assess her jewellery business.

"I was, of course, proud to have done so well with my business, but I realised that's what it had become, a business, and less and less of my own creativity was being used," she says. "I felt slightly frustrated at not having the time to design new pieces, and it was ultimately not fulfilling. I began to draw again and then heard about the botanical illustration course at the Chelsea Physic. Money from the jewellery business funded my course and I enjoyed the discipline of studying again."

A course in botanical illustration is far more than just painting pretty plants in watercolour. The scientific side is important, with the construction of plants as important as their colour. Study combines scientific accuracy with aesthetically pleasing presentation.

Angeline's work is characterised by its understatement and botanical accuracy with an emphasis on strong design, structural intrigue and the sensitive use of colour. She pursues each subject in great detail, often taking around a month to complete a single watercolour.

A recent project has been a collection of plants with animal names.

"I thought the children would like this collection, and I think it's important to engage their interest in my work," she says, "I have painted the Fox Glove, the Toad Lily and Bear's Breeches, and the children are now fascinated to discover why the plants have those common names. We are all getting to understand and appreciate plants much more, which is wonderful to do together.

"But I now have to consider more carefully what to plant in my garden, and where to plant it as regards sun and shade. If I am going to paint a particular plant, it needs to be as near a perfect specimen as possible."

Angeline paints in the cool tranquility of her north facing studio, and encourages people interested in her work to visit her in person.

"This is not the most rational form of art - each painting takes many, many hours, even days of work. Sometimes, it is difficult to sell my paintings after so much devotion, and so I like to meet the buyer, to learn a bit about them and why they want to buy a botanical painting. If I can picture where my painting might hang, it makes it a little easier to let it go."

Angeline de Meester's work can be viewed on her new website, www.contemporarybotanicart.com, or at her studio in Woldingham. She can be contacted through her website or by calling her on 07747 023943. She also exhibits her work at Cherry Creek Gallery 7, Station Road, Oxted, Surrey, RH8 0BD. Tel: 01883 734755.


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