Image of grapevine

About the Artist

The artist's studio

The artist’s studio

The artist's garden

The artist’s garden

Jean started out as an abstract painter, creating large minimalist color fields. However, an interest in the natural world, and a compulsion to garden, led to botanical painting. She enjoys trying to hone the intense observation skills the discipline requires.

Jean’s technique is based on medieval manuscript illumination. She learned it from the late Kevin Nicolay, a plantsman and self-taught botanical artist. It’s a difficult and time-consuming watercolor method, but an excellent way to suggest light moving through layers of plant tissue. Recently, Carol Woodin of the ASBA has taught her to paint on true calfskin vellum.

As for subjects, “I love growing beautiful flowers. However, lately I have no desire to paint them. At any one time, I’ll have 25 dahlia cultivars growing in the garden, I look at the dahlias and I think to myself, they are perfect. I can’t possibly make them as beautiful as they are in real life, so why try? Then, I’ll look down on the ground at some molding mushroom and think, I’d like to paint that.” Currently, Emmons is growing many members of the genus Arisaema and the genus Sarracenia for future paintings.

Recently, Emmons received the “Best Painting of Show” award and a Gold Medal from the Royal Horticultural Society for an exhibition of “Common Mushrooms of the Pacific Northwest United States.” In 2005, she received a Gold Medal from the Royal Horticultural Society for an exhibit of paintings of Pacific Coast irises. Also in 2005, she won the prestigious American Society for Botanical Artists Award for Excellence in Botanical Art. Her work is included in numerous collections including the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation, the Royal Horticultural Society’s Lindley Library, and the Shirley Sherwood Collection. In 2007, she won “Best in Show” at the International Botanical Art Exhibition at the Horticultural Society of New York.

Ken Johnson, art critic of the New York Times, has described her work as “remarkable.”