This is an interview with Ines-Hermione Mulford who last summer won the first Making A Mark Award for Botanical Art at Plantae 2022 - the Annual Exhibition of the Society of Botanical Artists (see Plantae 2022 - and a new Award and The Making A Mark Award for Botanical Art)
Part of the award is an interview as a blog post about her artwork. Next week Plantae 2023 opens at the Mall Galleries in London and I'll be on the lookout for the next winner!
The interview with Ines-Hermione covers:
I determined that the criteria for the award is that the winner needed to be somebody who fulfilled one or more of the following
I knew I'd picked somebody with an unusual perspective on how to represent plants - which is why she won the award. What I didn't appreciate at the time was quite how unusual that perspective is!
Last time I saw the painting below it was hanging on the wall in Plantae 2022 in the Mall Galleries. In the Autumn of 2023 it's going to form part of a Bryophyte and Lichen Trail in the Dundee Botanic Garden!
About the artist: Ines-Hermione Mulford
âTell me about yourself. How did you get into art and why are you an artist?
âI have always been creative, something nurtured by my granny with many summer holidays painting flowers in her garden in Devon from a young age, but I was also very interested in science.
When I discovered the work of Leonardo Da Vinci, I think I must have been about 9, It felt like a lightbulb moment. I wanted to be him! I wanted to paint in a way that mimicked reality, I wanted to design, engineer, study science. But growing up it became obvious that past 16 this wasnât really an option. Choosing my A-levels, and on from that university, meant I had to choose either the arts or the sciences. Something that didnât make sense to me, and to be very honest, I still donât get it, in fact I vehemently oppose strict boundaries of learning and wish we were far more interdisciplinary.
Ultimately, I chose art as it was what excited me the most and is largely due to my secondary school art teacher who was an absolute hero. Unsurprisingly I found my practice routed again, and again, in the sciences and I think my career has been very linear, albeit unconventional, since.
At Art school, Edinburgh College of Art, I found my love of classical realism, and chose the anatomy elective which was linked with the medical school there and through that found a love of medicine, that led me to surgical and medical art which is a huge part of my practice now.
I started shadowing surgeons in 2015 where I felt an affinity with their desire, and need, for highly skilled, craft-based work. I am still doing this work today, and actually went back to university to do a Masters in Social Anthropology at the University of Edinburgh to ensure that my research was ethical, something that was invaluable as I have just completed a residency with the Surgeonâs Hall Museum in Edinburgh, producing paintings on the human relationship between surgeon, robot and patient in robotic surgery.
Social Anthropology has been instrumental to developing my career as an artist as both are a looking at and a living with the world around us. They are explorations of the lived experience and the expression of humanity, the natural world and life as we know it. They are both disciplines where subjectivity and personal experience are celebrated.
A lot of my practice as an artist is project based, which feeds that desire in me to learn, and Iâm currently working on two projects, one with Breast Cancer Now, a charity based in London where I am exploring the organisation as a holistic support system; the other is with the University College Dublin teaching hospital Mater Mericordial, visualising their pioneering research in digital biopsies of cancer diagnosis. But it was the robotic surgery which led my personal practice back to the wonderful world of flora.
Seeing the human body through the eyes/lens of the da vinci robot, on a macro level, made me completely rethink how I situate myself in the world. The almost abstract landscape, this alien world that was so foreign and yet part of us, was bizarre yet stunning. I began to notice similarities texture and, after further research, function, to the mosses and lichens that have fascinated me all my life.
For me it has felt very linear, figurative art and realism drove me to study anatomy, which developed my understanding of the human body, leading me to surgery and medicine, the human body, our flesh, functions etc. which led me onto the natural world, its fascinating structures, functions, beauty and our undeniable dependence on it. My practice is interdisciplinary as I feel that art has the ability to be boundary-less, and is all the more successful for it.
About drawing and painting plants
How has your experience in drawing and painting people helped you in drawing and painting plants?
Ooft difficult question! I learnt a lot through painting and drawing people, the skill-based side, so the honed skills of observation and retention, while my background in anatomy helped me to really understand what I was looking at, and not just make things up!
In an âartierâ sense I suppose, I see drawing as an encounter with something. I actually ended up writing my dissertation for my masters on how drawing in the field aids social research.
Drawing is a form of active looking that, each line leads you to see, it is the product of an encounter, while also being an encounter itself. You are in conversation with what is being observed. Whether that is a literal conversation with an individual, or metaphorical!
It is the combination of learning about the anatomy of something, in this instance taking time to really research the structure of the mosses, and then also be led by what you are actually seeing; that engagement is so important and the process of drawing itself.
What do you find appealing about drawing plants generally?
Although my practice is deeply rooted in surgery and the artificial, man-made world that surrounds it, my real interests lie in the natural world.
I am hugely interested in ecology. I think itâs paramount that we turn our attention to the natural world and the dependence we have on it, to raise awareness of it, ensure its understanding, to promote its protection.
My earliest paintings were watercolour flowers done in my grannyâs garden. Her house is this tiny, amazing little cottage down in Devon, and she has the most incredible garden, consisting of a formal garden, orchard, vegetable patch and wild garden. It was the most magical place, to be as a child, and it is no less so as an adult. That childhood fascination of plants, their macro-worlds and macro-realities that often pass us by, has not gone away as an adult, but only developed in this desire to learn the science behind the plants, their relationships with other plants, their adaptations, and their small but crucial part in a larger ecosystem.
I now look for these macro-worlds everywhere I go, and it adds a new level of understanding to every city, every patch of countryside or new country I travel to. Drawing them enables me to see them better than I would if I was just having a quick look, and also situates me in these tiny worlds.
Iâm in total awe always at the beauty there is around us that often goes unperceived. So for me it is a documentation, a hope that other people will also be as fascinated as me when they see how beautiful they are. â
What's your approach to creating miniature macros?
I just returned from a research trip to the highlands of Scotland where I was looking for new species of mosses that I hadnât seen before! I spend hours, daysâ¦ weeks if I can afford it around the rest of lifeâs commitments, out searching, sketching, and collecting samples of different mosses.
While out in the field, I try to identify them, take some photos, and make some sketches if Iâve got time.
I lead an outdoorsy lifestyle and am a bit of a nuisance on a hike as I get distracted left, right and centre by all the different mosses, seeing one Iâve seen before growing in a way I havenât or just inspired by the way the light is hitting it, Iâm always looking at moss and lichens. This can put major delays on hikes and walks (which doesnât always leave you the most popular person!) so if Iâm with a group Iâll try to take some photos and a small sample to sketch from later. If Iâm by myself or with my partner who spends just as long staring at rocks (heâs a geologist) as I do staring at moss, then I like to sketch there and then.
Samples are very useful and thankfully with moss they can be rehydrated when they dry out. If you ever get the chance to watch a moss rehydrate, do it, it is fabulous watching it totally transform as it absorbs the moisture. At home I study the structure, and using a combination of normal and macro photos, sketches and observation I create my drawings.
The drawings are not fully detailed though, as I want them to be reminiscent of the lived experience of seeing them in their natural habitat. During my mastersâ in social anthropology I studied memory, subjectivity and the âpartial truthsâ created as a result from these. So I wanted to create drawings that would give a nod to this while also being scientifically correct which is so important within my practice. This oxymoronic relationship is what I base the works aroundâ¦ of the fleetingness of human perception, of what we do and do not remember, but also with intense scientific study. In this way I exaggerate the blurred effect created by the macro-lens on the peripheries of the photo, distorting it further, omitting elements, to draw the eye, creating a sort of tunnel vision to the highly detailed, accurate and comprehensive structure of individual parts.
What materials did you use for the small but very precise macro drawings?
I wish I could say I use exciting, expensive, amazing pioneering materials, but in all honesty this project started out with a piece of cartridge paper and an HB pencil!
I have since developed my drawing style somewhat and now work on recycled paper, and use 4B, 2B, HB, 2H and 4H pencils (I have a thing about even numbers), a rubber which I use A LOT to get some of the blurred layered effects, a sharpener/scalpel and if I need very sharp white lines then I sometimes use a blunt pin to etch into the paper itself. This week I actually started using blurring sticks which have proven to be very effective for the larger scale drawings Iâve been working on. For me the materials donât need to be anything special, put it this way before the blurring sticks, I was using cotton wool buds! Iâll still probably use cotton wool buds going forward as they give a different effect to the blurring sticks. I like to experiment, to see what effects I can get from the things at hand!
Will you continue to draw and paint plants?
Undoubtedly! Plants and being outside or in my studio are my happy places. Mosses and lichens in particular hold a huge ecological interest for me, and I am actually in conversation with Dundee University and their botanical gardens about a potential project Iâm being brought on for there. The project will look at the importance of mosses and lichens and hopefully enter discussion with local communities on how we can best understand and protect them for a sustainable future, all done with a huge art component which is really exciting. I feel like my career and study in this area is only just beginning!
Your exhibit contained a large painting and a group of four very small drawing. Is this usual?
I guess it depends on what you mean by usual!
It is usual for me to play with scale within my practice. I love installation and sculpture for the way the piece makes you, the viewer, engage with the work. Through movement around it, you situate and resituate yourself with the work, developing the perception of it. I hope that having a variety of scales within two-dimensional works can similarly evoke this by forcing the viewer to move in and away from the pieces to get the full comprehension. It becomes more immersive and places more emphasis on the individual experience, of being with the piece. Which for me, is evocative of my own encounter with the moss or lichen being depicted, that constant back and forth of observation to perception to depicting, and that participation itself of being in the field, bush, mountain, or forest.
Your painting and drawings were about lichen and mosses. Why do these hold a particular appeal for you?
Lichens and mosses are everywhere. I am fortunate I live in Scotland, one of the best places in the world to see mosses, and it has been living here that has really sparked this desire to learn, document and champion mosses and lichens.
They are found all over the world, in virtually every climate, urban and rural, barren and lush. There are very few places they canât grow, they are survivors, and yet, I feel they are often overlooked and highly unappreciated!
Lichens are beautiful examples of symbiosis and are incredible indicators of pollution, PH, water types, amongst so many other things.
Mosses are the first to grow following natural disasters such as forest fires, they trap moisture, change PH levels, and ultimately change soil so that new plants can grow. They are crucial to maintaining ecosystems and biodiversity.
We can learn so much from mosses and lichens. They are nature-based-solutions for a huge variety of issues surrounding climate change and sustainability. Not to mention they are utterly stunning! Mosses especially in this regard can give the most colourful, most exotic flowers a run for their money. Mosses come in such a huge array of colours, they are structurally complex and diverse, and they endure. They are beauty and brains! â
Subscribe to this news blog to find out more
about botanical art and illustration and associated exhibitions
Blog posts are emailed to you when you
âSUBSCRIBE to "Botanical Art and Artists - News" by Email
About the Plantae exhibition
âWhat made you enter the Plantae Exhibition given the previous focus of your artwork?
Although I havenât come to Botanical art through the most conventional of routes, and so my practice isnât the most conventional either, my attitude to entering was a simple, why the hell not?
Producing work to a high level of realism and scientific accuracy are the pillars of my practice, something that I found to be the same in the more classical botanical art, and by the time the call came out for Plantae, I had been working in flora for just over a year as a personal line of enquiry alongside my surgical works. I was absolutely loving this side of my practice and thought there was no harm in giving it a go.
Itâs always a gamble entering exhibitions and rejections just end up being a part of it. Iâm one of these people who takes rejection pretty hard, and it would be a real hit on my self-esteem and as a result my practice for a time, but Iâm also someone who when Iâm told no, pushes harder to get better. So my rational was that if I got accepted, amazing, and if I didnât, then I would keep pushing, go see the exhibition, and reapply next year.
Amazingly, my gamble paid off and this year my work resonated, which is a wonderful feeling as I love producing these works.
Do you have any lessons learned from entering this exhibition for the first time - and seeing the exhibition?
What did you think of the Plantae exhibition?
Donât mess up the framing!!!
My works were very almost not hung because I hadnât been able to get the works framed professionally. An unexciting story of using a framer I hadnât used before, not getting the frames I wanted in on time despite them promising otherwise, resulting in my works were sent off in ready-mades. Not my finest hour. Never underestimate the power of a good frame. It can totally transform a piece of work. I was extremely fortunate that the works were still hung, but what a shame that they couldnât have had the impact they would have had if Iâd managed to get them in the right frames.
Despite my debacle, I was able to enjoy the Plantae exhibition, which was incredible.
It was such a great opportunity to meet so many artistsâ whose practices are unique and stunning. The array of works on show, the incredibly high level of technically beautiful art, interesting uses of composition, cropping, scale, materials and subject matter mean the show was hugely diverse and has given me lots to think about within my own practice.
Would you recommend other artists enter it next year?
Absolutely! If you have an interest in botanical art and that is evident in your work, then there is absolutely no harm in trying.
Putting your work out there can be terrifying. Youâre opening yourself up for rejection, and it happens. But like I said earlier, you can utilise this to push you to be better.
Plus, if you donât apply, you canât be accepted. I took a gamble entering, and it was one of the best decisions Iâve made.
âI'd like to thank InÃªs-Hermione for sharing her journey with art and developing her macro drawings and paintings of mosses and lichens. It's given me an entirely new perspective on the possible backgrounds and interests of botanical artists!
This year Ines-Hermione will be:
You can also find her at:
BAA Visitors so far....
since April 2015
Subscribe to BAA News
Blog posts are emailed to you when you SUBSCRIBE to "Botanical Art and Artists - News" by Email
Your email subscription to this blog is ONLY activated IF you verify the link you will receive. You can unsubscribe at any time
It will NOT be used for anything else and will NEVER be given to anybody else.
EVERY DAY FOLLOW News about botanical art + links to new BAA blog posts on Botanical Art and Artists on Facebook
© Katherine Tyrrell 2015-23
Unauthorised use or duplication of ANY material on this blog without written permission is strictly prohibited. Please also respect the copyright of all artists featured here.
What's your news?
This blog highlights news - in brief - about botanical art exhibitions around the world.
Use the Contact form to tell me about an exhibition and provide a summary of relevant information. If listing your event I will ask you for relevant images.
The Best Botanical Art Instruction Books
Tap the pic to check out my recommendations
The Best Books about Botanical Art History
Tap the pic to check out my recommendations
Workshops, Classes & Courses
Find out about botanical art workshops, classes courses offered by various organisations and artists in:
Read other Botanical Art Blogs
READ Blogs about botanical art and/or by botanical artists & illustrators
BAA News Archives
This page Botanical Art & Artists on my main blog has an archive of blog posts about past exhibitions of the Society of Botanical Art and Artists
News Blog about artists, awards, exhibitions etc.
- Calls for Entries
- Exhibitions around the world
- Online Exhibitions
- RHS Exhibitions
- Hunt Exhibitions
- Tips and Techniques
- Best Botanical Art Instruction Books
- Directory of Teachers
- Directory of Courses
- Online Botanical Art Courses
- Diplomas and Certificates
- Talks, Lectures and Tours
ART MATERIALS (Paper / Vellum)
BOTANY FOR ARTISTS
- Scientific Botanical Illustration
- Best Botany Books for Artists
- Plant Names & Botanical Latin
BOTANIC GARDENS & Herbaria
Cookies, Personal Data & Privacy tells you how this site relates to and impacts on you and your privacy - and your choices.
Product & company names may be trademarks of their respective owners
About Affiliate Income: This website has been created to share information not to make a profit. I am an Amazon Associate and earn from qualifying purchases (e.g. books from Amazon) which helps offset costs associated with maintaining this very large website.