FRANCES LIVINGSTONE F.L.S.
I am a self-taught fine artist whose passion for the natural world has evolved into a hope to use some of my work in the service of conservation. Much of my work as a painter and writer celebrates nature and in the ecosystem paintings, the vital importance to us all of ecosystems everywhere.
Some of my work has focused on endangered orchids, painting both portraits of a plant family of exceptional beauty which are found on every continent except Antartica and, in the ecosystem paintings, undertaking extensive original research to produce scientifically accurate documents. My goal was to achieve a unique record for posterity. I hope my paintings will be enjoyed as works of art and be relied on for their scientific accuracy. In recognition of these goals, I been awarded the highest category of Lindley Medal by the Royal Horticultural Society, U.K. My paintings have exhibited in leading galleries internationally and have featured in magazines and other publications worldwide.
I am a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London & have been profiled as a Plant Person in Plantlife magazine.
I began painting whilst living alone in a remote wooden hut in a northern Thai dipterocarp forest, feeling compelled by the spectacular surroundings to try to paint. On my return to England I was generously invited to paint endangered species from the backstage collections of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. Later, I was given unique access to the private greenhouses of the French Senat in Paris. When I learnt how little was known about most of these specimens’ natural habitat, I realised that I may be able to contribute to the environmental movement through tracking remaining ecosystems and documenting them in paint. Because often little or nothing is known about connections and interdependencies between different species, I travel to wherever a species was last seen in the wild. I can then paint it in its chosen habitat and include why it is endangered. I evolved this style of painting to record as much of the ecosystem of an endangered species as possible. Each orchid ecosystem painting shows the chosen orchid, always painted life size, with the flower shown full on, in profile and with its back view, together with buds, seeds and any pseudobulbs, root systems etc. and the reason why that ecosystem is endangered. Included in the legend are the scientific names of all associated trees, mosses, lichens and ferns, insects and birds etc. They are listed in order of space taken up on the painting.
Creating these paintings can take many months. The trips to find and paint them have taken me to many of the world’s most beautiful wild places and involve months of solo travel.
Watercolour is the medium of choice when travelling. I use lightweight foamcore as a board, a few watercolour pans – selected for their colour and light fastness from a range of manufacturers and, because of concerns about the possible origins of natural paintbrush hairs, exclusively synthetic brushes. The paper is always smooth and white.