Despite having to wear a mask to protect her from spore allergies developed over long hours with her nose inches from a fungus, Jean Emmons has painted such meticulous and gorgeous mushrooms that her work has been accepted into the Royal Horticultural Society's Botanical Painting Exhibit. She's headed for London this month to the largest and most competitive botanical art show in the world.
Jean's mushrooms will be competing against work by more than 40 botanical artists from around the world, including South Africa, Japan and Europe, many of them former gold-medal winners. Jean is a former medal winner herself, bringing home the gold in 2005 for her paintings of Pacific Coast iris; the RHS bought four of her iris paintings for their own collection.
For the last three autumns, Jean has been concentrating on painting a series of weird and wonderful mushrooms, a task which includes frequent collecting trips with her friend Carole Elder. "Carole forages for the table, and I forage for the drawing board," says Jean of their expeditions to "all the secret places mushrooms grow."
Her biggest challenge besides developing a spore allergy? Figuring out how to paint viscid layers - which means slime - convincingly, which Jean says is much harder than it sounds. Yet she's found mushrooms to be exquisitely beautiful, in colors like amethyst, metallic lilac and sulfur yellow, with gills so luminous and delicate they could be crafted of watered silk.
Jean - all our best wishes and admiration go with you (the RHS show runs March 18-20) Our thanks for your beautiful evocation of our native flora, and for bringing some of our area's less celebrated oddities it to the attention of the world.
Here are a couple of Jean's exquisite mushroom paintings that will be on show in London this month - stay tuned for a longer colum, with more of Jean's work, in Pacific Northwest magazine after she returns...