Cosas: Julia Loken, 'Yellow Dahlia' (2021), watercolor on paper

U.K. artist Julia Loken’s botanical art belongs to a genre whose roots are in the vein of naturalist, biological illustration, which rose to prominence in the Age of Discovery. Loken’s botanical art captures myriad floral subjects with an eye towards rendering their unique and often dazzling beauty.

The petals at the core of her Yellow Dahlia (2021, watercolor on paper), on view at Gerald Peters Gallery (1005 Paseo de Peralta, 505-954-5700, where she’s represented locally, lure the viewer with their enticing, grasping inward pull, where they close like so many fingers on some hidden treasure. As the flower unfolds, its petals fan outward, matched in their slender forms by the surrounding leaves, whose blue tones fluctuate from light to dark. The flower’s hues also shift, from the creamy yellow of the outer petals to the rich, buttery hues at its center.

“Because it is quite a pale color, I decided that it needed a contrasting background to make it a more interesting composition,” Loken says. “After completing the flower, I painted the background in two shades of blue, in sections radiating outwards, to echo the pointed shapes of the petals. Then I finished the work by drawing fine silver lines over the blue sections, to give it more texture and delicacy.”

Untrained in the strict discipline of watercolor painting, Loken learned the medium on her own, after working as a botanical illustrator. She made detailed pen and ink illustrations for textbooks and botanical publications and worked as an employee of the Forest-Botany Herbarium at Oxford University in England.

Loken is an avid gardener who maintains a flower and vegetable garden that surrounds her 220-year-old cottage in the English village of Eynsham. She chooses many of her subjects from among the botanicals grown in the garden, and she finds inspiration in the celebrated flower paintings of New Mexico artist Georgia O’Keeffe. 

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