Description & Technical information

This watercolour was drawn as part of Jess Shepherd’s Leafscape project. The series began one day in 2015 in London, when the artist picked up a Catalpa leaf from the pavement. As she recalled, ‘At the time I felt the condition of the leaf reflected my own story – city-bruised and unanchored, so I decided to paint it larger than life size to capture all its blemishes.’ As the Shepherd’s work and technique have been described, ‘her under-the-microscope watercolour paintings of leaves in varying degrees of decay glow with carefully captured texture, light and life…Shepherd works for up to 10 hours a day meticulously layering sometimes as many as 30 translucent washes of watercolour. She usually outlines the leaf, the midrib and the primary veins in pencil but will do a lot of the drawing after this stage in paint with a brush. “This is my way of avoiding graphite, which can dirty the colours when painting with watercolour.” She also learned…that burnishing the paper helped maintain the vibrancy and luminescence of pigments.’2 

The titles of Shepherd’s watercolours reflect the precise circumstances of her contact with the particular leaf depicted. As she notes, ‘Life just seems so incredibly random and yet not. Once I started questioning mankind's use of scale and measurement to record size and space, I realised that to refer to time as a measurement in the collection was an absolute must. So the titles record the exact time I found the leaf.’ The present sheet was painted in Granada in Spain, as the artist recalled, ‘The leaf was from a Catalpa tree growing in the garden. The leaves would fall off from the tree and dry so quickly in the sun that they would retain their colour for months afterwards, thus making the ideal specimen from which to paint from.’

The Indian Bean Tree (Catalpa bignonioides) is native to the southeastern United States but was introduced into England in the early 18th century, and is now widely found throughout Europe.

Date:  2015
Period:  21st century
Origin:  London
Medium: Watercolour, over a pencil underdrawing
Signature: Signed and inscribed Jess Shepherd / 041220151708 in pencil at the lower left.
Further inscribed, signed and dated Catalpa bignonioides / Found while I was raking the back / garden in Belicena, Granada, Spain. / Jess Shepherd / 2015 in pencil on the verso. 

Dimensions: 13.8 x 20.9 cm (5³/₈ x 8¹/₄ inches)
Categories: Paintings, Drawings & Prints