Flower Art Ink and watercolor wash Life in general Plants Sketchbook Pages

Multitasking with Fuchsias & Botanical Sketching in the 1500s

Fuschias, Ink & watercolor, 5x7" in Moleskine
Fuchsias, Ink & watercolor, 5x7" in Moleskine

The weather has been so glorious the past few days it’s hard to be indoors, especially when cold April showers are predicted for the rest of the week. I decided to combine a walk with doing errands and calling my mom, so I tossed my sketching kit in my bag, grabbed my iPhone and headed out the door.

Three blocks from home I spotted these fuchsias. I remembered how my sister and I used to pretend these flowers were little ballerinas and dance them around our San Diego backyard. But I couldn’t remember what they were called. Since I had my mom on the phone, I asked her, “What are those little pink flowers called that look like ballet dancers?”

My mother is 86 years old and we’d just been having a fruitless conversation about Digital TV vs HD TV and LCD vs LED (and this with someone whose VCR has been blinking 12:00 for years). She said she had no idea what flower I was talking about but began describing random flowers that might qualify.

Meanwhile, I’d finished my ink drawing, set up my watercolors on the ground, and started painting. As I was writing a note in my sketchbook I remembered they were called fuchsias, like the color.

I changed the subject, packed up, and started walking again.  We continued our conversation until I reached the market and it was time for her to watch General Hospital.

Botanical Sketching in the 1500s

Fuchsias were named for Leonhart Fuchs, born in 1501,  a doctor who studied plants for their medicinal uses and wrote De Historia Stirpium comentarii insignes (or Notable Commentaries on the History of Plants) (because all medicine was herbal back then). The original book,  in excellent condition, is in the University of Missouri library and available for viewing. There are digital images of the book and its illustrations on their website or clicking the image below.

Fuchs illustration of pumpkin in De Historia Stirpium
Fuchs illustration in De Historia Stirpium

8 replies on “Multitasking with Fuchsias & Botanical Sketching in the 1500s”

I love your fuschia–so colorful and animated; I think your childhood memories found their way into your interpretation!
The Fuchs page is wonderful too: I’m always awed pages that are all (or nearly all) green–difficult to pull off!


Thanks Laura. I agree that greens are challenging. The last painting teacher
I worked with tried to get us to avoid them and use other colors instead.
She often used dark reds instead of greens. There are a few more pages of
his book on the U of Missouri website I linked to. I wish I could see the
book in person! Jana


Again, I am in love with your botanical painting. I t also has something that to me makes it more than a botanical. Maybe, as Laura says, your childhood memories might have inspired your interpretation?


Taken as a whole, this entry is a work of art, itself. Even more than usual. An original one by you, Jana. You could publish it in a book or a magazine of fiction, combining painting, poetry (the little comment beside the picture), and the sweet, charming essay beside it. Phenomenal, an insight on how knowledge is transmitted, its sources, especially among women. This effect is why I think your work has a natural yen toward illustration.


Lovely! And don’t fuchsia buds make a satisfying “pop!” when squeezed! (Only when the gardener’s not around to catch you though!)


Very cool fuchsia sketch, Jana. I love them because they’re so pretty and because the hummingbirds love them, but I cannot keep one of those plants alive. They dry up, they get little bugs, blah blah blah. I love them but they don’t love me.


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