Leigh Ann was born in England and grew up in Warwickshire. She began her artistic career as a graphic designer after graduating from Ravensbourne art college with a BA (Hons) in Visual Communication in 1989. Following a move to Sussex, she took up botanical illustration and in 2004 completed the prestigious diploma in Botanical Art and Illustration at the English Gardening School, Chelsea Physic Garden, London. This was followed in 2008 with a post graduate teaching certificate.
Over the years Leigh Ann has exhibited her work internationally and has been awarded medals by the RHS and the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden in Cape Town, South Africa. Many of her paintings are held in private collections in the UK and overseas, including the Royal Archives, the permanent collection at the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation, Pittsburgh, USA and at Sydney Botanic Gardens, Australia.
Leigh Ann has extensive experience of working with, and contributing botanical artwork to several florilegia, including the Hampton Court Palace Florilegium Society, the Nymans Florilegium in Sussex and The Florilegium Society at Sydney Botanic Gardens, Australia. Recently, she has played a pivotal role in establishing the newly formed Leonardslee Florilegium also in Sussex.
Teaching botanical art has become a passion for Leigh Ann. She tutors a wide range of botanical art and illustration courses and workshops from her home at Mannings Heath near Horsham, at various locations throughout Sussex, Surrey, and south London and further afield by special request for botanical art groups such as the Gloucester Society for Botanical Illustration. With her wealth of experience and knowledge, she is well known for her friendly and encouraging approach to teaching students of all abilities and is widely respected as a guide and mentor in the field of botanical art and illustration.
Leigh Ann has written two books published by The Crowood Press: ‘Botanical Illustration – the complete guide’ (2018) and ‘Colour for Botanical Artists and Illustrators’ (2021). She has recently been commissioned to write a third book, ‘Drawing and Painting Leaves’ which is due for publication in 2024.
Leigh Ann welcomes private commissions and is available for talks and demonstrations.
Leigh Ann draws much of the inspiration for her paintings from her garden and is particularly drawn to specimens that are rich in colour, feature interesting textures or have intricate structures. She specialises in watercolour to capture the fine detail and nuances which are unique to her subjects. Paintings are carefully composed to combine botanical accuracy with artistic appeal.
Each of Leigh Ann’s botanical paintings is carefully worked and takes many hours to complete. The process is broken down into several stages. Firstly, the subject is thoroughly researched, accurately observed, and drawn into a sketchbook, and sometimes photographed. Measuring, enlarging and often dissecting any small, intricate components is important and drawings of these are also made. Colour matching whilst the specimens are fresh is a key consideration and colour mixes are noted alongside botanical drawings.
Secondly, attention is given to the composition including how the colour balance of the plant components will work together and how the different elements will interact with each other and harmonise. Finally, the time-consuming process of painting can take place.
To achieve the fine detail in her work, Leigh Ann uses artist’s quality watercolours, sable brushes and smooth hot-press paper. During the painting process as well as using her previously recorded colour mixes, she uses a range of painting techniques to carefully describe the character and beauty of her subjects and their scientific botanical structures.