Taking to the stage in today’s Spotlight interview is a woman of many talents; Singapore-based artist, Lucinda Law. We first stumbled across Lucinda’s work after spotting the fabulous illustrated cover she created for Harper’s Bazaar SG, in 2016, and were enthralled to learn about her multi-faceted life as a writer, editor, teacher and botanical watercolour artist. Previously a lifestyle and travel editor in Singapore and Hong Kong, Lucinda now expertly merges her passion for art, design, fashion and culture with botany and the natural world. We got in touch with her to find out more.
Can we start off by learning a little bit more about you and your background, Lucinda?
I love immersing myself in the world of nature and narratives. One thing connects to another boundlessly and this arouses a state of curiosity and discovery which makes things meaningful. I thought I was going to be a biologist or a botanist when I was young because I did well on the subject and could draw the anatomy of plants and animals fairly accurately. Books and story writing are also major passions, so I graduated in Literature, left school and worked as a music writer and travel editor. A big part of my career was spent lecturing in the arts and design field. Up until then, the botanical and natural history world have always been my secret passion, I kept it very close to my heart.
On your website, you describe yourself as a ‘city girl who fell in love with nature’. What led to your move into botanical art?
About three years ago, I experienced a series of major life changes in the course of a few months, and I went on a five-month sabbatical, with a strong instinctive calling towards nature. More specifically, the desire to live on an island so that I could swim in the warm tropical sea every day and learn to scuba-dive. For this, I went to Gili Air, Indonesia and acquainted myself with the beauty under the sea. The other place that really called out to me was New Zealand, so I headed off to South Island without knowing that in the coming winter months I would be living on a 38 ft ketch moored in Takaka. In a series of synchronicities from Gili to New Zealand, my experiences awoke my deep affection for nature, at times I felt as though I was wooed by Mother Nature, and on my return to Singapore, I decided to return to my first love, botanical art and natural history. Driven by this passion and the experiences I had in nature, I started my own creative studio and began painting.
How would you describe your work to others?
It’s always hard to describe your own works, at best; I would say “the beauty of nature, as it is communicated to me.”
What inspires you today?
I like being curious and enjoy cultivating short intense attention span for many things and find myself being able to pay long and loyal attention span for the nature world. It’s a pleasure which I happily and patiently succumb to. That said, being out in nature, under the stars, hiking, swimming in the sea, and just observing what’s out there, always get me excited and teeming with ideas.
In 2016 you became the first artist to illustrate the cover of Harper’s Bazaar Singapore. How did that come about?
It was one of the most memorable experiences and I don’t think I have shared the story before until now. To sum it up, a month before the commission came in, I was contemplating joining the Harper’s Bazaar Inaugural Art Prize. For many reasons, I didn’t participate and promised myself I’ll continue to develop my conceptual ideas, rigour and discipline as an artist. So when I got a call from Harper’s Bazaar to work on the cover and the inside pages for their Flora and Fauna issue in Feb 2016, you can imagine my surprise. After the phone call, I was stunned for a good period of time and was very resolved to do the best work I can. It was a definitive moment in my career since I was also able to translate my interest in Alfred Russel Wallace and tropical plants, merging it with my passion for the arts, design, fashion, culture and botany.
Can you tell us more about the creative studio, Within, that you founded in 2016?
Driven by my passion and love for nature’s intrinsic path to enhance wellness and creative potential, I set up Within in 2016 (we just celebrated our first year anniversary over the weekend); I would describe it as a nature-led creative studio and consultancy to cultivate the appreciation and affinity with nature. We conceptualise, advise and create designs and artworks for our clients, and also organise and conceptualise experiential travel journeys and creative retreats – in Singapore and overseas. I also teach watercolour course and workshops in Singapore and overseas. Naturally, we’ve been asked to work on nature-led projects and collaborations so we’re excited to see where this will take us in the next coming year.
With a portfolio of impressive clients including Chanel, Bentley, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Kate Spade, Clinique, Clarins and Faber-Castell, what would you say is your most memorable professional achievement to date?
There have been so many memorable commissions this year. I was especially thrilled when I was appointed as the local personality for the social media launch for the new Chanel no. 5 L’eau in collaboration with Harper’s Bazaar SG, where I got a chance to illustrate the key flowers found in the perfume around the bottle.
I bought myself a set of Faber-Castell, Albrecht Dürer Watercolour pencils and brought it along during my sabbatical to remind myself to paint again, so when I became the first artist to be appointed as the Faber-Castell Singapore Art & Graphic Ambassador, this gave me more courage to share my creative journey openly.
I was commissioned by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in over the Christmas period in 2016 to paint the unique orchid, Dendrobium Norodom Sihamoni. This botanical watercolour illustration artwork was presented as a state gift to the King of Cambodia, His Majesty Preah Bat Samdech Preah Boromneath Norodom Sihamoni. I remember eating a simple Christmas dinner with my family, and continued to work five days in a row intensely, submitting the work just before I left for the Gili islands to celebrate the New Year.
Just recently, in May 2017, I was commissioned by Temasek Capital to create a botanical painting of the critically endangered tree, Hopea Sangal. Twenty prints were created from this painting which was presented as a gift to dignitaries and statesmen such as Mr Teo Chee Hean, Deputy Prime Minister & Coordinating Minister for National Security, Singapore. It was especially meaningful for me because I could access the herbarium of the Singapore Botanical Gardens and document this beautiful species for a good cause.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m commissioned to work on a large format imaginary tropical secret garden for condominium centred in a botanical garden theme called Martin Modern by GuocoLand, a luxury property developer. I’ve been collecting botanical images in Singapore, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Chiang Mai and Bali, where I start to dream up my own imaginary scenes of a tropical secret garden. I’m particularly inspired by Henri Rousseau’s paintings for this project. I read that despite being famous for his jungle paintings, Rousseau had never been to a jungle and was in fact inspired by illustrations of children’s book and his visits to Jardin des Plantes, the botanical garden in Paris. When he saw ‘exotic’ plants, he felt he’d stepped into a dream. I’m happy to be living in this dream so this would occupy me for the next two weeks ahead.
We understand that you became a certified florist in 2008. Do you continue to practise today?
This came about because I always have fresh flowers in my house and I was curious to learn basic rules of arrangement. That was a long time ago, and I was recently thinking about developing my skills which I think will do wonderfully for my conceptual development for my botanical installation art and paintings. I’ll be in London in October and November, perhaps this would be a great chance to visit and attend a course at McQueens.
Do you have a favourite flower (and why)?
The Butterfly Blue Pea, also known as the Clitoria ternatea. I grow them in my garden and would harvest them every morning. I love them for so many reasons their natural edible blue dyes which I would use them in my tea, ice cubes, salad, etc. and my ongoing fascination with edible flowers.
What’s in store for the future?
I’m excited to be conducting my second creative retreat called The Art of Nature Journeys, which is themed around edible flowers this time round. The Art Of Nature Journeys are once-in-a-lifetime full-immersion travel experiences, dedicated to creativity, cultural discovery and connecting to nature and ourselves. It’s almost filled up now, so I’m really looking forward to once again take my guests on a highly inspiring, multi-sensory and insightful art holiday in unique destinations close to nature. This creative retreat will take place from 5-9 August in Chiang Mai, Thailand, with the Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden as our venue partner.
With more commissions lined up and exhibitions coming up, the year is looking very busy. I’m particularly thrilled to undertake more travels and especially my journey to London again this October, to visit Kew Gardens and meet up with potential collaborators.