(The above images are my illustration of the Catacol Whitebeam alongside the Herbarium Specimen from Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh)
The Catacol Whitebeam the most endangered plant species in Britain, with only one or two living specimens known, and although it is a recognised species in its own right, it is a cross between the Arran Service and Rowan trees (Coleman (2014))(1) – which gives the leaves of the Catacol Whitebeam their very distinctive shape. It’s scientific name: Sorbus pseudomeinichii  refers to the other closely related, yet distinct species Sorbus x meinichii, which is found in “southern Norway”, and which also has the distinctive leaf shape; “The pinnate leaves have 4-6 pairs of robust deep green leaflets, fused towards the tip” More, D., White, J. (2003)(2), but makes the distinction between the two.

There is only one live specimen of Catacol Whitebeam on the Isle of Arran, however, it has been propagated by the RBG Edinburgh (through germinating seeds, and “graft[ing] material onto the roots of ordinary rowan” (1)), and they now have a specimen in the garden – making the population status of the tree slightly more secure.

More information can be found here on the Botanic Stories page.



  1. Coleman, M. (2014) Arran’s Unique Trees. Available at:https://stories.rbge.org.uk/archives/13616 (Accessed: 26 November 2021)
  2. More, D., White, J. (2003) Cassell’s Trees of Britain & Northern Europe: Over 1800 Species and Cultivars. London: Cassell, an imprint of Weidenfeld & Nicholson


The above image shows the notes that I made in the Crit that we had yesterday – which was extremely helpful, productive and affirming for me.

Crits are an area that I felt that I have really grown in this year – I feel much more confident in showing my work, allowing people to comment on it without interrupting, and enjoy hearing their feedback – I think partly (at least) because I feel much more self assured with my work this year – I am very passionate about my project and feel secure and comfortable with my artistic ability – so Crits are a really good chance for me to see other people’s views and understandings of my work, and find areas to improve.

There is a lot that I took from the crit, but these are the main points that I will be thinking about:

  1. Not having a background highlights the plant and the message that I am trying to convey – success.
  2. The botanical labels are “confident” and say to the viewers to come and look at the work. However people were linking this to natural history museums rather than botanical gardens (bad thing – not sure!?). They also contextualise the works and link to nature as a whole. They make you want to find out more! :)
  3. ISSUES WITH QR CODES – I am going to have to change how I make these _ I may have to leave a white border around them to make them easier to scan, as they do not always bring the right page up.
  4. The mistakes become a part of the work and makes it seem more human and less artificial. The flaws also highlight the link to the endangerment of the plant.
  5. The works are aligned with my activism, but it is a much more subtle and engaging activism than people are used to when tackling the topic of extinction – makes it more palatable?
  6. Size – would having them all a uniform size link and situate them more in an archive sense? Or does it make them more engaging and interesting to have them different sizes? (Also leaves in the element of them being drawn to scale)
  7. Framing and presentation.

There is definitely a lot new that I took from the crit yesterday – much that hadn’t been brought up before and some which I hadn’t thought of either, which is really useful, and I will definitely be working through these points in the next few weeks, as my work progresses.


In time for the Level 5 and 6 crit yesterday, I was experimenting with different exhibition layouts – baring the works of Susan Hiller very much in mind whilst working on this. Hiller’s layouts were very inspired by the objects which she was exhibiting, as well as the locations in which they were being exhibited – for instance, Monument takes the physicality of the tiles (pictured) and the status quo of using the “grid” in exhibition spaces, subverts one and echoes the other, whilst From the Freud Museum uses archival boxes and display techniques to ground her work in the museum context and environment.

I was exhibiting my work in the studio space, which has large white walls and echoes the classic “white cube” exhibition space, and I therefore wanted to reflect this in the way that I exhibited. However, I also wanted to reflect the archival nature of my work, and so slightly subvert the “white cube” and “grid” layouts.

My first trial lined all of the works up along their top edge, creating two parallel clean lines, and two parallel disrupted lines. However, something about this layout didn’t sit right with me – it felt uneven and off balance – and I want my work to have an essentially calm and centred feel to it when looked at. It also didn’t take the different aspects of the works into account – all the pieces pictured above were in landscape orientation, which isn’t how all of the works will be.

Therefore, I slightly disrupted the layout – breaking the bottom row and adding one vertical piece into the top row – but again with all of them aligned across the tops of the pages. However, although this worked better from the perspective of taking other page orientations into account, the layout still felt disruptive and off for me – so I decided to change the alignment of the pieces – rather than lining them up along the top edge, I decided to line them up with the centre of the subject – which instantly felt much better and much more one and collected than before. It meant that the two clean lines ran through the centre of the works, rather than the tops, creating a much more harmonious and congruous collection of works.

The above image shows the final layout of work that I showed in the crit – complete with my finished drawing of the Catacol Whitebeam and with all the labels situated correctly. I am much happier with this layout, and I feel that it is one that I will use from now on in my works. The only change I might make would be to the height that I display the works at – as I want them to be accessible to all, and for everyone to be able to access the information that is printed on the labels – and this may not be true for the top row of works. However, this is something that I can work on as I progress with my work and amass a larger portfolio to display. Additionally, I will change the method of mounting – either mounting in frames (although I am starting to feel that this may not be necessary), or using tacks and tape, as this will make the pieces hang much flatter, as well as evoking the archival element even more.


Update: 08/06/22: This was the final drawing that I used the dip pen for, as it just didn’t work and ended up making more imperfections on the page, and was far too difficult to use to be practical. I was given some Rotring Isograph pens for Christmas which completely changed the way in which I could draw the pen and ink illustrations, and I am really thankful for tat, as it undoubtedly improved the quality and accuracy of my drawings ten-fold. 


Two days ago, I finished my pen and ink drawing of the Catacol Whitebeam (Sorbus pseudomeinichii).

This was the first drawing from the list of Endangered Plants, and (as I said previously) therefore I felt a certain amount of pressure to draw it accurately and with no mistakes. This – predictably – didn’t happen, and I ended up having huge issues with the pen that I was using, which persisted on creating ink blots on my work, and the nib falling out of the holder, creating smudge marks over a small section of the page also. Thankfully however, I managed to find a new pen which worked much better and was much easier to control – allowing me to finish the piece without anymore mistakes or accidents caused by the pen. The biggest blot – or at least the one which caused the most grievance for me was the one below, where you can see the large dark area. The fact that it fell on the area I was working was particularly galling, and I tried to cover it up and make it a part of the work. Sadly, it didn’t quite work, and the area is a bit dark and highlights it. However, I have had a lot of feedback saying that the mistakes and blots on the work actually make the viewers appreciate the work more and the work that went into it – making it more human and more impactful overall.

Below are a few more photos showing the progress of the drawing:

Overall, I am very pleased with how the piece looks – in spite of the mistakes and flaws. I am trying to learn to embrace and accept all the flaws in the works (especially after the positive feedback I have had about them) – including differences in paper and minor imperfections in composition. Although these are elements which probably change the category of my work from illustration to art (due to issues with accuracy), I am accepting this – as I am not trained as a botanical illustrator at all – and this is only my second pen and ink illustration. Additionally, the flaws add an element of engagement and humanity to the illustrations – which makes people more interested in the works themselves and more likely to look into them further – and then therefore also at the plants themselves – which is the overall aim of the work after all.


Reference Image Source: RBGE. (2018) Royal botanic Gardens Edinburgh Herbarium Catalogue. Available at: https://data.rbge.org.uk/search/herbarium/?cfg=fulldetails.cfg&specimen_num=637456 (accessed: 11 November 2021)


On several occasions I have had the works of Susan Hiller recommended to me to look at. On the surface, there isn’t a direct correlation between her works and my project, however the purposes of our works are in many ways quite similar – archive art.

My project is a form of archive – the illustrations and information that it collects will form the basis of an archive of the most endangered plants in the world – providing the public with an illustrated guide to the most endangered plants of the world and information about them. Susan Hiller’s works are also archival – sometimes taking archival objects (such as From the Freud Museum), but also being an archive in their own right (such as in The Last Silent Movie and Monument). Of particular interest to me, is the ways in which she exhibits these archives; the different layouts and compositions that she explores, including the different media.



“Susan Hiller’s installation Monument incorporates forty-one photographs of memorial plaques the artist came across in Postman’s Park, near St Paul’s Cathedral, London. There is one photograph for each year of the artist’s life (at the time the work was made). Each plaque commemorates an ordinary man, woman or child who died while performing an act of heroism.”

Rattee, K. (2003) ‘Monument’, Susan Hiller, 1980-1. Available at: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/hiller-monument-t06902 (Accessed: 15/11/2021).

Monument was the first of Hiller’s works that I looked at; the layout being of the plaques being the primary interest for me. The disruption of the expected in this composition is very intriguing – the size and shape of the photographs makes them ideal to be hung in the usual “white cube” style – in a single line across the room, at eye-height. However, Hiller has decided to subvert this – instead emulating the construction of the tiles which each commemorative plaque is made from. For me, this is a very interesting concept – using the physicality of the subject to influence the physical layout of the exhibited work – as not only does the break from normality create interest for the viewer and draw them over, but it also evokes the semantics of the subject (photographs of tiles, in a tile-like format), forcing the viewers to reflect on the original plaques, their significance (the fact that they are made from painted ceramic tiles rather than engraved metal, and their meaning and significance – highlighting the lives and bravery of local residents). Their size and layout also connotes a mausoleum, and therefore further ties the subject and composition together – creating a much more impressive and impactful viewing experience overall.

Image Source: Hiller, S. (1980-1) Monument. [Installation] Available at: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/hiller-monument-t06902 (accessed: 15 November 2021)


From the Freud Museum:


From the Freud Museum is an installation commissioned by Book Works and the Freud Museum in London. The first version of the installation was produced for the Freud Museum and exhibited there in 1994. Hiller continued to work on the piece and a later version was completed in 1996 and purchased by Tate in 1998. It is generally exhibited as a single vitrine in which fifty archive boxes are displayed on two shelves, with their lids open, revealing a broad range of small artefacts.”

Anderson, F. (2013) ‘From the Freud Museum’, Susan Hiller, 1991-6. Available at: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/hiller-from-the-freud-museum-t07438 (Accessed: 15/11/2021).

From the Freud Museum is in many ways quite similar to Monument, in the fact that it is displaying archival materials. However, these materials came from the Freud Museum itself and are therefore extremely relevant. Initially the work was displayed in the museum itself, so the subject and location were completely intertwined – leaving no doubt to the viewer the relevance of the work. The objects are all displayed in archive boxes – enforcing the idea of the installation being an archive – and numbered and labelled as such. This is something that I have thought about for the display of my own work – adding elements (such as embossing stamps, archival labels, etc.) of the archive system to them after drawing – to enforce the idea of their being a part of a set and part of an archive of works – as well as referencing both Hiller and the archival practices of herbariums and libraries such as Kew and RBGE.

Source: Hiller, S. (1991-6) From the Freud Museum. [Installation] Available at: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/hiller-from-the-freud-museum-t07438 (accessed: 15 November 2021)


The Last Silent Movie:

“The Last Silent Movie, 2007/2008, 22 minute audio-visual work, produced as single screen BluRay dvd, continuous soundtrack of extinct and endangered languages subtitled on black screens; accompanied by 24 etchings completed the following year.”

The Last Silent Movie (N.D) Available at: http://www.susanhiller.org/installations/last_silent_movie.html

The actual subject matter of The Last Silent Movie is most close to my own work this time – a black screen film with subtitles, recording the most endangered languages in the world. These languages are on the edge of extinction, so the work serves as a record of them – exploring their diversities, tones, levels, noises – everything that makes them wonderful and unique. It also serves as an educational tool – almost like a time capsule – for future generations to understand what was lost in the fast paced progress of the world, due to the influences of Western colonialism. My project also feels the burden of preserving something which is almost lost for future generations – aiming to inspire them into preventing the complete loss and collapse of the wonderful biodiversity (and in Hiller’s case, human diversity) that today’s society and the legacy of Western colonialism are causing. The fact that the film (which you can see a clip of here: http://www.susanhiller.org/installations/last_silent_movie_more.html) is a solid black background with white subtitles really highlights the the languages themselves – rather than the people speaking them, and forces the viewer to appreciate the languages without bias or preconception – removing the very elements which have caused the endangerment of them in the first place, and allowing them to be celebrated for their wonderful, multifarious forms and sounds. Additionally, you see nothing of the artist here (or in Monument or From the Freud Museum) – which allows the audience’s focus to be purely on the subjects themselves – throwing them into the spotlight and removing any distractions.

This is something that I wish to achieve in my own work as well – taking the focus away from my illustrations (per-se) and instead focussing it on the plants themselves. The botanical labels are one way in which I am trying to do this, but these do not suggest the connection that I am making with botanical gardens and live plants for everyone – especially not for people who haven’t seen the labels in gardens much before. I therefore need to investigate other methods of focussing the audience’s attention on the plants themselves, perhaps through my placement of the images when I display them, or through other methods. Exhibition composition however, is something which I will be thinking very carefully over the next few days and weeks – especially in the run up to the group Crits that we will be having with the Level 5s, as I want them to understand that the living plant is the main focus – not my illustrations.

Source: Hiller, S. (2007-8) The Last Silent Movie. [Audio-Visual] Available at: http://www.susanhiller.org/installations/last_silent_movie.html (accessed: 15 November 2021)