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Meet: Colleen Southwell

What came first, a love of gardening or your creative art?

Creativity has always been an important part of my life; I’ve always drawn, painted and made. I chose to combine my love of both by studying horticulture then working in landscape design. My plans were hand drawn and often painted. This finely detailed work, combined with my love for the garden led to my current artwork. My art practice has been full-time now for four years.

What is the significance of ‘The Garden Curator’?

I began The Garden Curator without really having an idea of what it was to become. There was a new path I needed to follow sharing my love for the garden, and it has unfolded so naturally. The word curator comes from latin, curare, meaning to care for. The act of gardening is an act of caring and certainly too, my artwork can only be created with a gentle hand and reverence for the subject. Through both my garden and my artwork I hope to convey the message that we are custodians, keepers, and guardians.

How would you describe your art?

My work is a mix of drawing, painting and paper sculpture. Each piece is a delicate and finely detailed representation of plants, insects, fungi, and birds. In a way, the works allude to scientific specimens; each is pinned so the transient element of shadow comes into play. The artwork is intended to be viewed closely, requiring the onlooker to be still and observe, just as I must do to create it.

Is your garden the inspiration for your creative work? The garden is certainly my inspiration. I try to break day with some time spent in the garden. I need it both physically and mentally. Your exhibitions at Artisans at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, Corner Store Gallery Orange, New Zealand, the Suki and Hugh Gallery Bungendore, a major commission in New York... what an exciting ride.

I have my work going to lots of exhibitions; there are new garden projects simmering too.

Which of your innovative endeavours gives you the greatest satisfaction?

It’s impossible to separate my gardening and creative lives – in so many ways they are one and the same. I can’t imagine life without the garden, it grounds me and is a place for both satisfying work and recuperation. My path as an artist feeds mind and soul, particularly working with the subjects I do. Both gardening and art making are a joy, both are personal, and heart felt.

Visit to learn more about Colleen’s art. You can also follow Colleen on Instagram @thegardencurator.

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