For our second installment of our new Tastemakers series, we're thrilled to feature local artist Aaron Apsley. We came across Apsley's work on tumblr actually - when a gorgeous illustration of a haworthia captured our eye. We've seen old botanical prints before, but rarely ones of succulents. After a little investigating, we found the illustration's source - and more stunning work that we knew we wanted to share. Meet Hell's Kitchen-based freelance illustrator and painter, Aaron Apsley.
Can you share a little bit about your artwork?
I've been painting and drawing my entire life, usually just observing and depicting things around me that I find interesting or beautiful. When I moved to New York two years ago, I was limited by the amount of workspace in my apartment so I decided to focus on working mostly in watercolors. Most of my recent work has been a series of watercolor street scenes of New York, because I am so amazed by the great variety and scale of the architecture in the city. In my spare time I have also been working on a series of botanical illustrations - painted directly from life using my own plants as reference. I paint them roughly two times life size so I can pack in lots of detail, and I use watercolors on hot press paper. My career as an artist is headed in several different directions right now but I am hoping that I can keep botanical illustration open as one option for myself. It really is both an art and a science that has a long, prestigious history. I'm just getting started by painting my little plants at home but I would like to eventually do botanical illustration for books or museums. Or maybe just other people who love plants!
What's a secret skill you have?
I have a good sense of direction. It's easy in New York with the grid system but even in other cities I'm pretty good at not getting lost. I think it's because I've always liked geography and I sometimes look at maps for fun.
What's the best present you've given or received?
My girlfriend made me an awesome folding paintbrush case for my birthday one year. It was just what I needed to keep my brushes organized.
If your space was on fire, what's the first thing you'd grab to save?
My portfolio full of all the paintings I've done over the past two years.
What's on your to-do list today?
I want to start working on a painting of one of my plants (a gasteria) while it's blooming so that I can capture that in an illustration.
Do you have a green thumb?
I think so. My girlfriend and I buy new plants all the time even though we long ago ran out of good places to grow things in our apartment. We have a nice collection of houseplants that we've managed to keep alive for a while - although we lose plants from time to time. Plants have always been a part of my life - I grew up in the middle of the woods in Ohio, and my dad is a forester there who taught me at a young age how to identify and appreciate all kinds of plants and other wild things. I was not very interested in gardening until college. While I was in Savannah I rented an apartment with a huge second story porch off of my bedroom. The wonderful climate and bright sunshine made my porch the perfect place to grow potted plants, and I filled it with all kinds of vegetables and flowers and things I pulled from the backyard - anything would grow like crazy on that porch. That's when I knew I loved having plants around all the time. Unfortunately my gardening situation in New York City is much more limited and I've learned to love tiny windowsill plants.
Any plant care tips you can share?
Every plant has different needs but in general I try not to give my plants too much water. Especially since they are succulents but they aren't growing in actual hot desert sun, it is easy to drown them and rot the roots. I try to only give my plants water when they start to droop a little or show other signs of drying out.
What tops your houseplant wish list?
More sunlight! I love my little New York apartment but the houseplant situation is a disaster. We only have two windows, which both face north, which means the plants never get direct sunlight. I've messed around with artificial lights which help some but it's still not enough for most succulents. I've found that Haworthias tolerate the low light better than most so that is what I am trying to collect right now mostly. I've got a million plants on my wish list but I need a bigger apartment first.
What are some of your favorite plants?
In my collection right now - Gasteria bicolor var. liliputiana. It's one of my newest - a tiny succulent that grows in clumps with beautiful spotted leaves, and it just sent up a spike of flowers. Overall - probably Southern live oak. Because I went to college in Savannah, Georgia - I loved all of the amazing plant life down there, especially the live oaks that cover the city.
(Images courtesy of Aaron Apsley. Visit Aaron Apsley's website and tumblr)