Irina Neacșu: There is nothing to prove in nature.

By June 9, 2019

Irina Neacșu

From: Bucharest Born on: 16 January 1982 Occupation: Architect, Interior Designer, Botanical Illustrator & Artist, President of the “Romanian Society of Botanical Artists”, Member of the „American Society of Botanical Artists”, „Vienna School of Botanical Art”

For Irina Neacșu first was the drawing. From child scratches, to the detailed plans she has made in the faculty of architecture and till present, the drawing is the central piece. She has arranged houses as an interior designer, restored furniture, initially by passion, and later as a business. She is now a botanical artist and illustrator.

“I always draw and if sometimes it results nothing more than a sketch, most of the time, everything starts from there, because drawing is the one that triggers creation.”, says Irina. And if the starting point is a contour, the rest continues because of her need to create composition.

Irina lives “an intense desire to live in the country side”. She is aware that she has an idealized image of it and that her scenarios don’t fold precisely on reality. She has always y of yearned for the grandparents’ holidays she never had. Now she is luring his need for picturesque by walking, running or cycling in Brașov, the city where she moved 3 years ago. Her transition from the capital to Brașov has taken place gradually. She first went for a project, then received the invitation to attend a course, and when the 3rd call of collaboration came, she rented a house and called it a “vacation one.” At first she stayed overnight after finishing her working hours, and eventually returned to Bucharest once a week. Because everything she had built in the capital – a business that was very much dependent on her physical presence, had shaken her structure, Irina had to make a decision: “I stay in Bucharest and go there from time to time or close here and move to Brașov?” She kept on her belief – “never leave a city for another city; leave it for a mountain” and with fear in soul she decided to go and assume that she doesn’t have a plan and that uncertainty is part of life. 

Now, on Poarta Schei Street, no. 6, Brașov, she organizes botanical illustration workshops in watercolor, oil or colored pencils. She wants to teach people in the country what botanical art really means and how the understanding of plants will lead you to protect them.

For the same reason she founded the Romanian Society of Botanical Artists, but also because she wants to create a community, form a market place, develop courses and workshops, so that the entire Romanian flora can be used and promoted to a higher level.

As proof that her initiatives are of great value to us, as country in general and for botanical art in particular, Irina has supported an ample project – Transylvania Florilegium. It is a project where 36 artists worked in different times of the year by watching and painting a large number of Transylvania flowers. This year, Irina initiated and was a curator of Romanian Flower Exhibition – a botanical history (available until June 2, 2019 at the Romanian Art Museum of Romania), where the main focus piece of the event is this Florilegium made available to the public under the glass, as a true work of art acquired through common effort.

Photo: Florilegium, Flori sălbatice din România—o istorie botanică Exposition

Photo: Florilegium, Flori sălbatice din România—o istorie botanică Exposition

Photo: Irina Neacșu, Flori sălbatice din România—o istorie botanică Exposition


MS: There are 3 main hypotheses: Botanic Illustrator, Botanical Artist and Flower Painter. How do we define them?

The Flower Painter is a visual artist who, as the name implies, paints flowers, static natures, more or less decorative flowers (for example, Stefan Luchian). In his case, the accent is on his artistic vision, on the feeling he experiences in the interaction with the flowers, and not necessarily on them. It is major related to the atmosphere. Such paintings don’t have botanical details and cannot be used for scientific purposes. The artist intervenes and paints them differently than they are in reality, and if you try to identify the flowers in a work, you can think that the red ones may be poppies, but you cannot know exactly.

The Botanical Artist aims at the scientifically flower reproduction, but keeps a more open approach. He presents the structure plant as it is, but larger or just a certain segment of it. Surely there will be details and increased accuracy, but a strong artistic character will also be identified.

And the botanic illustrator is the one who deliver the plant as it is. No bigger, no smaller. They work for science institutes, research, maybe near a botanist who makes a dissertation thesis and needs illustrations or for some people who want to have such a paint home on the wall. Their work introduces new species, endangered species or something special, such as mutations. It happens to discover that a species has disappeared from a certain area for various reasons (weather, pollution, etc.) and then remain represented on the paper in detail.

MS: You draw plants. From where did your love for nature came?

I do not know exactly from where it came, it just came and it grow gradually along the way.

In my childhood I liked to stay outside. I remember how, during the holidays in Sibiu, I explored the neighborhoods and nature in general. At home, in Bucharest, I didn’t have children to play with, and then I put my curiosity in the natural environment, which gave me a lot of research and discovery material.

I still love to stay outside and I’m not afraid of it. Now, if I think well, I’m more afraid in the city –  by people, bad things that can happen to you, than in the woods – by bears and other dangers. My friends are laughing, saying that I am a girl from Bucharest, and if I didn’t meet the bear in the woods, I don’t really realize what this means. But, because I saw so many unpleasant situations in Bucharest, I learned to go with the bag at sight, careful, never alone in the evening. Although there are things that bring joy to the city, I cannot relax as I do in nature.

In nature I concentrate on the harmony, the natural growth of plants, to how everything seems to be planned by an upper hand.

I cannot find this harmony in town.

Photo: Illustrations, personal archive

Photo: Illustrations, personal archive

MS: What do you need in order to have harmony in your life?

I think harmony is closely linked with accepting. I have very recently managed to apply the theory I knew and succeeding in not forcing things, letting them just happen. Sometimes I have to accept that the projects don’t always come out as I want, that sometimes the person with whom I have arranged to take the lunch cannot go out anymore or that I stained a very expensive coat. There are some things that have absolutely no relevance. Absolutely none. After all, we don’t even remember how many projects haven’t been extraordinary or how many shirts you have been stained. But, when something “serious” happens, you’re very annoyed. You delayed a meeting because you found your car blocked. That’s it, give respect by announcing your delay, but don’t bother so much.

Harmony means also the ability to say “no” and to save time to enjoy little life moments – each in its own way. I don’t think I would have an efficient workflow if there weren’t days when I climbed the mountain; my readings or my drawing – the one that came from my own need, the research, the testing of my limits, new textures and techniques, all the things that I always make behind the scenes.

Sometimes you give up on something to win something else.

MS: Is there any connection between perfectionism and nature?

In nature you find a very clear order of things, and all of the elements are strongly linked to each other and work well in that way. There is nothing to prove in nature. A flower doesn’t bloom to prove anything; it blooms because that’s what she does. And she doesn’t feel neither too beautiful or too purple, she just is. That’s all.

While we cannot do that. We behave in a certain way because we follow the trends, because we want to be admired or appreciated. Many of our choices are not about us, but about the need to be accepted and validated and about the fear of being excluded.

When we talk about nature, we talk about fearless existence. What if you weren’t afraid that you were too tall or that you laugh too hard? I don’t think perfection is a state, it’s a route that never ends.

Even today, I posted about perfection, because I re-edited an artist’s book I had worked for 3 years ago, Herbarium. It contains 30 elements made manually and looking at them I found that these illustrations are far behind my today abilities. Now I’m working better.

Before reprinting, I was thinking of editing them, making them more good. But, I stopped. “If you didn’t go through that stage, you hadn’t the chance to get to this level now”, I said. “Why re-editing them? Because it’s no longer perfect?​​” I realized that the Herbarium isn’t a collection of perfect works, but a handbook that teaches you to go out in nature and recognize the flower after my illustration – which is right, to pressing it and enjoy the process with your kid.

Photo: Herbarium, personal archive

Photo: Herbarium, personal archive

MS: What are the steps of a botanical work?

Depending on the reason I start, because it may be an imposed start, but still “chosen” – a client who wants a certain plant, a study or a lesson or completely chosen by me – I feel inspired by certain flowers, I was on vacation and I saw a particular plant.

However, I recommend much research before anything, whether it is research or all kinds of drawings (botanical art necessarily requires drawing skills). The study is to understand the plant, to follow its development stages and to identify its inner geometry. Often, the eye should look from different angles, just like the photo camera. It takes a large number of photos, because the life of a plant is short and then you can capture all the possible details.

Then you make color samples, because the pigments are changing quickly. For example, an iris in 2 days dies. And in a natural reservation, you cannot take the plant home, but you make there the sketches, the color tests, you measure the size so that the final result is of the natural size. Sometimes, it helps you press even the tiniest leaf, without harming it, and get the exact geometry with you in the studio.

And then, after all this, work begins. Botanical art has hundreds of hours of work behind. It’s a patience exercise and at the same time it’s absolutely fantastic because you see things, but you never record them. If you have flowers in the vase, you will never stay 10 hours tied to watch them. You admire them, take them picture and put them on Instagram, and after they dry, you throw them away.

In my case, when I have been staying for 10 hours today, 10 tomorrow, looking at them and seeing how they move, how they turn around the light, how the leaf protects the bud or how it bloom. Some foreign mechanisms in all their splendor. I’m watching them until they get dry and I don’t want to throw them away, I just don’t have enough force to do that after seeing their own life.

After you spend your life with an immediate goal – do something to get something fast, the observation and recording process, which has no immediate purpose, connects you to another truth, reality or level of existence, as we know it. With or without you, it’s there.

Photo: Illustration, personal archive

MS: What do you notice in common at people coming to your courses?

Many are people who have matured without exercising their creativity and want to go back to this forgotten part. Many tell me: “I don’t know how to draw. I’m a mess.” And I ignore their first words, because it has happened many times to be surprised at how well they managed to make the first drawing in the courses. As a beginner, I tell them that the drawing is like a foreign language, that needs to be practiced more in the case of an adult. The drawing should be practiced, even at home, after the course or between courses. Drawing can be learned, because it is a language of expression. You just need to open the channel. This I think they have in common – the need to open something lost, the need for beauty and creativity.

Photo: Irina Neacșu Studio, personal archive


Irina Neacșu isn’t happy only with the creation of botanical paintings and illustrations, so she wants in any way to present the art of botany in an educational form, but especially in a language understood by everyone. She considers art to be a very intimate manifestation, a private gesture, which she compares with exposure only in your underwear: “In this case, you are embarrassed by the outside body, but in art you are by your inner one. Some will laugh that he is too tall, others of what you think as an artist. And all you can do is explain what your work represents, what you had in mind and soul when you gave it life. It is the role of artists to explain why they do the art they do.

For example, I had a conflict with Mark Rothko’s art when my mother throw in my arms one of his album a long time ago and I didn’t understand anything in his works. I just didn’t care. Many years after this short meeting, when I was in Rome, I visited a Mark Rothko art exhibition where I saw his huge works in front of my eyes and I felt different his work. Since then he is one of my favorite painters. Not just because I interacted directly with the works, but also because there was much information in the form of text. Mark explained how the relationship between artist and his work is, when the work is bigger than the artist, and how the gesture of painting becomes a physical act, involving hands, shoulders and the back of the body. I liked it because I understood it. People like the things they understand.”, says Irina Neacșu, while arranging the coat better on her chest on a cold April morning.

Photo: Irina Neacșu, personal archive

More about Irina Neacșu’s projects can be found on her Facebook page, the studio’s, on Instagram profile or on its own platform,

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