Charlotte Day’s serene compositions of hand-painted flora and lettering

Charlotte Day trained both in design and horticulture. Her passion for botany and handcrafted illustration translates into a wider message of sustainability.


Charlotte Day is a master of both sides of the coin when it comes to botany.

The London-based illustrator trained in horticulture before studying at Chelsea College of Art where she realised her incredible talent for hand-painting flora brings great satisfaction. A deep love for plants began in her childhood where she was surrounded by natural beauty.

Acknowledging plants as a source of beauty but also essential to our survival, Charlotte’s illustrations not only admire the varying organic shapes of flora, but also reflect her underlying philosophy toward sustainability.

After many years of watching her father as a sign writer, Charlotte added hand-painted lettering to her line of skills, and her eloquent combination of the two heartens a sense of tranquillity and peacefulness. Charlotte’s work spans a variety of editorial, promotional and commercial projects.

We spoke to her about what stemmed a change in career, hand painting versus digital work and what she hopes people gain from her illustrations.

Image: Charlotte Day

Miriam Harris: How did your transition from horticulture to illustration come about?

Charlotte Day: "I actually studied design before I trained as a gardener. Even when I was very young I knew I wanted to be an illustrator but by the time I finished my degree I was creatively fatigued and wanted to do something different. Working for the Royal Horticultural Society introduced me to botanical illustration, the paintings in the archives are just beautiful and I also found drawing plants I was learning about immensely helpful. So, ironically it was the change of career reignited my interest in painting."

Image: Charlotte Day


MH: Where does your passion for flora and botany stem from?

CD: "I spent my childhood surrounded by plants, in our garden and in the fields and woods I played in. I took them for granted but later realised I only feel completely happy when surrounded by greenery. Plant forms and colours are an inexhaustible pool of inspiration but what really interests me is the interaction between plants and people. They are essential for our survival providing oxygen, food and medicines but also inform what we create by way of art, folklore and symbolism."

Image: Charlotte Day

Advertisement. Article continues below

MH: Does this translate into a wider passion for the environment and sustainability?

CD: "Absolutely, I now live in south London where wild places are hard to come by and the vulnerability of these habitats in light of rapid urbanisation and excessive human consumption saddens me greatly. I aim to be sustainable in my own practice and as far as possible consider the wider implications of my output. A fantastic set of prompts that encourage sustainable thinking are published here though geared toward textile design the strategies can be applied to almost any creative practice."

Image: Charlotte Day


MH: Why do you stick to traditional methods over digital?

CD: "I really love painting, I think it’s my raison d'etre! It’s a very tactile process and I enjoy every part of it from mixing colours to preparing paper and selecting brushes. I’m quite aware it would be possible to create my illustrations digitally, and I do rely on technology to give me the flexibility often required to complete commissions. But I’d be pretty unhappy if someone took my brushes away entirely."

Image: Charlotte Day


MH: Talk us through your creative process.

CD: "Because I do work in both worlds there is a lot of switching back and forth from pixel to paper. Typically I start with research and making sketches, which I then scan. Often I’ll make amendments to these drawings digitally but once the client approves them they are printed out and transferred to watercolour paper. Occasionally I get to paint the illustration as one piece but more often I’ll paint separate elements and reassemble the composition digitally to create a flexible layered file."

Image: Charlotte Day

Advertisement. Article continues below

MH: What made you decide to enter into hand-painted lettering?

CD: "My dad was a sign writer and I was always pretty much in awe of what he could do. Although I used to “help” preparing signs and painting stencilled lettering I never attempted anything freehand. He was quite convinced it was a dead art and I assumed I could never learn it. As it turns out there has been a huge resurgence of hand type in recent years. But, I was right I’m not that good at it, at least not yet! Now my dad has retired, including lettering in my own work suddenly feels quite important and I think it works quite well; the linear quality of most type juxtaposes rather nicely with organic shapes and each shows the other to its best advantage."

Image: Charlotte Day


MH: What is the most challenging part about painting flora?

CD: "Plants make for very forgiving subject matter. Since I’m not creating scientific illustrations I don’t feel pressure to be rigidly botanically correct, once you have a basic understanding of plant forms it’s fairly easy to create believable organic shapes. White flowers are always tricky, but then painting white anything usually presents a challenge."

Image: Charlotte Day


MH: What’s been your favourite project so far and why?

CD: "It’s hard to choose because they are all so different and it’s the diversity of projects that really makes my job so enjoyable. But, the LUSH self-preserving campaign has to be up there. It’s always lovely to work with a company who’s ethics you can really get behind, and seeing my illustrations bought to life in store windows as moving 3D paper sculptures by Owen Guildersleeve was just brilliant."

Image: Charlotte Day

Advertisement. Article continues below

MH: What do you hope people will gain from your illustrations?

CD: "There is research that suggests just seeing images of flora can have a positive effect on a person’s mood. If my illustrations have the capacity to do that in even the smallest way I’d be pretty happy."

MH: What projects are you working on at the moment?

CD: "Right now I’m working on collateral for a Whiskey company, so painting lots of beautiful Scottish ferns and heathers."

Image: Charlotte Day