photo-icon Artist: Linda Catchlove

Nature's course: a local's journey from Disney to botany

Cultural Heart People of Adelaide

In the mellow light of her studio, in the company of dry seed pods and reams of paper, Linda Catchlove gets to work. The space is crowded with objects and mementos, but each has its place, arranged neatly in piles and rows. Linda goes to the drawers beside her desk and begins to unpack her work for the afternoon – photographs marked with loose lines, a tin of pencils, fine red sketches drawn on sheets of tracing paper. She lays each item on the slanted surface of her artist’s desk, then turns on a lamp, emitting a warm light over the workspace. Nimbly, she hoists herself into the elevated chair, bolstering her small stature with a good vantage point to look down upon her work. Linda casts her eyes across the assortment of decorations arranged about the desk – items collected from nature, greeting cards with pictures of wildlife, uplifting notes penned by friends – objects set to inspire and comfort. With her thoughts collected, she picks up a pencil and begins to sketch.

What comes to life upon the page is a rough piece of foliage, crisp on the tips, arching across the paper. Linda lets the pencil sweep deftly in her hand, shaping with delicate accuracy the form and structure of this plant. It’s a banksia blechnifolia, drawn with botanical precision. Then Linda begins to work her magic, the whimsical delight she is known for. In playful curls and strokes, a figure takes shape, resting neatly at the end of a branch. The figure sits comfortably on its banksia frond, dressed in ochre tones, with elven ears and the transparent wings of an insect. For, while Linda Catchlove is a trained botanical artist, inspiration from her time at Walt Disney Animation and her avid love of nature have led to a natural progression into what Linda calls whimsical botany.

Linda catchlove

Botanical artist Linda Catchlove in her studio.

Linda says she has always been an artist – from drawing fairies as a child, to developing her talent in high school and TAFE – it’s an intense passion that has led her here today. Linda’s watercolour paintings capture a distinct air of enchantment – a quality that speaks of her years working at Walt Disney Animation, over 20 years ago. As a budding visual artist at the age of 21, armed with a folio of drawings, Linda scoured Sydney looking for a job. It was through pure good luck that she landed her dream position at Disney, first as an Inbetweener and then as a Clean-up Artist and Supervisor. Linda describes this experience as the most prominent thing in her early career, where she learnt to hone a keen eye for character. She spent ten years there and still speaks with a wistful smile of those influential days.

“It was really an incredible experience,” she says. “It taught me a lot about character design, all the amazing things about three-dimensional drawing and the aesthetic appeal of my work now. I was surrounded by so many incredible artists as well, so that was an influence in itself to be surrounded by such talent.”

Linda’s first assignment was the television series Darkwing Duck, and from there she worked on feature movies including Lion King II, A Goofy Movie, Lady and the Tramp II, and Peter Pan II. In her work today, you can see a strong resemblance to the well-crafted characters and the likes of Tinkerbell.

Through the window of her studio, Linda has a view onto her back garden. It is a swath of mottled foliage, densely planted and dotted with bright patches of flowers. Looking out onto the garden refreshes Linda’s mind and is a source of inspiration for her botanical artworks. On warm days like this one, the garden emanates a welcoming presence, with native bees bouncing from bush to shrub and birds swaying on branches, hungry for nectar. It is not hard to gaze upon the garden and imagine one of Linda’s fairy creatures darting amongst the eremophila.

Banksia leaves by linda catchlove
photo-icon Artist: Linda Catchlove

Banksia leaves by Linda Catchlove.

It seems only natural that Linda’s affinity with nature has worked its way into her artistic practice. Linda can tell you the botanical names of all her plants. She takes great pride in the small successes of her garden. As she talks of all the species – describing how the seed pods dry and crackle, which season blue-banded bees will visit, when to propagate westringia – her admiration for nature is obvious. A lifelong affection that, over time, has incorporated itself into her art.

After ten years with Disney Animation, Linda felt a pull for change, so she decided to study horticulture. With such a deep-felt passion for the natural world, Linda was looking to further this appreciation. Her time studying horticulture greatly expanded her knowledge of botany. She also took up botanical art classes to improve her watercolour skills in the realm of plants.

ARTWORKS BY LINDA CATCHLOVE.

Each of these steps – Disney, horticulture, botany – have come together in her current practice, art that focuses on environmental awareness. Reviews have described Linda’s work as “meticulous and magical”, “a collection of water-coloured masterpieces, each oozing with soft dreamy detail, reflecting all the charm of the Aussie bush” (SA Life, Boomerang Books). Her drawings are a testament to the exacting detail of botanical illustration and the charm of imagination. Through her work, Linda seeks to bring awareness to the interconnectedness of flora and fauna, and the delicate balance of ecosystems.

“It's really important to understand those habitats and the beauty and preciousness of all of it – especially in this time of climate and environmental concern,” Linda says. “They’re so beautiful and I’d like to show that to people.”

Linda catchlove artwork 3
Linda catchlove artwork 4

ARTWORKS BY LINDA CATCHLOVE.

Once a month, Linda bundles up her artworks – prints, gift cards, calendars – and sells them at the Stirling Market. It’s her favourite opportunity to show her work to the public.

“I love to see people’s reaction when they see my work – they have big smiles and I think for a lot of them like it takes them back to their childhood, which is a lovely thing to see,” Linda says.

However, it’s a difficult balance being an artist, finding time between self-promotion and practise. Paintings can take months to complete, even a whole year, and Linda knows that sometimes the monetary reward does not always reflect the hours of hard labour. But it’s her principles that drive her through the tough times and a commitment to sharing that love with others.

“There’s inspiration everywhere where nature is. Just to see the beauty of these incredible plants that we have in our country – and the stunning creatures that live with them, that rely on them. It is important that we provide those habitats, to save and nurture them.”
Linda Catchlove, botanical artist

As in nature, things can reshoot – for Linda, her experiences and passions have never left her heart, instead reforming through her current artistic style. Far from being led down the garden path, good fortune and a fond affiliation to the natural world have fortified her journey as an artist. A true passion never withers; thus, Linda Catchlove has been lucky enough to combine her diverse vocations into one whimsical, inspiring practice.


This article has been published through a collaboration between the City of Adelaide and the University of South Australia aimed at sharing stories of the city and showcasing the work of emerging local writers.

Discover more engaging stories penned by aspiring Adelaide writers.

The views, information, or opinion expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the Corporation of the City of Adelaide.

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Article by

Christina Moore

Christina Moore

Christina is student at the University of South Australia, studying in the fields of Journalism, Creative Writing, and Cultural Studies. She is passionate about sharing local stories through engaging prose and photography.