Meet the Artist - Ruby Moon Hyacinth Bean

by Isabel Vinton

The stunning Ruby Moon Hyacinth Bean.

All plants add to a garden's magic, but some possess the power to make a garden completely enveloping. The vigorous vines of the Hyacinth Bean reach higher than the tallest trellis, creating a lofty paradise of purple flower sprays and paisley pods that sway in the late-summer sky. This canopy beckons beloved pollinators like hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees to dance and swoop through the tendrils. But if you take a closer look at this dense throng of life, zoom in on just a single stem, a symmetry emerges in the sets of leaves and pods--a sense of order in the chaos.

This celebration of the symmetrical and the asymmetrical, the calm and the chaotic, is exactly what made Catalina Villegas the perfect artist for this art pack. The richness of the natural world in the two places she has called home, Colombia and Florida, has nurtured an artistic vision that is vibrant and tangible, full of plant and animal life portrayed in repeating patterns that feel like looking through a mirror into a more exciting version of our own world. Although Catalina uses digital editing to enhance her work, the mirrored shapes are all hand-drawn. As a result, just like the Hyacinth Bean, her symmetry is organic and delightfully imperfect.

Catalina, we feel joy every time we look at your pieces. Why do you make art? I make art out of a simple and basic necessity. As I have grown older it has become a way for me to share what’s stored in my mind, a recollection of plants and animals from the place where I was born (Colombia, South America) and the place where I was raised and have lived most of my life (Florida). I try to understand their shapes, textures, colors, and role in our ecosystem and I now see this process as a vital element in my life. I accept the responsibility and pleasure of being able to transmit positivity and happiness through my illustrations to other people. The world is a weird mixture of chaos and calm and I relish in knowing that I am contributing something to the latter part.

Can you tell us a bit about your artistic process? I draw everything either with a pencil on paper, then ink and scan and color digitally using Photoshop. I recently bought an iPad and that’s been a game changer because it makes the initial drawing and inking process much quicker and easier to correct small mistakes. But I am still a firm believer in paper and pencil. It’s a beautiful way to connect your brain to your hand and transmit that magic into something tangible. As far as coloring goes, it’s always done digitally, whether it’s in Photoshop or Procreate. I do make my own textures with paints and random things that I either draw or make. There isn’t an exact linear timeline to this process but it’s become a meditation of sorts, and I like sitting for hours on end making every single little dot or mark you see in my work.

Catalina drawing the hummingbird for the pack.

We're mesmerized by the rich world you've created of flowers and pollinators. What are your favorite elements of this artwork? The hummingbirds and the flowers! These creatures are one of my favorite birds and I’ve always been intensely attracted to purple (it’s the color of my aura!). I hope folks can appreciate the attention to detail in the overall line work (it’s all done by hand using micron pens), the minuscule textures and patterns on the birds, butterflies and bee, and the colors in the piece. I am a big fan of mirroring my work and I love how the Ruby Moon Hyacinth Bean artwork can become mayor eye candy if you sit back and stare at it for a while.

Can you tell us about a little bit about the flora and fauna of Colombia and Florida and how you drew on these for the artwork? There are tons of hummingbirds where I am currently located in Colombia. It’s a treat to look out the window, or take a bike ride to the store and see them flying around. Same goes for butterflies! We’re lucky because they flourish year-round since we have Spring-like weather all of the time. The surroundings in my other home in South Florida are immensely lush and green. It’s an hour north of Miami and there are so many plant specimens to look at, study and enjoy. There are obviously many different animals in this region, but you can still find hummingbirds! It’s definitely a treat to be able to spend time in both places. The variety, the lush quality of the landscapes, and the diverse pops of colors from all the flowers are factors that I bring into the artwork.

What role does symmetry and asymmetry play in your artwork? I like to push the boundary of what can be found “naturally” in nature. Organic forms have many symmetrical elements but I like using the rigidity of digital editing software to take it a little further, slightly out of its comfort zone and natural state, and create these “perfectly imperfect” words that move between carefully measured and placed elements made from fluid and organic shapes. It's a fun way of recreating how the world looks in my mind.

How do you think about the role of art in how we perceive nature, gardens, and food? I’ve been blessed to have been able to participate in this year’s art pack project. It had been a goal and dream of mine going several years back. I respect and admire the fact that Hudson Valley Seed has been able to document through stories, research, and science, how vital seeds have been to us and are as humans. Without seeds we would just literally vanish from the Earth and existence! I don't think many people stop and think about how delicate it is. And to see the way the company approaches and works with farmers, gardeners, artists, and a community as a whole is very exciting and humbling. 

We are so grateful to Catalina for highlighting an important aspect seed saving: With every new variety we add to our catalog, we are tasting a little sample of the dense, teeming multitude of nature. When we plant it in our (nearly) tidy garden beds, or balance its flavors and textures in our cooking, we are doing our part to help that biodiversity thrive.

See more of Catalina's work at and on Instagram @cativillegas.

Watch Catalina designing the hummingbird for her Ruby Moon art pack in the short video below!

How to Grow Ruby Moon Hyacinth Bean

Days to Germination 5 - 12 days
Days to Maturity 115 days
Planting Depth 1/2 inch
Spacing in Row 12 inches
Spacing Between Rows 12 inches
Height at Maturity 8-15 feet

Direct sow 2-3 weeks after last frost. For earlier blooms, start seeds indoors 2-3 weeks before last frost date. Sow 1 seed per cell, using deep cells to accommodate the long roots. Transplant or direct sow after all threat of frost has passed. Provide a very sturdy trellis. Though a bit slower to take off than typical garden beans, Hyacinth Bean is very vigorous in the summer and can reach 8 feet high! Flowers and seed pods can be used in cut flower arrangements.

NOTE: Beans can be toxic if not prepared properly. We do not advise eating.

Other Gorgeous Climbing Plants