Lisa’s Colombian Adventure

Upon completing the first year of the 2016 Botanical Painting Diploma Course, CSBA student Lisa Anzellini began to think about her ‘Final Project’ in order to graduate the following year.

Part Colombian, and wishing to pursue her botanical interest in such an ecologically rich country, Lisa researched possibilities in Colombia, leading her to a government project, called ‘Colombia BIO’.  This program is responsible for researching and protecting nearly all continental ecosystems in Colombia.

Lisa’s timing was perfect, due to the Colombian government’s recent signing of a peace agreement with the most powerful guerrilla group (FARC). After more than five decades of civil war and four years of talks in Cuba, safe exploration of regions never explored for biological purposes, opened up to scientists, resulting in the discovery of dozens of new flora and fauna species.


The project’s biology research institute, appropriately named after Alexander von Humboldt, is set in Villa de Leyva, a small colonial town 3 hours from the capital Bogotá.  The site was chosen for its dry climate, in order to safely preserve their fauna and herbarium specimens and spaciously housed in a beautiful, large, 16th C. Colonial cloister.

Knowing this biodiversity record was happening, Lisa contacted the Institute explaining her intent as a CSBA student looking for some kind of botany research in order to complete her final project as a budding botanical illustrator.

The Institute generously invited Lisa to join them with the proviso that her illustrations were botanically precise enough to workalongside their botanists, Humberto and José, which was initially worrisome, but she picked up and moved from London to Villa de Leyva in early September.

“So far I have been working on a Solanaceae species, it has been a lot of hard work between me, Jose and a Colombian expert who lives in Edinburgh, trying to describe it accurately, determining if it is indeed a new species, dissecting and measuring every single part in the microscope. I hope to finish it soon, and afterwards I will start painting a new species of Magnolia, a beautiful plant! And then probably a couple of insects. We don’t know yet if the coloured plates will be published or not, but it has been an amazing experience so far, specially working along botanists, they know so much!”

We at CSBA, are so thrilled to be following Lisa’s fascinating experience…  all showing that if you set your sights on a dream, are determined to pursue it and willing to take a chance, anything is possible.