The 2024 American Flowers Week artwork was created exclusively for Slow Flowers Society by Lesley Goren, an illustrator and designer whose work focuses on the natural environment.

Lesley Goren self-portrait
Lesley Goren, self portrait

Lesley Goren is interested in “place,” be it the woods, the city, or somewhere in between. Her work depicts the beauty of California’s natural environments, and uses informational illustrations to explain plant life and fire ecology. She loves using images and text to make ideas more accessible, while her contemporary and lively drawings are scientifically accurate.

We first connected with Lesley in 2021 after following her on social media and falling in love with her focus on native plants, wildlife, and ecology. It’s taken a few years to pull things off, but we’re thrilled that Lesley was available to create our 2024 original American Flowers Week illustration.

No Need to Roam for LA Times Plants
No Need to Roam for LA Times Plants

Lesley has shown and sold her work in galleries, boutiques, and park visitor centers throughout California and beyond. She creates custom illustrations for clients, especially in the environmental-based nonprofit sector. She also creates commissioned art for clients and collectors. Lesley resides in Ventura County, California.

Square Post or Badge for American Flowers Week 2024
Lesley Goren’s illustration for American Flowers Week 2024

We love how Lesley thoughtfully research native flowering annuals and perennials “across America,” which supports one of our important insights for 2024. 

Recently, our founder Debra Prinzing connected with Lesley to discuss her story and her relationship with flowers and nature.

AFW: Lesley, can you describe how your studio started focusing on art inspired by nature?
LG: I found my niche working with native plants, but I was also doing logo design, surface design, and illustrations. I was doing so many different things, but over the past year, I have started saying “no” to many. It was a little scary, but it has been really good to do it. In the end, I feel that it’s better to be good and true at who and what you are.

AFW: What got you started down this path?
LG: I’ve always had art-related jobs, but I was usually someone’s assistant – architectural restoration, decorative painting, digital arts. After I became a mom, the idea was that I would go back to work when my children were both in school. I assumed I would find something similar to my past jobs, but I really wanted to start my own studio. My life was about the natural world, the environment, native plants, gardening, being out on the trails, so I decided to align my personal and ideological selves with my professional self – and it just clicked in a way that my work never had before.

AFW: What were some of your first projects?
LG: It started very small. I was printing my own cards and it got to the point where I’d be up at three in the morning trying to keep up with orders. I took lots of baby steps, like having the cards professional printed. Then people started hiring me for client projects. That pace has continued for the past five years.

California Classics for LA Times Plants; Poster design for The Center for Early Education
California Classics for LA Times Plants; Poster design for The Center for Early Education

AFW: Can you point to a specific project that shifted your focus to native plants?
LG: Yes, the California Native Plant Society contacted me two or three years ago. They needed a logo for their “Bloom California” campaign, which was aimed at getting more growers and nurseries in California to grow native plants.

AFW: How do you approach your client commissions?
LG: Generally, unless a client has something very specific, the easiest way for me to start is to select the color palette. Once I have that, I’ll pick the plant species based on those colors. For example, right now, I’m working on something that includes blue, purple, orange, and creamy white. The design includes milkweed, poppies, goldfields, lupins, and baby blue eyes. I’ll then block out a composition based on those colors and research the flowers so I can make sure they’re scientifically accurate, even through the illustration is going to be stylized.
Working with a mood board with reference images and colors, I’ll move on to the line drawings. From there, I’ll send a loose sketch and color palette to the client. Once we have those elements figured out, I start refining the drawing and basically, I “digitally paint” it.

AFW: When you say “sketch,” are you still using a pen or pencil, or can you do that digitally?
LG: I use Procreate, which is an illustration app on the iPad, and draw with an Apple pencil. Of course, it doesn’t feel like paper, because it’s a glass surface, but besides that, it’s very similar to drawing on paper. It’s just a faster process. If a client asks me to move three flowers to the bottom of the illustration, it’s literally a two-second change. For a hand-drawing, that would be a lot more work.

AFW: Do you miss hand-drawing?
LG: It’s super important to continue doing it – even if not for a client project. Hand-drawing keeps your skills sharp and fresh as an artist, so it will always be part of my practice, even if not for a specific design.

AFW: If you’re out on a hike, are you mainly using the camera on your phone to snap images of real wildflowers or do you take a little sketch pad with you?
LG: I draw the plants. I love drawing from nature even if it’s something no one else ever sees. It’s such a meditative process that teaches you a lot more about plants. There’s only so much you can see from a photo, but when you can get around a plant and see it from all angles, even smell its scent, you just have a different tactile experience with it.

AFW: You talk like a botanist! Have you researched and studied the plants you illustrate?
LG: Yes, I’m reading a lot and trying to go to in-person events that are led by botanists

AFW: Do you consider yourself a botanical illustrator?
LG: It’s a little different. There are so many people who draw similar plants that I draw, but they tend to have more of a traditional watercolor style, which is so beautiful. But I am setting out to do something a lot more design-forward and contemporary. It would be meaningless if I didn’t have the science behind it, though.

Superbloom Bandana design for Theodore Payne Foundation; Map Sticker for Rivers & Lands Conservancy
Superbloom Bandana design for Theodore Payne Foundation; Map Sticker for Rivers & Lands Conservancy

AFW: Yes, your work feels very contemporary, but retro at the same time.
LG: Yes, I’m constantly looking at inspiration from the turn of the last century to the 1970s and 1980s. I love looking at old World War II posters and victory garden era images from the 1940s. I take different color palettes and bring them more into the contemporary environment.

AFW: Other than your American Flowers Week illustration, can you share about some of your recent or current projects?
LG: Right now I’m working on an illustration for Los Angeles Times Plants’ digital feed. The project is about how “all blooms are super.” Another project is with a landscape architecture firm.

AFW: We’re excited to see those pieces! Let’s talk about your wallpaper designs, too!
LG: I’ve created wallpaper for the gallery space at Theodore Payne Foundation for Wild Flowers and Native Plants. It coordinated with my display of small digital paintings. Also, I recently designed wallpaper for an architect that was installed in a beautiful Craftsman home.

AFW: What motivates you as an artist, Lesley?
LG: I’m sometimes asked, “What can you possibly do with the plants you’re drawing?” And I think my objective is just that you can’t have a connection to something if you don’t know it. Maybe someone will send one of my cards to a friend and the friend thinks it’s a cute drawing. But then, they turn it around and read the plant name, maybe even the Latin name. And the next time they’re out on the trail, they see the plant and recognize it.
Whether it’s really small-scale or more obvious, my mission is helping other people with their mission.

AFW: Tell us about your own garden!
LG: When we moved here, the previous owner had made this unbelievable garden that I could tell was a passion project with about 40 roses. But as I’ve learned about gardening, over time, I started replacing those plants that were high-water-use with drought-tolerant plants. With the help of Nicole Calhoun, of Artemisia Nursery in Los Angeles, we’ve converted the front of our house to native plants. And all these little baby natives now are taking off!

DOWNLOAD Social Media badges of our 2025 American Flowers Week artwork by Lesley Goren

Click below for the full list of native plants featured in Lesley’s artwork.