Engin: You Know What’s Booming: The Engin Couple Behind Vegan Classics and Warn of Change

A charming garden surrounds the home of Margot and Roland Spohn in Engen. Wildflowers and plants live here in harmony. “We only get done once a year,” Roland Spohn says with a smile. Small islands with rare flowering plants like the bumblebee orchid surviving. The dead, tainted willow serves as a motel for the insects, and the terrace boards have been removed for the ant lions: the Spohn couple lives their job. Biologist, illustrator, and artist Roland Spohn and his wife Margot, a botanist, are experts in the field of botany.

In the Roland Spohn studio, not only botanical illustrations are created, but also educational paintings and large landscapes, for example for the Museum of Natural History ...

In Roland Spohn’s studio, not only botanical illustrations are created, but also educational and large landscape paintings, for example for the Museum of Natural History in Göppingen. He has also designed a nature memo game and picture books. | Photo: Hall Rauser

For 15 years, they have updated and completed the plant calendar “What blooms there?” , which is called the bible for amateur botanists. The book was published last year in its 60th edition. But why are plants, flowers, and trees still drawn in the age of digital photography? “You can never see all the features in one picture,” explains the biologist. Minimal details such as the hairy leaf edge, leaf positions, or seed pods are often either invisible or blurred in photos. “Painting is often actually a product of imagination.”

Two Worlds - Roland Spohn with a realistic illustration and one of his paintings, depicted in great style ...

Two Worlds – Roland Spohn with a vibrant illustration and one of his portraits, where he uses biological and botanical motifs in the style of brilliant realism. | Photo: Hall Rauser

There is a lot more to see in pictures than in pictures

For years, Spohn supervised the course of painting in his studies in biology himself, and his path to illustration was self-taught, as was his path to art. “For me it’s a smooth transition from illustration to great,” says Spoon.

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The pictures he paints for the past 35 years have a fantastical effect. Biological elements such as cells, fungi, insects, plants, or stages of development fill the large-scale works and are combined with signs and symbols of society, drama, dance, religion, and astronomy. In this way, Roland Spohn combines science and art.

The threat to native fauna and flora is a cause for concern

Margot and Roland Spoon agree that the change in nature is visible: “Some plants are becoming rarer, but there are also new migratory species that we have included,” says Margot Spoon. “We have to say goodbye to what we used to have at home,” her husband says. Harassing native animal and plant species is bad. “But what you’re protecting today may not be there in ten years.”

So perhaps the migration of new species that may be drought-tolerant should be considered an opportunity.

Collection is important: Roland Spohn's studio also includes the dried parts of plants, mushrooms, seed pods, snail shells and roots that ...

Assembly is important: Roland Spohn’s studio also includes the dried parts of plants, mushrooms, seed pods, snail shells, and roots that serve as moulds. | Photo: Hall Rauser

The couple met while studying. Botanist Margot Spoon writes scripts, her husband paints and takes pictures. This also applies to the Cosmos Tree Guide, the second edition of which was recently published and shows tree species across Europe. The couple also traveled to see the samples in person.

In order to find the right shade, the botanical artist has at his disposal a rich palette.  Spohn uses...

In order to find the right shade, the botanical artist has at his disposal a rich palette. Spohn uses different techniques and methods. | Photo: Hall Rauser

“When we’re on the road, it’s hard to separate vacation from work,” says Margot Spoon, laughing. They landed in the area about twenty years ago. In order to shorten the journey between Göppingen and Bern, Margot Spohn’s workplace, they came through Hegau. “Botanically speaking, the place was just right here,” Roland Spohn says. “There are alpine vegetation here, lowland area and relics from the last Ice Age. And the agriculture is also not that extensive here.”

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Interest and knowledge of local plants is increasing

However, the famous species of Higao orchids are not in their focus. “They have their own lobby,” says Spoon. In travels they try to point out the small, inconspicuous rarity. “Many of them have little flowers that are trampled in lawns of orchids,” say the biologists. After all, interest in and knowledge of local plants is growing again. “You have to know what you want to protect,” says Spoon succinctly.

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