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This L.A. artist grows luscious fruits and veggies — in watercolor

Sally Jacobs is passionate about plants, as long as somebody else grows them. Instead of soil and fertilizer, she uses paint and canvas to create her luscious flowers and produce in her mid-Wilshire studio.

Looking at Jacobs' painstaking paintings of an eggplant or a Buddha's hand lemon, it's nearly impossible to believe she was over 50 before she picked up a brush.

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In fact, Jacobs took a very circuitous route to her present career, at age 75, as a botanical artist.

She majored in botany in college and taught high school biology before going into the software business. She and her two partners sold their business 20 years ago. Shortly afterward, she developed a bad case of tinnitus — a ringing in the ear that is persistent and largely untreatable.

She withdrew, "but a friend of mine kind of dragged me to a drawing class," Jacobs said. "I had never done any art before, but I felt like I'd come home."

Her instructor noted Jacobs' talent and focus on plants, and directed her to another teacher who specialized in botanical art.

"That was it. That's all I've been doing for the last 20 years," she said. "I don't like to use the word very often, but I do feel blessed — and it did wonders for my tinnitus too."

Jacobs has always been fascinated by plants, but she's not a gardener. She prefers picking her produce at a farmer's market — her favorite is the Sunday one in Hollywood — and then bringing it home to her studio.

"I want to help people see the wonder of plants," she said, "but somebody else can grow them."

Jacobs' careful art takes a month or two to complete. She works in pencil and watercolors, sometimes adding 20 layers of a wash to create her vivid colors. Her upcoming exhibit at the TAG Gallery, "Sundays at the Farmers Market," features 20 original watercolors and prints.

And the tinnitus? It's mostly faded into the background of her life, Jacobs said.

"I think about that Shakespeare quote, 'Sweet are the uses of adversity,' and that's what happened to me… something that looks all bad turns out to have a silver lining."

Done in watercolors, of course.

'Sundays at the Farmers Market'

What: Watercolors by botanical artist Sally Jacobs

Where: TAG Gallery, 5458 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles

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When: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, April 17 through May 12

Cost: Free

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