Foraging

It's finally here, my favorite time of the year! The cooler weather, amazing changing colors of leaves, glorious luminous cloud formations and beach sunsets, apple orchards, pumpkin patches.  As fabulous as all of this is, in Michigan it also means the end is near of all things green and growing until next spring.  For a botanical artist, that means scurrying around to visit as many gardens and green spaces as possible with my camera and sketchbook, like a squirrel gathering nuts for the winter.

Lately I've been able to take a little time to wander through some of my favorite secret gardens and soak in the beauty.  Draw, paint, doodle, photograph, observe, breathe, whatever you need to do, I hope you get out there too, it's so good for the soul. 

IMG_5934.JPG
IMG_5987.JPG

Presenting

I've been told somewhere along the way, that if you want to be taken seriously as an artist, your work should be presented in the best possible manner.  I really believe this to be so and try to do my best at that. It's neither cheap nor easy to do a nice job of matting and framing your artwork, but it's a necessary part of the process.  

The standard for most botanical art pieces is single matting with clean white mat board matching the paper used for the illustration that's visible as the white background.  This is what gives botanical art it's clean, traditional style. I know it seems like a lot of white and who knew there were several shades of white watercolor paper (i.e. bright white, natural white, traditional white, etc.) and even more shades of white mat board to match it to!  Then you have the problem of keeping all of that white clean and white while mounting and sealing the frame.  Be prepared to wear smooth clean gloves or be washing your hands constantly and not cut yourself with the hanging wires or glass, yep- I've done that. 

Frames tend to also be simple and classic, though this can depend on the piece and whether it's for a commissioned project, gallery exhibit, or where it might end up.  Some artists tend to frame all of their works the same to keep a uniform style while others like to mix it up a bit for contrast.  I'm one of the latter tribe I guess, even if it isn't the proper approach.  I like simple dark redwood frames for some of my pieces, or rustic white for a more casual vintage look, and sometimes even something with a bit of shiny gilding just makes it more sparkly and fabulous.

I try to do my own framing and matting for my small pieces to save some money where I can, and have a local frame shop tackle the larger works because they have the equipment to do a better job than I do.  If you're the one buying the artwork, please take notice of the framing as well, I hope the entire finished piece speaks to you and is a good fit for your home or space.  I hope that you love the love I put into creating it for you!

IMG_20170825_105912_896.jpg
20170825_100438.jpg

Extroverting

No, I don't really think that's a word, and maybe I just made it up because all of my titles are verbs ending in -ing, but I think I'll go with it anyway.  This has been a month of putting myself out there.  As a natural born introvert, as most artists I know are, it's not always easy to put your work up for exhibit to the general public or masses whether at an exhibit, or art fair, presentation talk, publication, or in front of a class.  Critique is going to happen, and is necessary for growth as an artist.  Art is such a subjective practice and people have very different interests, and that's a good thing!  Just think how boring the world would be if we were all the same and everyone liked all of the same things.  That being said, I think we all sometimes fear that critique, and it can be paralyzing, or it can make you stronger.  Some people seem to think artistic gifts are inherited, not always so, it takes years of study and practice, and practice, and practice, and sometimes defeat, and trying again.  I'm still nowhere near where I would like my work to be, and when I look at the work of some of my idols and mentors, I'm simply blown away and wonder if I'll ever get anywhere near their skills and results.  That always means more study, more practice, more figuring it out...but what a lovely adventure to be on!

"I have not failed. I've just found ten thousand ways that don't work." -Thomas A. Edison

Focusing

I have to admit, this is not my strong point.  As much as I love what I am blessed to be able to do and this path that I'm on... I so easily get distracted by so many other wonderful things, like shiny things to a cat. Which is why I'm writing this post on the last night of the last day of the month, when I've had all month and many opportunities to do it sooner.  But really, it is only my own personal deadline to keep myself on track, so I made it, yay me!

It took me a long time to find a medium to focus on and try to master, at least to some degree, and something I'll continue to learn for the rest of my life.  Then it took me another long time to find a subject matter that I wouldn't get bored with easily and that I might be able to curate a sizable body of work in a similar style in.  Personal goals, set deadlines, and self disciplines, this is what they tell you you need to do as an artist to be successful, so I'll pass on that little nugget of advice to any other aspiring artists out there. But I know, there are so many fabulous things to make and mediums to explore right?  I'm sure that I'm not there yet either, but it's getting closer I think, small victories!  

Having recently been invited to several gallery exhibits and projects in the next year, that means lots and lots of painting, and focus, focus, focus,... now back to work!

Valuing

I really love ferns, and it's been on my bucket list of specimens to paint for a long time.  I actually finally completed two of them this spring!  Although I think they're so fascinating, getting into painting one really was quite a challenge, seriously SO MUCH GREEN!  I love the design in them, the whole big leaf is really duplicated smaller and smaller on each leaf stem as you look closely.  Then there's the fiddle heads' sweet little curls, oh so intricate, AND SO GREEN!  

Painting it really became a study in value.  This is something I learned about in a pastel class of all places years ago, but when I started to understand values, looking at your subject in grey tones to see light and dark shades, it was like a light bulb moment.  I tell my students to look through a piece of red acetate, or take a photo and convert to black and white to check if you're going dark enough with your colors for contrast.  Once you can see and adjust that, your painting almost paints itself, whether your working with many many colors, or mostly just one.