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. 

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Growing

Something that I've learned (through much trial and error) is that one of the easiest ways to ruin a watercolor painting is to overwork it.  If you've ever tried this medium, I'm sure you know what I mean.  Maybe trying to finish a piece too quickly in one sitting, or by bringing in too many colors and not letting the previous colors dry, over-mixing, MUD.  Yep, been there!  So here's a little trick I often tell my students to make sure that doesn't happen... multitask!  

I often have 3-5 projects on my desk (or desks) at the same time so that I can jump between them. This allows the layers of paint to dry completely before adding another.  With watercolor being a transparent medium, it's all about the layers, and building them up slowly to maintain the integrity of those beautiful colors.  So there's my little nugget of art advice for the day...keep on painting!

Native plants and pollinators project - works in progress.

Native plants and pollinators project - works in progress.

 

 

Beginning

Welcome to a new year in the studio!  January is always a great time to re-focus, set new goals, clean my office, and plan the year ahead, so that's what I've been doing lately.  Especially seems it's freezing cold outside in Michigan, and anything flowering or botanical is hard to find, other than dead seed pods or fruit from the grocery store.  Still there are summer art fairs to apply to, winter painting classes to teach, and new technique classes to take, shop stock to keep up with, commissions, and new projects to plan.  So for the dead of winter, I'm keeping very busy! Of course I have thousands of reference photos to work from, and often do, but somehow it just isn't the same as touching the plant and smelling the earth. I am so very looking forward to grabbing a sketchbook and heading outside to the fields and forests when the snow breaks.  So we will wait... spring will be coming... eventually, it always does.  Stay warm, and keep painting!

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Blooming

Before I began painting much of the elements of nature, flowers, botanicals, and the like, I had never given much thought to how much time would be needed just waiting for things to bloom!  This is not something that can be rushed, coaxed or prodded generally, but just requires learning patience, which is also something watercolors demand as well, and something that was never one of my strong suits.  The word "bloom" in watercolor can be good or bad, it's when the water spreads and dries the pigment into an unexpected shape, which might be a beautiful surprise!  Or it might be a disaster.  In the case of working with colored pencils, you want to avoid the "bloom" of wax or oil build up that can end a piece of art before it's time.  (Patience my love!)

Capturing the many stages of a flower's progression has now become a fascination and fabulous mission to me instead. Waiting for the growth, enjoying the journey, and then watching as something blooms... when it's really good and ready, is always worth the wait.  My sketchbook / journal has become a fun place to record the journey and take notes of what happened along the way and when.  Then when something finally does bloom, I can be ready to jump into action and capture the moment!  I'm still working on the patience part, but I'm slowly learning the beauty of experiencing every step of the process.  I hope you're enjoying your summer...and your journey!

Gardening

I love springtime.  I didn't used to, because I thought of it as the season of rain, and mud, and road construction, and seasonal allergies.  But now that I'm a little older, and the pace is a little slower, and I get to paint flowers (yay!),...it's more about planting, and growing, and greenhouses, and and garden centers!  There's something very serenely therapeutic about digging in the dirt and connecting to the earth.  Then there's the anticipation of that first bloom, and capturing it at the perfect stage of opening, with the perfect morning backlighting, and the perfect water dew drops on it.  Although I have literally hundreds, maybe even thousands, of reference photos in my "to paint" file already, I just can't resist adding a few more that might inspire me later.  Then there's the trying to paint that, to save the beauty of that image you saw, although it will never really be nearly close to as good as the real thing.

I recently finished reading a book by Annie Downs titled:  Looking For Lovely, that I thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend.  I also almost forgot to write to you (blog people) this month because of all of the loveliness happening in the gardens right now (mine and all of my fabulous friends that share theirs with me, thank you!)

To every thing there’s season, and a time to every purpose under heaven
— Ecclesiastes 3:1

So I hope you get to dig in the dirt a little this month, visit a garden, plant one, or paint one...and please definitely take the time to look for lovely, and soak it in.