Mark your calendars! I’m thrilled to announce my first solo art exhibit. Boathouse Botanicals will be a selection of my botanical art work, which I will be displaying at The Boathouse in Kitchener’s Victoria Park. The collection will include existing as well as never before seen work.
The Boathouse Botanicals exhibit opens on June 8th, coinciding perfectly with the beginning of patio season. Drop into the Boathouse, browse some vibrant botanical art, and enjoy a cold beer or cider on the Boathouse patio overlooking the pond in Victoria Park.
Better yet, join me at the Boathouse Botanicals opening reception on June 8th for a first crack at purchasing one of the new pieces on display. I will be available to discuss my process and answer any questions you may have about my pieces and their subjects.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about defining my own personal style in art. I know a few things – I strive for fairly accurate, realistic art. However, I do not like my art to be too delicate or technical. I really like quirky subjects, bold contrasts and colour.
The past few weeks, I’ve been working on painting carrots. Orange carrots are boring, so I’ve added in carrots that are purple, green and yellow to make a spectrum – a literal rainbow of carrots. This was originally intended to be an assignment for the SBA diploma course in coloured pencil, but after some initial sketches and colour swatches, I decided to complete it as a personal project in watercolour instead. I think it will look great on greeting cards for spring.
I’ve been focused on showcasing the things that make heirloom carrots unique. I’ve chosen the most colourful carrots. I’ve been drawing them under a warm light and bumped up the colour saturation and contrast just enough to make the rainbow pop. Carrots are knobbly root vegetables, and I’ve spent time developing all of the bumps and blemishes and hairs to make them extra carroty.
The whole time, the sentence “She drew carrots that look even better than real carrots” has been running through my head. It’s an adaptation of a line from an old favourite children’s book appropriately named Purple, Green, and Yellow, by Robert Munsch. The main character, Bridget, collects hundreds and thousands of markers, which she uses to draw “roses that look even better than real roses, oranges that look even better than real oranges”, until she gets bored and draws all over herself.
I decided I was going to be an illustrator when I was very little. One of the first things to spark my interest in illustration were the wonderful illustrations in the children’s books my parents read to me. Robert Munsch took up much of our library, perhaps because his characters reminded my parents so much of our own family. Michael Martchenko‘s illustrations of Munsch and his kids in Something Goodare a comically accurate caricature of my own dad and siblings, from the mannerisms to the eyebrows.
The character who I identified most with was not any of the kids in Something Good, however. I was most like Bridget, the little artist who uses her collection of 500 permanent markers to draw on herself in Purple, Green and Yellow
I’m still that little girl in many ways. I don’t have quite 500 indelible markers (only about 50 Copics) but my collection of coloured pencils might soon exceed 500. I also hoard other art supplies – a few dozen tubes of watercolour paint (including sparkly amethyst coloured paint made from REAL amethysts), pens, watersoluble crayons, ink, graphite…
I don’t often use them to colour on myself anymore, but “carrots that look even better than real carrots” is very much an accurate summary of what I try to achieve with my work. I don’t know if I’ll ever quite hit the mark, but I hope to be able to draw, say, carrots, in a way that makes you want to pick the carrot off the page and bite into it, even more so that a real carrot.
Art is strange. Sometimes, drawing feels like an endless struggle. Other times, I sit down with a cup of tea, and in what feels like a blink (but is actually several hours) I have a complete drawing in front of me. Luckily for me, these pears fell into the latter category.
Based on feedback from previous assignments, I tried to focus on lighting, and creating a very 3-dimensional shape for each of my 3 pears. I chose a simple composition to give myself time to focus on lighting and colour.
The skin textures seem a bit off, and I am still a little too heavy handed/impatient with my pencils, but overall I am pleased with how this piece turned out.
Assignment 5 for the SBA’s Distance Learning Diploma Course was a composition study of a single variety of flower, with leaves.
Recognizing that I have used extremely amateur compositions in much of my past work (single thing being illustrated in one blob in the middle of the painting), and eager to be working in coloured pencil again, I decided to really push out of my comfort zone in this piece, choosing a subject with lots of dimension and depth creating potential for negative space.
While walking along the Spur Line trail that runs behind the KW Artist’s Co-op in late august, I was struck by a thick mass of small, brilliant pink flowers. Research revealed them to be himalayan balsam, an invasive garden-escapee originally marketed as an easy-maintenance, low-budget floral.
I quickly returned with garden shears – the exuberant dangly pink flowers hanging from thick woody stalks with barbed textured leaves, heavy exploding seed pods and deep fuschia buds would provide a very complex and interesting composition indeed. I wanted to show the plant in all it’s messy, woody glory.
I must have been suffering from a cold when I started this illustration, because it wasn’t until the third day of drawing that I started noticing the overwhelming, pungent, sickly sweet mildewy scent of himalayan balsam, which would become my constant companion for the next several weeks.
As frequently happens, I gradually started to hate both my illustration and my subject. The once thrillingly unique little flowers became twisted and vulgar. The exploding seedpods became a constant annoyance as I spent days and weeks carefully positioning stalks and leaves to be both scientifically accurate but still aesthetically pleasing and easy to understand. As the short Canadian summer drew to an end and I had to depend on sketches and photos to complete my work, I second-guessed my colour balance and shadows
I still can’t look at this drawing objectively. I think that I was successful from a negative space/composition side, but it might have come out too cluttered despite my best efforts. I was torn between overusing cast shadows (a big no-no in traditional botanical art) or rendering unnatural looking textural detail, and I can’t discern how well I walked that line.