Book Signing at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens

small dendrobium

On Saturday, April 12, 2014, 1:00- 3:00 Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden will host a book signing for artists with paintings in the newly published book “Native Plants of the Mid-Atlantic”.
It is concurrent with the garden’s Heritage days. Admission to the garden is expected, but, if you can, please stop by the library and say hi.

Posted in Upcoming Exhibit

Dendrobium Orchids

My sketchbook is where I work out colors and composition.

My sketchbook is where I work out colors and composition.

small dendrobium

My most recent work is a small Dendrobium orchid.

 Dendrobium orchids have two or three leaves on an almost impossibly slender stem.  As they open, they have an almost triangular bud.  Before painting this particular image, I did a number of sketches and dissected the blossom and taped the parts of the flower to my sketchbook so I could refer to them later

I use as sketchbook to make decisions about composition and color as well as to figure out the lighting and forms of the final painting.  I don’t usually share my sketchbooks but I have them all over the place.

Posted in Current Work

Native Plants of the Mid Atlantic is now available

Native Plants book cover

Pinxter azalea

An exhibition of the paintings from the Botanical Artists for Education and the Environment (BAEE) book, American Botanical Paintings: Native Plants of the Mid Atlantic, will be held February 15 to June 15, 2014 at the U. S. Botanic Garden in Washington, DC.  My painting of the pinxter azalea is in this book and will be on display at the exhibit.

What surprised me about this project is how hard it was to find specimens from which to work. This plant is not rare, but it is not in bloom for very long. It took me three years to complete the project, because each time I found a stand of the plant, it was in bloom only for a few days and each year I had to find a new stand because the original plants had been destroyed by development or mowed down. It reminded me how important it is to preserve flowers like this, even though they are common now, their future is not assured.

Posted in Coming Up, My Adventures Tagged , |

Photographing the Sunrise at Chincoteague Island VA

beach thin sky
Although I do not use photographs to make art work, I do, occasionally, use photography to help me observe subject matter.  Paintings made from photographs tend to look flat and lifeless.  However, I do use selected photographs to refresh my memory about details or lighting. It is often difficult to capture the detail needed for my drawings in a limited amount of time.  I always make sketches and plan my drawings but sometimes a good photograph can help me understand lighting or plant structure.

grass and texture1I am also considering drawing and painting birds, so I invested in a photography workshop at Chincoteague Island, VA.

Getting  up at 4:30 in the morning seemed more like boot camp than fun, but, once up, the views of the sun coming up were spectacular.  The challenge was to manipulate the shot with manual settings and get as much color in the sky as possible while still respecting detail in the foreground.   (I had trouble just setting up the tripod in the dark. Note to self, bring flashlight).


house on beach


chinc contrast


Posted in My Adventures

How I Begin

My posts will show you works in progress, picture taking adventures, and other observations that might be of interest to lovers of nature and botanical art.

A little about my working process.

I work a little differently from some botanical artists since my background is based in drawing and art.   I love the process of drawing and I want to capture the movement and action inherent in the graceful curve of a leaf or petal.

Therefore I begin my drawing with what artists call “gesture drawing”.  It is a warm up that allows me to respond to what I am seeing and just concentrate on the “flow” of lines and form in a particular subject matter.  The drawing is swift, and flowing.  Sometimes I stand behind my drawing table and just try to use my whole arm (and sometimes body) to capture the movement in a particular composition.

This is my time to study the subject matter without worrying too much about accuracy or anything but getting down basic forms, sizes, and movement. If I step back and the overall impression is one that does not represent the overall “feeling” of the subject matter I am drawing I start over.


blog first sketch

With a new piece of tracing paper, I begin to draw  something more “flower like” based on the subject matter.  While accuracy of size and shape is more important at this stage, the emphasis is still on “sketching the subject matter.  Sometimes I like my drawing better at this stage than I do the final product.

blog sketch 2

I continue with this stage until I am satisfied that I have a pretty good beginning and have kept the liveliness of the subject matter.  I don’t limit myself to 3 pieces of tracing paper.  It is cheap and can be thrown away, or parts of the drawing that are successful can be cut out and used in the final drawing as well.

When satisfied, I get out my good tracing paper, Denril.  I love the feel of Denril (a polyester paper with a surface that is called “vellum”); it isn’t real vellum, (but that explanation comes later).  The pencil just slides on Denril tracing paper and the surface makes it easy to vary line weight. I buy it when it is on sale.

At this stage, I force myself, not to just trace over the exploratory drawing, but I “re-draw” using many of the lines suggested by my exploratory drawings.

blog denril tracingI then use my own self-made “carbon paper” (you can also use oil-free saral). I don’t like to get the  carbon dust from that paper on my final drawing paper, so I carefully make a “sandwich” of my carbon paper with the finished denril tracing on top and the smooth side of my fabrino artistic, hot press, watercolor paper on the bottom.

Using a 3h or harder pencil, I trace over the denril tracing to make a light image on my watercolor paper.  It is important not to press hard enough to make a dent in the watercolor paper, but not so hard that the image can not be removed with just a light  tap of a kneaded eraser.

This whole process doesn’t take a lot of time because the initial drawings are very fast, but transfering the drawing to paper is slower but very important.  Work carefully and work cleanly.  Be careful about getting your watercolor paper dirty because erasing the paper can damage the paper surface. To clean, use a kneaded eraser and tap in on the paper to lift any dirt as opposed to rubbing it into the surface.  Also, don’t loose the “life” of the drawing when tracing it.  It is better to leave out some of the tracing and re-draw it by hand when the tracing is done than tracing too fast and loosing important detail.

Remember, your painting can be no better than your drawing, so take your time to include the details that describe form (the places where two forms meet, the attachement of a stem, the centerform of a leaf, the details that indicate how a petal fits into the other parts of the flower).  You can always put your tracing over the painting to clarify details, but if you draw them wrong in the first place, you will have to start over.  In the long term, care at this stage makes all the difference.

blogchrysanthemum unfinishedI’m not yet finished with this flower painting. However, I am including the unfinished painting to show you how a good drawing supports the final painting.

Posted in Current Work, Techniques