This summer I ran an Art & Nature Journaling workshop at the arboretum here in town. One (of the many!) highlights involved preserving a butterfly that one of the girls had found on the ground in a parking lot. It’s wings were stiff and closed up, so we put it between wet paper towels until it softened, then very gently spread it’s wings. We used tracing paper to hold the wings down and then secured them in place by pinning around them. We let it dry overnight. The next day when we unpinned it, the butterfly held it’s position - wings open. Beautiful. We lay it in a flat box to later be glued into for display.
Insects fascinate me. I love to observe them in their tiny worlds. I especially appreciate the variety of unique forms they take on, each like a miniature sculpture.
Months ago, when I saw an entomology class offered at the New York Botanical Garden, I signed up. Taught by Tam Nguyen, I loved every second of it, including the exams.
Gain a basic understanding of the structure, growth, ecology, and evolution of insects and their role in human life. Learn how to collect, identify, classify, and preserve a wide variety of insects.
The librarian at the NYBG introduced me to a book which was very helpful in my pursuit to learn more about collecting and preserving specimens!
A key to identify specimens.
Recommended by the librarian at the NYBG. Best book ever.
Advice on recording information in the field.
The class touched on entomophagy:
en•to•moph•a•gy noun The practice of eating insects, especially by people.
I knew this was common in other parts of the world, but hadn’t realized it’s been gaining traction here in the states. Of course I had to try it for myself, but approached it in the tamest way possible and haven’t advanced beyond this point, yet…
After college I lived in NYC for almost 10 years. Making these prints had helped me bring nature into my daily practice. I’d take walks to collect fallen leaves from the sidewalk, then bring them back to my apartment. After pressing the leaves so they’d lie flat, I rolled them up with ink and printed them on the paper. Creating compositions with radial symmetry was calming, meditative, peaceful. I recently made more leaf print mandalas from cuttings I took in my own backyard and will post them at some point soon…
Earlier this year, just for fun, I took a botanical drawing class at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx. The instructor, Laura Vogel, was very methodical and thorough in her teaching style. She covered all aspects of line and how to use it to describe form, suggest both light source and depth of field, all while portraying the subject with accuracy. Here are some of my drawings from the class.
Although I studied art in college, there was a lot I picked up in this class. It was a great refresher, and I loved having an excuse to walk to gardens every week!
Drew these with acrylic markers.
Saw a show of Botanical art at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx. Below are my favorites.
Found this guy while cleaning out a light fixture then put him under my desk lamp for a closer look.
For this series of drawings, I first glued down areas of color using tissue paper and cut origami paper shapes overlaid with white gel pen.
Inspired by Peruvian pottery.
Also inspired by Peruvian pottery!
One of my many Jade plants alongside a 'love rock', given to me by my daughter.
This beetle specimen has made it's way into my drawings and paintings several times over the years.
Two 'chicks' rooting in small glass jars alongside rock pile. The chicks had fallen off the mama 'hen' while being transplanted into the garden.
Imagined plants surrounding "Mr. Bluepants", my daughter's pet Beta.
More plant cuttings rooting in jars of water.
Ink, pad and brush + a spot in the shade = the perfect afternoon.
Just returned from our annual week-long vacation in Truro, MA, where I'd been thrilled to find a class in "White Line Woodcuts" being taught at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum during our stay. I immediately registered and I'm glad I did. The class was taught by artist Sally Brophy whose work includes white line woodcuts inspired by nature. You can see more of her prints here - my favorite is the one with mermaids, which coincidentally, I had purchased (in the form of a notecard at the Pilgrim Monument gift shop) several years previous to enrolling in her class.
Highlights of the workshop included:
Learning the white line woodcut technique.
Seeing original white line prints from the PAAM collection by artist Blanche Lazelle and others.
Visiting the Bakker Gallery to see more prints, including an origianal Sally Brophy!
Watching the documentary "Packed in a Trunk" - which uncovers the story of artist Edith Lake Wilkinson (one of the originators of the white line technique), who was "committed to an asylum in 1924 and never heard from again".
Working alongside classmates and seeing their work in progress.
All in all, a great experience.
Above left is the white pine wood cut to about an 8" square. Above right is the finished print.
A BRIEF WHITE LINE HOW-TO
Here's how I made this print - first, I transferred my drawing to the wood using transfer paper. Then I used an x-acto knife to cut along the lines of the drawing. Using thumbtacks, I pinned my paper to the right side border (this kept the paper out of my way when I was painting since I'm a lefty). To print, I painted watercolor onto a section of the wood up to the edges of the carved lines, then lowered the paper onto the surface of the block. To transfer the color to the paper, I rubbed the backside of the paper (in the general area where I'd just applied paint) with a spoon. I continued painting and printing until I was finished.
I worked on this series while living down by the Jersey shore one winter. The focus here was on abstract shapes, line and movement. When I look these over, I still like (and use in my current work), the bold shapes and repetitive lines. Also, I'm drawn towards the pieces with a limited color palette - 2, 3 or at most 4 colors. Over the years I've limited my palette even more, and find that one single color (along with the negative space it creates) has the most impact.
Size: about 5"x7"
Date: mid to late 90's
Drawing and painting from nature is one of my favorite things to do. I get so wrapped up in observing the details of the object, that the usual static in my head completely subsides. It's my personal form of meditation.
These nature studies are from different times in my life. I painted the first (above) with india ink on rice paper while taking an art class at the Brooklyn Botanic gardens. The second is india ink as well, and the third a seedpod drawn with charcoal. Seaweed from a Cape Cod summer, india ink, and lastly, a budding branch in watercolor.
I made these little collages from my old nursery catalogs. I totally enjoyed making them - they combine my love of quilting and gardening. I like that they were quick to make (took about an hour) so I could complete them in one sitting. While making them I was thinking about color and rhythm. In two of them I'd combined contrasting colors and was aiming for a quick, energetic pace. In the other two I used many shades of green combined with repetitive strips for a slower, more relaxed feeling.
Here's my takeaway: I've got to do more of these quick studies! Normally, before starting a project, I do a bunch of pencil sketches to compose the design, but rarely do I play with the color. Using old catalogs to make collage somehow makes it easier for me to make color choices. So next time, rather than mixing a specific color on my palette, I'll reach for something to cut up... catalogs, magazines, paper scraps and even fabric.
Date: Around 2010
This is the first post in my new series, "A Look Back". In this series, I take 'a look back' at an artwork or series of artworks I made in the past. I include a brief backstory, and attempt to isolate what I like (if anything) about the piece / pieces. Whatever it is I like about the work I consider 'my takeaway', these are the elements I'd like to incorporate into and move forward with in my current work.
After getting married, my husband Bob and I backpacked through Asia for 8 and a half months. Back then, before kids, we'd sit and enjoy a beautiful place for hours, him with his little travel guitar and me with my sketchbook. Today I'm taking a look back at some watercolor landscapes I made at that time.
I almost always bring my watercolors with me when I travel. It's a great way for me to relax and enjoy the new environment. Each of these paintings were made outdoors from observation. They most likely took about an hour to complete. Today, if I'm traveling, it's rare that I have an hour to paint without interruption (that's motherhood!) so it's been a while since I've attempted to paint the landscape. With the changing light, it's something I prefer to finish in one sitting so I'm not returning to a subject thats gone and changed on me.
My favorite thing about this series is the peaceful feeling that they give me when I look at them. Is it the actual image that does this for me? (Soothing blues and greens and natural subject matter), or am I sensing the serenity I felt while painting them? Not sure, but in either case...
Here's my takeaway: If my aim is to create peace-inducing artworks, these paintings contain a palette I can refer back to. Also, watercolor landscapes are a great way to relax, but stylistically, there's nothing here that I'd necessarily choose to fold back into my current work.
I'm going to hang onto these paintings. Once I get around to framing them, I'd like to hang them in our bedroom. They'll help create the relaxing atmosphere I'm going for in that space, and remind my husband and I of our amazing journey through Asia.
Medium: watercolor, pencil
Size: approximately 8" x 10"