Secret Garden Series – #3 RABBIT

Secret Garden Series -Rabbit, watercolor 18″ x 24″

I am totally celebrating the completion of this painting!  I don’t know if it’s the hundred little details within the painting which are all mini paintings in themselves, the pandemic, going out to protest or helping my kids finish up school, but this painting was so hard to complete!

I think many people look at painters and think “I just don’t get it?  Why are you so obsessed with throwing paint down?”   I have family members that are bewildered.  They wonder how I can complete a painting and within hours I am starting another one.  Well, of course the first answer to this is passion.  When a person is lucky enough to find something they feel passionate about, it’s not work.  It’s pure joy which means most likely you will want to do it over and over again.  But the second answer is more specific to my passion.  I think my giddiness and excitement comes from the idea of a blank slate.

Staring at a blank canvas is exhilarating.  Actually, it feels a little more like a panic, but in a good kind of way.  There is nothing there.  It’s very personal, because from nothing comes something.  I liken it to forcing yourself to jump off the high-diving board.  I take the same deep breathe, pick up the pencil, and I don’t allow myself to turn back.  Now if I am being honest, sometimes it takes me a few days.  Sometimes I walk around the desk.  Sometimes I sharpen over 30 pencils.  I organize my paints.  Maybe pay some bills.  Find weeding that is absolutely essential…

At first I felt really bad about this.  Guilty actually.  I felt like I was wasting valuable time and procrastinating.  But slowly, I am finally getting it.  It is part of the process.  Because if I look at those uneventful days a little more closely, I am actually working.  I am envisioning and dreaming up what will be in the foreground, background, left, right and center.  I am thinking about the mood, the color scheme and slowly collecting reference materials.  This process isn’t tangible.  It’s just me being silent doing what most likely looks like day dreaming. But eventually it manifests.  Like an exercise routine that I appreciate only after I can see it’s effects, I have to force myself to show up, paint and push on.

So the blank canvas is exhilarating, but the other high-point is the completion.  I think that’s why I love photographing the progression of a painting.  Because I get to sit there for a moment and take it in.  There was nothing there and now there is something there; Creation in it’s purest form.  From nothing comes something.  It’s what I love about gardening to.  I dig, cut and push around the earth and then from a baron space, comes life.  It could also be said for parenting too.  They all give me intense satisfaction from creating.

I can already see that working on this series is going to bring me to a different series of work.  For within each of these paintings, I am falling in love with smaller simpler studies.  I wouldn’t have ever found them unless they were part of something bigger, so I am incredibly thankful for all I am learning in every moment.  Needless to say, this little bird is my favorite part of the painting.

Oh boy, I’ve been going on and on and I haven’t discussed all the things I hid throughout the painting!

If you recall, months ago I thought up hundreds of small objects and symbols I wanted to hide within my secret garden. I had tiny pieces of paper everywhere.  I blindly divvied them up into 8 bundles and as I am sketching the painting, I task myself with figuring out where to put the objects.  It’s definitely the child in me.  I feel like the secrets are what keep someone coming back to look again.  And then, there’s always the why.  Why is that there?  To me, it fuels the imagination.

I wanted to strangle myself when I pulled out one of the pieces of paper and I had written Excalibur’s Sword.  Really Mary?  Do I know anything about swords? and where am I putting said sword without ruining my painting?  It’s kind of where it gets fun, because that in itself, is a puzzle I get to solve.  So  first thing to find is Excalibur’s Sword!

Here are some other things to find:  A Swallowtail caterpillar, a House Wren, a compass, snake-eyed dice, a snail, a key , a toy truck, a lock, a White Ermine Moth, a Scottish Thistle, a red apple, a Rumi book, and the Eye of Horus.

I also mentioned I am adding a Latin phrase to each painting.  The phrase for the rabbit painting is  “Non ducor duco”.  Which means I am not led, I lead.  I love this quote.  But  for laughs, I juxtaposed it with a pointing hand plaque which suggests leading one in a certain direction.  funny right?  Geek humor.

For the first time, I am really feeling good about my work.  I am feeling personally connected to the subject matter which gives me sense of purpose.  I can also see a path forward which makes me feel at ease.  I guess I could equate it to becoming comfortable in my own skin and owning my voice and vision.  Long time coming….Can I get an AMEN!!!

Secret Garden Series -#2 OWL

18 x 24″ watercolor – Secret Garden Owl

My second painting is complete. I don’t know if it’s the distraction of the pandemic, but it feels like it took forever! I’m very happy with how it turned out. I feel like it conjures up the feeling of a secret garden.

Here are a list of objects to find within my secret garden painting:

A Dharma wheel, a Mayan temple, a chrysalis, an evil eye, a praying mantis, a potion bottle, the queen of clubs, fire flies, a fiddle head fern, matches, and a ladder.

Also, I am adding a Latin quote in each painting. This painting says “ALIS VOLAT PROPRIIS” which means “She flies with her own wings”.

Here were the three little studies I created to come up with ideas and the comparison to the large final painting:

So that’s it. Next I will begin part 3, the rabbit!

Secret Garden Series – #1 Raccoon

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Secret Garden Series – #1 Raccoon  watercolor 18″ x 24″

It feels so darn good to finish a painting!

Not to mention, it sort ended up how I imagined.  I finally got enough “garden” in there to feel “Secret Gardeny”.

Here’s a good visual of how I started with the small studies and now I am continuing with large paintings.  The small studies allowed me to work out a bunch of ideas:

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So now that I have completed the first large painting, I can better explain what I envisioned.

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Months ago, I had the idea to try and create artwork that marries all the things I am passionate about.  It’s taken years to figure that out, but here they are:  Color, Animals, Gardening, Flowers & Fabric.  Then, I had another idea.  What if I created my own secret garden where I could hide objects for people to find?  That to me, would make it more fun and “secret”.  The photo above shows tons of little pieces of paper where I worked out what objects I’d like to hide. I’m using them now as cues for each painting.

So take a look again, the painting has a bunch of things to look for.

 

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Find:  A puzzle piece, a dragon fly, a feather, a skull, blue berries, a teacup, a spider, a seashell, mushrooms and a lock.  I also decided I am going to place a Latin phrase in each image.  For this one, I selected “Memento Vivere” which translates to “Remember to Live”.  You know, like life is short so your really ought to go for it :)

I’ve heard twice now that this would make a great puzzle.  …Oh man.  Why hadn’t I thought of that?  It really would!  When I’m done with the series, I am going to have to search for how to submit my images to puzzle companies. That would be awesome.

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This is my favorite part of the image. If and when I ever find time, I’d like to go back and try this as it’s own painting:

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So that’s it.  File this one away and get cracking on #2 which is The Owl.  Off I go!

A Bevy of Birds

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A Bevy of Birds  –watercolor 22″ x 30

Can you tell I had fun painting this painting?  Like I just couldn’t stop?  Well, why not add just one more itty-bitty thing?  lol.

This is my first large painting since I started working on my Secret Garden series.  What’s funny, is I am pretty sure I will not include this painting in the series.  I initially thought pottery would be a great perch for the birds I wanted to paint, but now that it is completed, I realize the painting has nothing to do with a secret garden and overall, it’s a BIT BUSY!

On the flip side, it’s a fun painting.  All the birds came out “cute” which wasn’t the plan, yet whimsy is my overall take-a-way.  I just couldn’t help it.  Pick one bird?  I  can’t pick, I love them all!  I also played with symbols of good luck which are hidden throughout the painting.  There is a #7, a shamrock, a silver spoon, a robin’s egg, a heart, a wishbone, a red apple and a lady bug.  There’s also a bumble bee and fuzzy caterpillar because why stop there???

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Yeah,  I think I went a little crazy adding as much as I did.  I should have added a kitchen sink for an extra chuckle.

Ultimately, I think I have a better idea for what to do with this image.  I should isolate the images within the image.

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See, like this. I made a mock up of note cards.  This allows your eye to take a break and focus on each object.

Like the rest of my life, I think I’m in control and going in the direction I choose.  If I have learned anything in my brief forty-something years, I AM NEVER IN CONTROL.  I just enjoy the detours and try getting back on the course I’ve selected.  Who’s to say I know what’s better for me than the universe does? 

I have NO CONTROL over the deadline, but one day I will finish what I set out to do and until then I will have a lot of cool things I encounter along the way.

Like the medium of watercolor.  I  have to laugh and just go with the flow :)

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2nd Set of Secret Garden: Owl & Snake

 

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3rd attempt – 5×7″

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2nd attempt- 5×7″

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1st attempt 8×10″

The Owl concept has not changed too much from it’s original conception.  However, there were some things I wanted to work out.  In the second attempt, I was focusing on enlarging the owl and trying out a different color scheme.  In the third attempt I wanted to see how it would look with old cedar shakes.

Overall, as I go forward, I am going to take this learning curve with me.  I am leaning towards keeping the building monochromatic so as to have the animals and flowers be the things that stand out and I will most likely enlarge the Owl.  Because I was working so small, I didn’t do much foliage, so I will beef that up in the next attempts as well.

As I get larger it is going to be fun to hide things within the painting.  I’m looking forward to that.

…onward and upwards!

 

2nd Set of Secret Garden: Cats

 

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5×7 inch study for watercolor painting series.

Here is the comparison of the first attempts and my latest adaptation.   As you can see, this one hasn’t changed that much.  The concept is still the same, I’m just trying out different variables…

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It does seem that my sole focus has been on figuring out the setting.  Creating that background.  I like the new layout from the 5×7 drawing, so I will keep it but my next focus will be on really punching up foliage and flowers.  After all, this is supposed to be a secret GARDEN!

2nd Draft of Sketches

Today I submit my second draft of sketches for my Secret Garden Series.  I love working large, which is quite an investment of time and resources, so with this project, I have slowed down to take the time to really have a strong idea of a layout before I go big.  Below is a comparison.  The painted images were my first attempt and their size is 8″ x 10″.  My second attempts are the sketches to the left.  Here I have begun to make changes to the initial ideas.  The ones to the left are slightly smaller.  They are 5″x7″ inches.

As you can see, I only kept two images rather the same.  That means I am happy with most of these images.  The other 6 sketches not so much.  They now have different backgrounds and animals switched from one sketch to the next.  I am currently painting these 5×7 sketches and as I do, I am synthesizing and already coming up with changes to the next concepts.  I shall finish them up and then share my findings.

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Duck and Raccoon

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Here are two more 8 x 10″ watercolor studies for the My Secret Garden series I am working on.

Neither of these made the cut. I liked the animals, but the backgrounds didn’t do anything.  One of them looks like the siding on the back of a house and the other is a door to the universe?  Plus, they are also too cute-sy.  I would much rather “mysterious”. 

Yeah, I have already made the changes necessary in the new sketches I am working up.  There will be a duck and a raccoon, but they will be in much different habitats :)

The Great Horned Owl

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Here is my first study. It’s of a Great Horned Owl. If you’re a nature lover and you’ve ever seen one, you’d know they are beautiful, graceful and quiet. Their eyes pierce right through you.

In yesterday’s blog post, I explained that before I start on my larger more serious paintings, I am going to create some little 8×10″ studies in order to work out the ideas I have rolling around in my head. This series will encompass all the things I love. I am choosing the animals I come in contact with here in New England. As fascinating and exotic as lions and tigers can be, they do not impact me the same way the small creatures in my local habitat do. One day I was riding my bike through the woods when an owl swooped down in front of me. I will never forget how spiritual this quiet interaction with a piece of nature impacted me. It was just the two of us staring at one another.

This painting is so little I cant fit it all in, but let me tell you the ideas I have for it. The building is based on some of the funky Victorians found in Providence, RI. I want to add a chandelier because it’s my fantasy garden, and of course I would have chandeliers! I chose a smooth green snake because their color is fabulous. I grow the Chinese lantern pods and somehow I felt them fitting here. It gives me an autumn-y vibe. There will also be some insects when the painting gets large enough to fit them in. I plan on adding a praying mantis. My neighbor raises them so I live with tons of them in my yard. I’m adding a green monarch butterfly chrysalis to represent metamorphosis. Plus, living by the ocean, the monarchs visit in droves during the fall as part of their migration to Mexico. Every autumn I look forward to their arrival. And here’s another fun feature I am planning. What looks like stars in the sky are really going to be fireflies. Sadly, I get very few in my yard these days, but this is my fantasy garden, so they will be welcome in great numbers!

The last thing I will discuss is my culmination of ideas. For so many years, I have painted what I see such as fruit, a beautiful flower bouquet, landscapes of places I’ve traveled. This is my first foray into conjuring images from my imagination. I mention this because how do you take a thought and translate it into 2-D? When you dream are you focusing on what people are wearing? what the sun angle is? What is in the background? For me – the answer is no! So taking an idea and putting it on paper takes baby steps. What is the duck standing on? What would gravity do to a flower? How about shadows? First, I have to figure out how to draw an owl before I can place something in front of it or behind it.

So that’s what I’m doing. Now I could have simply created thumbnail sketches. Fill sketchbook pages and work it out there. But I liked the idea of these tiny little paintings. I liked the idea of finishing each one even if I changed my idea on the concept half way through it. I’m working out color and composition. Plus new ideas spring up spontaneously during the process. When you draw an object over and over again, the lines become intimate. It gets easier the next time. It gets easier to manipulate the object. I think they call this muscle memory. It’s good stuff. so I’m giving myself permission to slow it down, think, pay attention and change my mind simultaneously.

We shall see where it takes me. Here’s to step one.