FINDING SEASONAL WILDERNESS
My favorite times of the year are when one season turns into another. As soon as I heard Punxsutawney Phil's 2018 prediction, I knew he was a liar. Maybe there's six more weeks of winter for Pennsylvania, but in Northwest Arkansas, all signs have been pointing to spring for a good while. As the neighbors' cats lounge on my porch again and birdsong in the early morning wakes me up, even being caught in the first thunderstorms of the year, I'm eager to be outside to watch the transition from winter to spring.
Seasons. Watercolor on paper, 9" x 9". 2017.
If you'd like a print, let me know!
What I enjoy sketching the most are trees and plants outside. Over the last year and a half, however, painting houseplants has inadvertently become my forte because they're the main players in my new body of work. During the winter it's normally too cold for me to sit outside in the drizzle for hours drawing so houseplants take up even more space in my sketchbook. The difference between painting a houseplant and creating messier sketches of the neighborhood trees is the difference between predictability and uninhibited growth.
A painting for my upcoming show: Succulent Bowls. Oil on panel, 12" x 12". 2017
The idea of a potted plant next to climbing vines and trees makes me think about the power within and outside of domestication. Several years back I went to a lecture about gardens in ancient Rome and their relationship between civilization and nature. The Romans needed to domesticate and control nature, with water being the most dangerous, uncontrollable, and valuable aspect of that, so when a host had an amazing garden, especially one that made use of streams, fountains, or pools, it asserted his dominant strength. What I learned about balance and tension between the ancient Romans and wilderness and about power and control is something that I think of a lot when I paint or draw plants.
The goddess Artemis, Lady of Wild Things and Huntsman-in-chief to the gods, is a great figure to consider in the Romans' relationship to nature; of the gods, she shows most vividly the uncertainty between good and evil. Image taken from The Classics Pages.
By no means do I live in a wilderness. Instead, I live in a place with parks, city planning, and urban development, which means that the nature that's around me is cultivated. There's not much room for an unbridled nature experience here. Although the seasons themselves are lovely, they're predictable; the transitions between them are where you find the unknown--they're one hundred percent their own thing. The transitions are when we feel growth, and observing those changes through my sketchbook is what I do best.
A sketch of the plants popping up in my garden right now.