Thursday, April 12, 2007

Botanical Art

Early in March I signed up for an Introduction to Botanical Art class at the Filoli Gardens in San Mateo, not far from Woodside. My good friend and editor, Toinette Lippe, flew out from Manhattan to join me for this workshop and to catch up on our friendship.

You could call me a dabbler in art: I've taken various introductory classes and workshops over the years. Art relaxes me and gives me a private focus. For the most part my work has been impressionistic. A class in painting on silk over twenty five years ago gave me the tools to create washes on silk. I have gloried in watching silks dyes permeate the fabric. The "landscape" pictured here is an early piece. This one is small, the size of a 5 X 7 greeting card. I tear the silk pieces and glue them on cardstock.

For a year I have been trying to learn how to draw. I took a ten week class through Stanford's Continuing Studies program, but was longing for some solid technique in perspective and shape and line, etc. A classmate, who was already an artist suggested that I take a class with Catherine Watters at Filoli. I signed up for a March class that met for two days in the hope that I'd learn how to focus my attention on a subject and learn how to draw it. I was not disappointed.

We spent the entire first day on two drawings: one of a single cyclamen leaf and the other of a yellow pear. I'll attach my first drawings here. The cyclamen was done with graphite pencil alone, and the pear used colored pencils to achieve its brilliance.

I was pleased with the outcome. The class taught me more than the expected skill of careful observation. With botanical art the goal is to draw ones subject life-sized. A new tool is added: measurement. Using a caliper gizmo I was taught to take accurate measurements top to bottom and side to side. When I came home from the class I was so jazzed that I did a red pear that had been sitting in the fruit bowl. I've started a five week course in botanical perspective. The first day was learning how to draw a cylinder. This pencil drawing of an asparagus spear was the homework. Fun, eh?

More as my learning progresses. I am developing new eyes.