As you know, I was fortunate enough to find a great studio back in May. I wasn't fully moved in for weeks, and with school still in session, I didn't actually put a brush to paper until the very end of May. School ended mid-June; our family went on vacation a week after that, so I couldn't even get into any real flow until July.
Once I got rolling, this watercolor just sang for me. Many people thought I was crazy to tackle such a large, detailed subject, but I have to say I enjoyed every minute of it. How many minutes, you might wonder? Approximately 4,200, or 70 hours. (I started keeping a log book for every major work in progress this year.) I don't think I'd ever spent this much time on any single piece before. It took the majority of my summer - what little time I was able to spend in the studio, at any rate - and I finished just in time to submit it to the Virginia Artists Annual Juried Exhibition. It was accepted (yay!) and will be on view October 1 - November 23 with 115 other amazing pieces - many, I'm proud to say, by friends and colleagues throughout Hampton Roads.
When I work I prefer putting on headphones and either listening to a mix of my favorite songs or an audiobook. Music keeps me feeling upbeat and helps the time pass quickly, but books help me make connections between my art and the world around me. It was from listening to a beloved book that I found the perfect title for this painting.
"With how many things are we on the brink of becoming acquainted, if cowardice or carelessness did not restrain our inquiries." -Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
Botanical illustration gives me the freedom to explore the ideas of beauty, flaws, and decay without the complexity of human beings - namely, the perceptions tied to gender, race, facial features, and body types. What is beautiful? What deserves to thrive and what (if anything) should be weeded or pruned? Working with Nature reminds me that every individual is the same: worthy of occupying space, worthy of simply existing, regardless of perceived imperfections. In choosing to venerate a virtually unknown and ignored weed like this Common Mullein, I’m asking viewers to stop and notice something we all walk past or even step on without realizing it’s there. The lush silver-green of its leaves, the mix of both emerging and withering leaves, and even the decaying detritus beneath it, kept me riveted over the many hours I spent capturing its likeness. This is why I depict the imperfections and various stages of life: fully appreciating the emerging plant, the brief moment of a perfect bloom, and the long, slow decay that exists right up to the edge of death.