Saturday, October 18, 2008

Fresh Cut

The weather man says we have some cool days ahead ~ giving me the perfect excuse to quit the driving around and get back to the business of making art. The sun pours through the window in the morning so that's when I do my best coloring.

I'm working on several series at once in order to have enough on hand for the holidays. Orchids are by far my most popular botanical and I sold out of those a while back. There are several more in the works that will be up and running on Etsy soon.

The three bulbs pictured below are from a series of fall crocuses that are brand new. They feature pieces of pages from some old comic books from India that I ran across a while back. They illustrate the life of Buddha in comic book form and are reincarnated here as botanical papercuttings!

Please stop by my new shop on Etsy if you haven't done so already. There is a little photo album in the column to the right that provides you a direct link to that site. If you enjoy browsing handmade treasures and learning about the people who make them then you'll enjoy shopping there. It's fun and easy to use ~ you're bound to make some new friends!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Regular Old Inspiration

And then, there's a lot to be said about just getting outside and wandering around. I just bought myself a pretty, blue camera ~ a Canon PowerShot SD1100 IS ~ and it comes with me everywhere I go. And I tend to go all over the place. Lately, I've been stopping by all the gardens, arboretums, and parks I can find. One of my favorite destinations is Oatlands House & Gardens in Leesburg, VA.

Both a National Trust Historic Site and a National Historic Landmark, Oatlands has a big mansion you can tour (yawn), a walled garden with acres of "secret" walkways (yippee) and a tomb! Very spooky.

The century-old Japanese maple trees are not to be missed. From a distance, they look like just a fuzzy canopy of green ~ but you have to get right underneath for this view. I highly recommend doing this if you're heart aches for something gorgeous to look at.

If you're an artist, you can sign up at the Carriage House and they'll let you walk the grounds for free. Otherwise, inspiration is $6 a pop.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Inquiry-based Inspiration

A while back, I got the urge to seek out some resources to help broaden my understanding of plant life and nature. As a former botany student (way back when) I enjoyed learning about plant structure, form, and systematics. My knowledge has waned a bit in the intervening years and, honestly, I wanted to get my hands on a microscope again.

Living not far from Washington DC, the obvious choice is visiting the Museum of Natural History. Before jumping in the car, I visited their website to see if they offered a resource room of any sort and what kind of credentials you needed for access. Voila! They offer a free, hands-on research facility, the Naturalist Center, located in Leesburg, VA ~ a tad closer than DC and I don't even have to drive downtown! It's open to everyone, free of charge, lots of parking. Microscope included!

What you encounter when you walk through the door, aside from the gracious staff, is a kid- and family-friendly activity room chock full of natural objects to touch and learn about. And then, there's the research library: endless cabinets of wonder:

It's hands-on ~ but there are proper ways of touching this stuff without ruining it for the next guy. The staff and volunteers will lead you through easy guidelines for opening drawers and not petting polar bears with the palm of your hand, etc.

They offer a sizable botany library and plenty of herbarium specimens to examine and photograph. For me, it's like a dream come true. It was all so amazing that the next thing I knew, I was filling out a volunteer application form ~ and have been going back every Thursday to help out. My current task is to frame the scientific illustrations donated by Johns Hopkins students using found or free materials ~ and to try and remember to get some reading in!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Work Spaces

Folks often ask me about my work space. When they step inside, they're usually astonished that it's organized. I'm not sure why. Perhaps they're expecting drifts of paper scraps or floor to ceiling stacks of newspapers. I just can't work with mess all around so I keep it kinda tidy, it's true. My studio is also pretty small. I admire those huge, airy artist's studios with the soaring windows and towering ceilings ~ but honestly, I'd be lost. I'd forget where I left my glue bottle and then work would grind to a halt till I found it. I like to keep things simple, so small is better for me.

Folks also wonder what I listen to while I work. Although I am a great fan of all sorts of music and my selection lists on iTunes are legendary ~ I'm a fan of the podcast. There are several that I listen to while I work ~ Radio Lab, This American Life, Selected Shorts, and (a must) Marketplace. I've been learning a lot more about collateralized debt obligations lately than I'd care to know but that's the way the cookie crumbles. Music makes me want to move around too much so I save it for when I'm framing or cutting a huge stack of mats.

Another question that I hear quite often is about inspiration. What inspires my work and how do I seek it out? My next post will be about my interest in natural history and how that led me to become a volunteer at the Smithsonian's Naturalist Center in Leesburg, VA.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Settin' Up Shop

Well, it took me a while ~ and now I am a proud new Etsy member. Click on the button to the right to view my shop! I look forward to a long, fruitful relationship with this wonderful community. If you're not yet familiar with Etsy, I encourage you to stop by and browse around. It's fun and easy to shop for incredible handmade goods!

Now that I've figured out the digital details of settin' up shop, I can get back to the drawing table. I'm putting the finishing touches on two dozen new botanicals that will appear here and on Etsy soon!