For the love of plants

I've been lucky enough to travel to many different places. I've studied abroad in London and Florence, had the chance to visit Russia in graduate school, and spent a week in Germany. I've also been to many different places in the United States, from Wyoming to Maine, California to Illinois, Arizona to Vermont, and several others.

All these places are filled with spectacular art and architecture, sufficient material to inspire one for many lifetimes. And certainly, I have sketchbooks filled with images from these areas, waiting to be fleshed out into something more substantial.

Yet, I often find that much of my inspiration comes from my own humble surroundings. I don't know whether it's a matter of convenience, or because I try to live in the present, but it's the scenes and objects around my home often populate my images.

Take, for instance, my plants.

Gnomes and plants alike are welcome in my home

I keep several houseplants. I love them dearly, and take great delight in watering them, pruning them, rotating them, and so forth (yes, I do talk to them. So far they haven't responded). They are also my muse, and I've spent many an evening sketching their leaves and studying their colors.

One reason why I love these plants is because of their personal association. Most of them are cuttings from my mother, who is a spirited gardener. She often brings  new plants for me when she and my dad drive up for a visit, and these botanical delights become a living connection between myself and my family in Maine. As such, they're an important part of my daily life.

On one of her last visits, Mother brought me this surprise:

This beauty is an angel-wing begonia. I had been lamenting to her about the loss of some geraniums, so she brought this up with her to cheer me up. I was immediately taken with the elegant shape of its leaves, its slightly iridescent shimmer, and the white patches that reminded me of stars or droplets of milk.

What really struck me though, was the red hue on the underside of the leaf, which made for a pretty contrast to the green (and why not? Red and green are complementary colors, after all).

I immediately wanted to make a print that invoked these colors and textures, but wasn't sure what form it would take. So I spent an evening or two sketching, getting to know the plant better.

A page from one of my sketchbooks

I thought about making a linocut of the plant as a sort of portrait, but since it was the color that really interested me, I opted for layered monotypes instead. I then painted in the white patches and the borders by hand to further suggest begonia's form. From there I printed a friar lobster, establishing a link between the plant and me.

The print still felt a bit empty to me, though, so I drew in the leaves around the border.

Of course, a plant this delightful deserves an image entirely of its own, and that will likely somewhere in the future.