With this crummy weather, what is a gardener to do? One: go out there and slog through it all and be a noble sufferer. Two: rush out during the good moments: no rain, so snow, no hail, no sleet, no radical winds…Quick, NOW! Or three: hide in a tower-studio and draw pictures of flowers, vegetables, and fruit. I’ve chosen the last option. Last week, it was an artichoke, this week it’s an apple. A month ago it was home grown shallots.
Today, I am going to be speaking less of gardens and more about “process.” As a background, once upon a time, long, long ago, I used to draw and paint. We’re talking twenty or more years ago. The many matters of life and work and even the love of gardening and my textile hobbies have taken me away from drawing. For the past several years, I have been saying (EACH year as a New Year’s resolution): I will work on botanical illustration this year. But then, I didn’t do it. The usual excuses came into play: too busy with the garden and events, I just don’t have time; I don’t have a place setup to do it; I can’t start yet ANOTHER project—all of the usual excuses.
Last year, I read about little cards that artists make to trade with other artists (a movement that started in Switzerland). What struck me was the size of these little pieces of art: 2.5 x 3.5 INCHES. That’s the size of a sports trading card. These miniscule bits of art are called: Artist Trading Cards (ATC’s). (You can go to Ebay or Google and search for ATC and ACEO (Art Card, Editions and Originals) in the Art category and you will find loads of “little” art for sale. There ARE purists who say that the point of ATC’s is NOT to sell them but to PERSONALLY trade them. That is not the discussion here.)
Ah-ha, I thought. This is something I can do. I can make a drawing or painting that is 2.5 x 3.5 inches with a minor commitment to materials or time. I was sure I could “squeeze” , a drawing or painting that is the size of a credit card into my day. And so, starting last February, that is what I did. I made a vow to make an ATC every day. Just ONE. At least until gardening season came upon us hot and heavy. I hesitate to show some of the early attempts. Though, I do think that it is instructive.
A couple of weeks ago, I took a 2-day workshop in Portland given through the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon: Botanical Illustration. It was a short jaunt, a chance to visit with my friends in the area, AND go to Powell’s Books. I brought my “Sports Card” collection book (I think it’s for football cards or many baseball cards…very classy, blue plastic with sihouettes of sports guys on the cover). It contains my ATC’s….all 170 of them—from the beginning ….and BOY, can you see the progress.
So many people came up to me during the workshop and told me what an inspiration this was, making my little Art Cards, that I thought I would share this here. It CAN actually be applied to the garden as well. There ARE times, on this big place, where just walking out the door can be a discouraging experience. OMG, there are waist high weeds in the beds, dandelions growing through the cobble walkways, the roses look ragged, the lawn needs mowing, trees need planting, etc., etc. It CAN become overwhelming. Time to step back, make a “do-able” plan and then just start. We’ll “do” THIS half of the path today. THAT half tomorrow. One little chunk at a time. It IS surprising what can be accomplished in small steps.