I have no doubt you’ve heard me talk about my love of flowers and how much I miss them here in Vegas. While roses are fairly prevalent, favorites like dahlias, peonies, ranunculus are pretty much non existent. Sigh. So I went against my better judgement and decided to purchase a few bulbs – peonies and ranunculus – just as a test, to see if I could actually grow them in a raised bed. I chose gorgeous coral, blush, and a mix called Marshmallow. Sounds amazing right? The pictures were absolutely gorgeous, of course, and as I perused the online shop to make my choices the idea for my new collection sparked. The idea of an ‘Orangerie’ (vintage greenhouse) came to mind. Ya know…those amazing glass buildings with the green scrolling ironwork. YUMMY. So I started scouring all my travel photos for palace orangeries and gardens. Of course that took me down a rabbit hole and I was completely envious of the incredibly lush vision that is a European garden. It’s amazing how much you miss being able to grow things when you literally have no soil. Lol.
But…at this very moment, about half of the bulbs I planted are actually thriving. No buds yet but I’m hopeful the dreadful heat will hold out enough for them to make it. I really wanted those petaled beauties to live in this collection.
While those little sprouts reach for the sky, I had to sit down and figure out what ‘Orangerie’ was all about! Though I gave myself some parameters when sketching, I’m not strict about sticking with particular elements when getting started. There’s something to be said for letting inspiration and instinct take hold. I let my intuition and my love of birds and blooms take the lead and things developed organically. It’s a process that can be both frustrating and extremely invigorating. This collection, in particular, is the most cohesive and harmonious I’ve created in quite a while so I wanted to share my design process with you.
I basically make a list of everything I can think of related to my theme. It’s usually a long list and can have some really obvious, but also pretty random thoughts. The random words or ideas are usually based on my own experience with the theme. For instance…one of the ideas in my Orangeries list was ‘Swan’ and while you wouldn’t normally find swan in an orangerie, I am absolutely in love with Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany. It was build by King Ludwig who was absolutely obsessed with Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. He was friends with the Russian composer and pretty much pays homage to the swan in every inch of the castle. Faucets, murals, fountains, statuary…it’s pretty amazing and incredibly inspiring. So…I’ve included several swans in my paintings…which actually lead to an entire menagerie of birds.
I always sketch at night. It just works for me. The business of the day is done and I can really relax and let my mind wander. Brainstorming list in hand, I grab my iPad and start sketching. I keep it really loose in the beginning. I just do my best to get the some concepts down without any strict concern for the theme. I just use It as a guide.
I’ve found an incredible muse here in Vegas. She’s gorgeous and knows exactly what I’m looking for in my work. We had two fantastic photoshoots where I shot upwards of 300 photos – based on my preliminary sketches. Then my husband and I took a trip out to California to spend the day at The Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens. AMAZING!!! It just happened to be overcast and cool – perfect weather for photographing flowers and birds and butterflies! And literally EVERYTHING was in bloom. The timing was beyond perfect. Oh, and check out the pic of the amazing garden chair. Stunning! That makes an appearance in one of the paintings!
When you take hundreds of photos, many are going to be very similar. But it’s the subtleties that can really make all the difference. My technique is to scroll through all my model shots and reference photos fairly quickly to see what catches my eye…I don’t overthink it. I let my gut guide me. I tag all the photos that catch my eye first round, then go back with a more critical eye to make my final decisions.
Full Color Sketches
This process is really time consuming and again, instinctual. I start with my initial rough sketches, pull in my photos, and then I play. I play for days. Then I let it sit for a while and come back to play some more. I know I’m done when I just can’t stop looking at it because I’m so excited to actually paint it. Eek!
So, that’s my process and it’s what lead to the inclusion of some of my favorite flowers…in my favorite colors (I’m sure you know what that is :). Now that I’m past this stage with ‘Orangerie’ and am into the painting process, I can spend my evenings figuring out the theme of the next collection. And who knows…Maybe it’ll end up with even more birds and blooms.
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