My Journey an interview with the artist
How did you become interested in Botanical Illustration?
A few years ago my husband and I were on a road trip, planning to relocate and make a career change. During the trip, as an exercise in finding our new occupations, we were articulating "what are our passions?". I wanted to do more art (I was working as a wedding coordinator) and I mentioned that I used to make wreaths with foraged plants, take nature walks, did aromatherapy, etc. and then it hit me that I really like everything relating to botanical. I said out of the blue that I wanted to be a “botanical artist". The problem: I had zero experience in watercolor techniques or botany. So, it has been a journey to get back into art, perfect my skill in watercolor and learn "what does it mean to be a botanical artist?". Mostly to take that leap and not take another job.
Who/what is your inspiration/muse?
A.R. Valentien. Shortly after I decided to become a botanical artist I was lucky to be in California and saw an exhibit of his work at the San Diego Natural History Museum. I was so impressed with his body of work recording the California wildflowers that I spent hours trying to figure out his technique. Since they were initially for a book, they were all in a similar format and I loved that. Also, I sometimes joke to my husband that I need to channel some of our current botanical artists. So many are extraordinary!
But most important is listening to your own inspiration. Sometimes I get inspired by something I see in the media and I have learned to act on those inspirations. You just never know what might happen! That was how I began my endangered species project in 2005, getting a grant from the ASBA to paint the rare plants of the Texas Hill Country after reading about and seeing the effects of urban sprawl on central Texas landscapes.
And in May 2009 I was invited to speak at the Department of the Interior Museum in Washington, D.C. where two of my paintings were hanging in an Endangered Species exhibit. After watching President Obama's prime time speech to Congress, I sent him an email urging him to maintain funding for the arts in his new budget and also sent his family a catalog of the Endangered exhibit, which was in their "backyard". Two days later, the president gave a speech at the Department of the Interior about the Endangered Species Act, and later that week I received an invitation to travel to D.C. to present a slide show of my field work and give a workshop on graphite pencil technique. Fortuitous and serendipitous!
My current "Hierbas Curativas" series and handcrafted book came after hearing a presentation given by Don Jacinto Madigral and his translator and colleague, Dr Elizabeth de la Portilla. After learning about their sacred herbs that day I came away saying, "I want to do a series of respectful botanical paintings of the herbs honoring the healing rituals of curanderismo".
What has been the one piece that you are most happy about?
The Texas Snowbell. Painting this specimen allowed me to meet an exceptional man, David Bamberger. If you look on his website (http://www.bambergerranch.org/) you will get a look at the scope of what this now 90 year old man has done. This species is endangered and he has made it his mission to "de-list it". The specimen I painted was on his ranch and over the 2+ years recording the cycles of this plant, we have become friends.
What do you hope to communicate through your aesthetic?
That we really see our beautiful earth down to the smallest plant and that I inspire others to do everything we can to protect it.
How would others describe your work?
"Delicate" "Dances on the paper"
At first I thought I should change and be "more bold" but just look at the subject. They may be wild, but their very existence is in delicate balance and some are so ethereal that the bloom only lasts a day.
How has your art changed you?
When I started to document rare and endangered species, like it or not, I found myself educating the public and in turn I developed a stronger sense of environmental responsibility. Now I love combining my art with conservation awareness and sharing my love of nature. I started a blog “Endangered and Not So Much” to also showcase other artists that do the same.
What are the other items in your life that you would like to share?
I used to be a wedding co-ordinator. I’m a certified aromatherapist. My husband and I built with our two hands (yes, hammer and nail) an off the grid cabin in the San Luis Valley CO mountains when we had our Spa business there, called Mineral Hot Springs. I now share a home art studio called SummmerFish Studios with my husband Victor Summers who is a woodworker and sculptor.
What is your favorite plant/flower?
The delicate wildflowers. So beautiful, ethereal, and when I see a field of them like you see in Texas it takes my breath away.