Nature: In the Garden, In the Sketchbook, In the Museum
“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished. Do you have the patience to wait until your mud settles?" -Lao Tzu
Please enjoy this walk through my virtual gallery.
Stepping into the woodland, it didn’t take long to see the impact of invasive species crowding out the natural habitat. Likewise, the work of environmental ecologists clearing unwanted growth was evident as new woodlands welcomed nesting birds returning to familiar flora and fauna.
Globally, various species of plants and animals are being pushed from their natural environment by manmade climate change. The intricate connections crucial to sustaining life are increasingly being pulled apart. The negative impact can be counted by the number of endangered species across a wide variety of groups all beginning with the introduction of humans. “We” are the invasive species.
Deep in the forest, blue and yellow come together to create a mosaic of green. Some tiles receding others advancing to create a map of biodiversity, each dependent on the other for survival:
• shaded moss bringing water to the trees.
• trees bring energy from the sun to the moss.
• pollinators receiving nectar from Trillium
• a carpet of purple Trillium producing seeds through pollination.
Lines form from branching tree limbs, some parallel, some alternating, all woven together to create a canopy of green. Mapping the biodiversity of the forest revealed the delicate balance of this fragile ecosystem.
Etta’s Garden 2019 | watercolor on paper |10” x 11
Ella’s Garden 2020 | watercolor and acrylic on paper | 10” x 11”
By late May the gardens began to burst into color. Each week a new bed of flowers would appear, each more colorful than the last. Moving from a nature preserve in the southern US to the urban landscape of the Midwest was a big change for me. I spent the first few months drawing flowers I left behind. These botanicals were a way of remembering. I decided to paint these new beds of flowers differently than my early botanicals. I was different and so they should be also.
I learned so many painters use music as inspiration while painting. So, with the help of the great ladies of jazz I began to paint these flowers. Moving my brush up the paper on high notes and down with the sultry low notes. I like being in this space now and as long as the muse shows up, I plan to spend more time there.
This waterfall stands at the entrance to the Japanese Garden. It provided a quiet place to sit and contemplate the three plateaus of water cascading onto a series of rocks, gaining momentum until the final release into the lagoon. To me it represented the three stages of life, the beginning, middle and end.
I painted this waterfall several times during my month in the garden. Each time the space between the rocks and water grew. My work became more fluid, less dense. It began to feel more like the rhythm of the water, the rhythm of life as you get older and calmer. I took a workshop on Calligraphy in Sendai, Japan and learned this ancient form of drawing had three parts, the paper, the ink and breath. So, I added “breath” to the final drop of the fall.
More musings from my sketchbook.
A Moment of Zen: Handmade Sketchbook | rice paper, Rives BFL paper, found objects | 7.75 x 11.5" and folds out to 22" x 37"
To document my journey, I created a series of watercolors from scenes taken at the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Japanese Garden. This piece was modeled after ancient travel altars used by many cultures to guide spiritual practice. I constructed my sketchbook so that the pages would open to reveal the path I took through the three islands. The final island is Horaijima - The Island of Eternal Happiness, it is both beautiful and unattainable, inaccessible by bridge or path. We must contemplate it and enjoy it only from a distance. The sketchbook has become my altar and a place I can find refuge from the fast pace of the city. The sketchbook, like the garden, brings calm, serene, reflective communion with life through nature.