Posted on Leave a comment

Captivated by Coffee: Introducing the Coffee Greeting Cards

Starting my day with a steaming cup of hot coffee is one habit I particularly enjoy, and one I’m sure many of you share. Coffee is especially comforting in the bleak midwinter, hence the arrival of my new coffee cards.

Coffee’s sweet aroma wafts throughout the house as I grind the beans, and then again as I pour the steaming water over the grounds. This decadent smell seems to float through the air, following me around as the house awakens. I usually take my first sip in the middle of my morning workout. One would think I’d prefer a cold drink of ice water, but hot coffee seems to hit the spot.

A Step Above the Ordinary Cup

On a particularly cold or blustery day, I fire up my La Pavoni espresso maker. This vintage machine has been serving me faithfully for nearly 25 years. It continues to deliver delicious coffee drinks to friends and family alike.

While I have several syrups and can create a wide array of specialty drinks, my personal favorite is a straight-up latte, made with locally sourced whole milk and locally roasted and freshly ground coffee beans. It’s no wonder that I’m quite attached to my coffee habit.

Why We Love Coffee

Why do we crave a hot drink on a cold day? Why do we choose to meet friends in coffee shops? Where does our coffee obsession come from? I believe it at least in part stems from our predilection toward the nostalgic.

A Source of Memories

For me, drinking coffee started as a social event with those who were special in my life, my family or friends. We enjoyed sweet treats and a cup of coffee, always resulting in lengthy conversations and thus cherished memories.

A Travel Companion

Coffee drinking also holds significance because of its role in my wanderings. When I travel, I regularly scout out the best coffee shops. Some of my fondest memories include sitting with family or friends in a funky coffee shop in some strange and far-off city.

A Place to Meet Locally

Then, of course, I must not forget the local coffee shops. I’ve spent more time and money in these wonderful places than I care to admit! However, good times and great conversations are the irreplaceable fruit of these meetings. Time with loved ones is hard to come by, so I cherish each of these visits…and the accompanying cup of coffee.

My Husband’s Moka Pot Tradition

A number of years ago, my husband started a tradition. He would make us a moka pot of coffee when we were in the depths of a big (and usually unruly) outdoor project—one typically involving the yard, garden, or garage. As you moka pot aficionados know, these pots don’t make much coffee, just two small cups of this very stout elixir. But it hits the spot every time.

Not to mention, my husband usually makes it when we’re working in cool, blustery conditions, thus a hot beverage is welcome. Over the years, this little moka pot tradition has blossomed into more than just a cup of coffee. It’s a shared memory between me and the man I love. It’s a pause that refreshes and unites.

The Coffee Art Collection

Because I often drink coffee while writing cards, I inevitably needed to paint a series of art designs that revolved around coffee. I chose to include my favorite methods of brewing along with some of my favorite cups.

La Pavoni

Truth be told, I am in love with my La Pavoni espresso maker, so I had to paint it. As I created this design, the lines and details of this beloved machine had to be just right. Now as I look at the card design, it epitomizes what I love so much about coffee: serving it steaming hot to those who enter my home.

French Press

The next brewing method I painted is one I use every day, the French press. My husband and I have brewed coffee using a French press for decades. After breaking many glass beakers, we opted for a stainless steel insulated pot a few years ago. The insulated quality is a particularly nice feature. I admit I have a quirk; I like my coffee really hot. This pot does the trick in fine form.

Moka Pot

The most common method of brewing coffee in Italy is a moka pot. These little pots were invented by Alfonso Bailetti in 1933. He named the pot after Mocha, a city in Yemen that was renowned for particularly good coffee. My fondness for this brewing method made this pot a shoo-in for this collection.

Coffee Plant

Coffee beans are actually the seeds inside the coffee fruit, which looks like a small cherry. The branches hold beautiful clusters of red coffee cherries. A coffee tree will take four to five years to produce its first fruit and then will only produce about a pound of coffee beans in a single year. Knowing that these beans take so much work makes me appreciate each cup of coffee even more.

Coffee Cups

I have many favorite coffee mugs and cups, but choosing which ones to paint was an easy decision. My first choice was an ancient blue and cream Spode espresso cup and saucer that I picked up years ago in a second-hand shop. The other cups are a set of multi-colored, striped espresso cups. Their bright colors bring me joy every time I drink from them.

The next time you sit down to write a thank you note or get-well card, I hope you’ll choose a card with a coffee pot or cup on the front. And inevitably, doing so will inspire you to make a cup for yourself. Because what better way to write a card than with a steaming cup of coffee at your side?

Posted on Leave a comment

Introducing the 2022 Holiday Greeting Cards

As the Christmas season nears, I wanted to share the stories that shaped this year’s collection of holiday greeting cards...

Pinecone

It was autumn on the shores of Lake Tahoe. As we walked along the path that bordered the lake, majestic pine trees rose grandly all around us. As we ventured through the trees, we stumbled upon some of the most beautiful pinecones I had ever seen. Upon investigation, I discovered these pinecones belonged to the Jeffrey’s pine, a close relative of the Ponderosa pine. Jeffrey’s pine trees are found in a long strip from Oregon to northern Baja California in Mexico, at higher elevations, and in my case, on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada mountains.

We gathered as many of these gorgeous, chunky pine cones as we could fit in our car. Draped in twinkle lights, along with sugar pine cones, they have since graced my fireplace mantle every Christmas. Interspersed with candle votives, wax-dipped pinecones, and Christmas tree balls, Jeffrey’s pinecones create the calming holiday ambiance I seek during a busy holiday season.

Pomegranate

As soon as the calendar flips to December, I get in the mood for all things pomegranate. Fresh pomegranates await in my fruit bowl, ready to garnish a variety of dishes. These ruby seeds find their way into my cocktails, salads, and hors d’oeuvres boards. I use reduced pomegranate juice in glazes for meats and in several sauces and braises I make over the holiday season.

Pomegranates are one of the quintessential Christmas fruits, bringing a crunchy zing to any dish. They were an obvious choice for including in my holiday greeting cards this year.

Holly

Holly, the shiny-leafed evergreen, is one of my favorite Christmas plants. On a stark winter day, their bright green leaves and red berries remind us that spring will come again. The plant’s thorny points that encircle the leaves and bright berries give a distinctive look that enhances any holiday bouquet. It’s my hope that this year’s holly wreath design will brighten your holiday and remind you of the life and love ever present in this season.

Nuthatch

Red-breasted nuthatches are a darling and quirky little bird. All winter they flit around our yard, moving between our bird feeder, where they eat upside down, and our massive pine tree, where they run up and down the trunk looking for bugs underneath the tree’s bark.

The nuthatch’s upside-down view of life helps find bugs that are missed by birds that only look at things from a right-side up perspective. Nuthatches may be small, but they fiercely defend themselves and their young against larger predators, such as hawks, woodpeckers, owls, and squirrels.

The spirited personalities of nuthatches mesmerizes me and keeps me returning to the window to watch them. Acrobatic, agile, and loud they surely are. They’re in and out, up and down, back and forth. This amusing and energetic northern bird is a pleasure to include in this year’s holiday collection

Red Pine

As a young girl, I spent my days building forts, playing hide and seek, and picking wild blueberries in the shadows of the great red pines. You see, for many years of my childhood, my playground was a vast forest of red pines in northern Minnesota, where they’re uniquely known as Norway pines. The ubiquitous Norway pine tree is Minnesota’s state tree. With its top-heavy nature, the Norway pine doesn’t resemble your stereotypical conifer.

There are a few distinctive things about northern Minnesota, pine forests and lakes being two of them. Oh, and those -20°F winters! Minnesota is called the land of 10,000 lakes, but it could as easily be called the land of 10,000 Norway pine trees, except it’s probably closer to a million.

These tall majestic trees can grow to heights of 150 feet with straight trunks that often grow to three feet in diameter. When young, they are a popular choice to use as a Christmas tree. This variety of pine is self pruning, which leads to a large percentage of the bottom of the trunk having no branches. In turn, they open up the forest floor, which leaves lots of space for fort building!

Conifer forests of one sort or another have played important roles in my life, whether it’s the lodgepole pines of the Absaroka Beartooth mountain range in southern Montana, the ponderosa pines that scattered across my property in Colorado, or the Norway pines of my youth. When thinking about which conifer to paint for this year’s holiday collection, the red pine quickly rose to the top of the list.

The Holiday Greeting Cards

It is with joy that I offer you this year’s holiday collection of greeting cards. It is my hope that they inspire you to slow down and savor the season. Take a moment to look out the window and watch the winter birds skitter about. Breathe in the pine scent of your Christmas tree. Sip on that pomegranate martini. Light the votives on your holly and pinecone-laden mantle. And through it all, remember what’s truly important in life, and hold them a little closer.

Posted on Leave a comment

Fall Art Release: Vegetable Watercolor Collection

The Hum of Autumn

The dawn is crisp as I step into my garden. This coolness is new and refreshing. I know the day will heat up later, but for now I contentedly pause to breathe in the chilled air. I arrived at the garden early today to assess which vegetables are ripe and ready to be turned into rich pots of sauces or pickled into crunchy delicacies.

Something about the late summer days calms me even though the days and nights are full with harvesting and canning. Maybe it’s because the heat of summer is over and all that I’ve been preparing for since early spring is now bearing fruit.

Harvesting Garden Vegetables

Evenings and weekends hum along with a similar tune. I open the kitchen windows, turn on jazz saxophone music, and start creating from the garden bounty. It’s my happy time. What have I made before that I want to repeat? What new venture will I try this year?

Carrots

Back in the garden, I start with the carrot patch. I planted three varieties this year. Nantes and Chantenay are the two orange carrots I chose. They are trusty producers, always sweet and juicy. The other variety I planted is Purple Dragon. This is such a beautiful carrot, purple on the outside and orange on the inside. It’s always a crowd pleaser sliced into a salad.

Tomatoes

Across the aisle from the carrots are the tomatoes. Let’s just say I went a little overboard when I ordered my seeds last winter. It was a frigid day in the depths of January when I perused the seed catalogs and websites. This is a dangerous combination for me, as I’m bound to start dreaming of summer and a prolific harvest.

Now, as I look over my tomato collection, I’m glad I planted so many varieties. Most are interesting and delicious. I have what I call the United Nations of tomatoes and peppers.

They hail from most corners of the globe—with many countries in Europe, eastern Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Americas represented. Some of my favorite medium and large tomato varieties include German Pink, Japanese Black Trifele, Black Sea Man, and Dester. I’m newly addicted to two cherry tomato varieties, Blondkopfchen and Sunrise BumbleBee.

Garlic

Planting my garlic has become a cherished tradition for me. I spend many evenings scrolling through the garlic producer’s websites, reading about each type, and trying to choose what varieties to plant. Of course because of where I live, I have to pick from the hardneck options, which thrive in cooler Northern climes. This year I played it safe with the reliable Music variety, and I ventured into the unknown with Georgian Crystal, Pehoski Purple, and Chrysalis Purple.

Radicchio

Every year I challenge myself by planting a new type of vegetable in my garden. One of my favorite introductions was radicchio. This is such a sturdy little plant, whose best trait is that it shines in the very late fall when the days are cool. Radicchio is an Italian chicory. It’s delicious sautéed and tossed into risotto along with Parmigiano-Reggiano and pancetta. The leaves’ complex bitterness offsets the creamy richness of this dish. In addition, radicchio has been the subject of many experiments in my cooking, its flexibility making it an asset to any garden.

Mushrooms

On summery Saturday mornings, I hustle into line at the local farmers market to stock up on mushrooms. In my town, a local grower offers several varieties of unique mushrooms, and Chanterelles have become one of my favorites. They can form the base of a rich, savory bisque. They are heavenly when sautéed in butter and white wine and then finished with truffle salt and served over warm brie. Chanterelles are a mushroom I return to time after time, and for good reason.

The Vegetables of Fall

Autumn vegetables: from artichokes on my hors d’oeuvres platter to the bundle of flint corn gracing my front door, this group of vegetables is in a league all its own. They shine in both beauty and flavor. They elevate my cooking game. I say that tomatoes are my favorites, but that’s not really true. After all, then I’m abandoning the peppers, olives, onions, and squash in my life, and I could never do that.

These vegetables are at their delicious height right now, and I can do nothing but slow down and savor their bounty. In the spirit of these bountiful garden harvests this fall, I’m sharing my gourmet and autumn vegetable greeting card designs with you. I hope you find these pieces of art will bring joy to each person you send them to. Visit my shop to view the designs available in this new card collection.

Posted on Leave a comment

Summer Flower Cards: About the New Art Collection

Every summer growing up, my family would pack into the car and travel across Minnesota and North Dakota. We’d end up just into the eastern slice of Montana at my grandparents’ ranch. As we drove west, we couldn’t help but notice the countryside getting more and more arid. As we drove past the stunning North Dakota badlands, the multicolored lines in the rock formations jumped out at us in their stark beauty. As we drove, fields of sunflowers and corn turned into rolling hills with rock outcroppings, and fields of wheat transformed into cattle pastures.

Petunia

My grandparents’ ranch was located on a great, open prairie. Rolling fields of wheat, barley, and hay greeted us as we drove down the gravel road leading to the homestead. Upon turning into their driveway, however, our eyes turned to another scene. Billowing beds of brightly colored petunias circled the white stucco house. My grandmother, always one to turn a challenge into something of beauty, had found one of the few flowers that thrives in hot sunny spaces. Give petunias some soil, water, and sun, and you’ll have a colorful profusion of flowers all summer long.

On the hot, dry expanse of northeastern Montana, she created and tended a garden so lovely that it welcomed visitors into her space. The desolate nature of the location was lost in the colorful floral greeting.

Zinnia

In recent years, I have followed in my grandmother’s footsteps by planting an inordinate number of flowers in my vegetable garden. Planting flowers not only helps out the pollinator insects, but it also allows me to share flowers far and wide. After all, flowers always seem to lift our spirits and brighten the day of everyone who gets to enjoy them.

The flowers I leaned into were zinnias. I purchased them in many colors and sizes and proceeded to plant them in every nook and cranny I could find, and they did not disappoint. They flowered, and flowered, and flowered some more from late June until frost finally took them in October. Zinnias will always hold a special place in my heart because of their uniquely colorful hues and their ability to bring life to a kitchen table.

Nasturtium

I’ve had trouble deciding who loves nasturtium more: me or the robins. Promptly after I plant my nasturtium seeds, the robins descend, feverishly digging around in my planters, searching for the seeds to eat for dinner. On the off chance that one of my seeds evades their notice long enough to become a flowering plant, nasturtium tend to bloom with abandon.
All parts of the nasturtium plant are edible. The flowers and leaves appear as often in my salads as they do in my bouquets. Then, the seeds produced after the flowers are done blooming taste delicious when pickled with other garden vegetables.

Nasturtium plants’ brightly colored flowers, quirky twisted stems, and circular leaves are an essential addition to my planters. Together with basil, I tuck them in and around my tomato plants, using companion planting to my advantage. The flowers cascade down from the pots, acting as both an attractor for pollinating insects and a deterrent to the destructive ones that might want to do harm.

Yarrow

In xeriscape landscaping, the goal is to choose plants that thrive on neglect. In this area, yarrow is a frontrunner. Yarrow prefers hot, dry, sunny conditions, so it is an obvious choice for water-challenged regions of the country. Yarrow is also an excellent pollinator flower. On any summer day, you’ll find it covered with bees and other pollinating insects. Yarrow comes in colors ranging from white and yellow to pink, red, and burgundy, so it can compliment many types of flower beds.

The downside of yarrow is that it has a tendency to multiply, so regular weeding of the baby plants is necessary if you want them to stay in the boundaries of your landscaping. When you’re weeding yarrow, dig down at least a foot to get out the whole rhizome. Any broken off piece of the rhizome can become a new plant.

In addition, remove the flowers as soon as they are fading to control the spread through seeds. A single plant can produce thousands of seeds, which can remain viable in the ground for up to nine years. While there are many great reasons to grow yarrow, don’t plant it unless you can keep it in check.

Rose

Roses are in full bloom, the billowy bushes covered in red or pink. Their aroma captivates me as I walk through the neighborhoods. I come upon an old wooden arch covered in the climbing pink variety. These look to have been growing here for years, their tangly branches reaching up and over the arch, forming what would be the perfect backdrop for a garden wedding.

I think of my mother-in-law, who was a gardener and grew the old fashioned hybrid roses. These varieties possessed a fragrance that is challenging to find in current varieties. What I would give to have some of her rose bushes in my garden.

Garden roses elicit memories of times past. A small bouquet of roses sitting in a vase next to my cup of coffee: This was a common scene when visiting my mom, aunts, or mother-in-law. Fresh roses, hot coffee, a spot of something sweet, and meaningful conversation make for fond remembrances.

Pansy

Pansies tend to be the first flower I purchase in the early spring. As the tiresome gray winter months transition to spring, the weather slowly warms, and the days lengthen. 

As the spring dawns, the purples, oranges, yellows, and pinks of pansies are the perfect antidote. The faces of the flowers almost look as if they’re smiling, and their colors no doubt brighten anyone’s day. 

As soon as the nights warm, a planter full of pansies settles in by my front door. As neighbors pass by, the pansies tell of times to come, affirming that more color is on the way. Green grass, yellow daffodils, red tulips, and purple iris will be here soon. The pansies are just the doormen to the gateway of spring.

Sweet Pea

Sweet peas are the iconic spring vining flower that climb up trellises and over garden gates, spilling over the tops of large planters. Their intoxicatingly sweet scent brings me back to the cottage gardens of our grandmothers. Long treasured for its sweet fragrance, this flowering legume has graced the walls of gardens since the 17th century. 

Sweet peas are easy to grow, and they quickly add color to any garden space. Being a legume, they enrich the soil because of their nitrogen-fixing quality. These early flowers will also bring pollinating insects into your yard, a much desired trait. 

One of the best ways to plant sweet peas is to intermingle them with other vining plants, such as pole beans, around the base of a tall bamboo tripod. Place this in the center of your garden, and the birds and insects will be sure to visit. 

The Summer Flower Cards

Flowers abound, filling my garden and my vases. The gray of winter seems more bearable contrasted against the vibrance of flowers present in the summer months. I’m soaking up the beauty while it lasts.

These flowers have inspired the creation of my latest watercolor art and greeting card designs, the summer flower collection. Composed of designs of eight distinctive summer blooms, I hope this collection warms your heart and the hearts of those to whom you send them.

Posted on Leave a comment

Cooking with a Hint of Sweetness: Gourmet Fruit Art Collection

Figs, apricots, quince, persimmons, and grapes; these gourmet fruit varieties stem from such unique lineages but possess similar captivating applications in the kitchen.

These are a collection of gourmet fruit ingredients I use time and again in entertaining because they transform the level of a dish. Their panache is unparalleled. I use them in appetizers as a sweet counter to savory meats and cheeses. They’re delightful as a part of the main course in braises, tagines, or roasts.

Then finally, they act as a sweet capstone in tarts, galettes, cakes, or toppings. These fruits have the power to change whatever you are serving from ordinary to special. They lend an earthy classiness to your meal.

Apricot

When I was a little girl, my mom would regularly make apricot jam. I grew to adore this jam on a piece of freshly toasted English muffin. I still taste the apricot flavor in my memories. Now, as an adult, I return to apricots as often as I can. They often find their way into braises, such as a chicken, white wine, and wild mushroom braise atop potatoes or rice. Apricots perfectly balance the savory hues and help create well-developed sauce. 

Quince

Likewise, quinces have played a role in my culinary journey. I was first introduced to this fruit when I lived in the French province of Alsace. The mild climate of eastern France is perfect for quince trees to thrive. Harvested in the late fall, they turn into pastes and butters, and they’re baked into cakes, tarts, and galettes. Quince also adds a refreshing sweetness when sliced and roasted with lamb in a tagine. 

As an added bonus, if you happen to live where quince trees grow, you get the privilege of enjoying their spring blossoms, which are the most electric color of pink coral possible. I swoon at the far-fetched idea of having a quince tree in my yard.

Fig

Figs seem like an almost mystical fruit to me. I’m always experimenting with interesting ways to use them. My most recent find was a recipe in Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table cookbook: 

I take fresh, homemade pasta (trust me, it’s worth it to make the pasta for this recipe from scratch), and toss it with browned butter, figs, and pistachios, among other things. What stands out to me in this recipe is the crunchy je ne sais quoi nature of those tiny fig seeds. It’s worth buying the cookbook just for this recipe! 

As with quinces and apricots, making a fig paste, or a very concentrated jam, to serve with cheeses and meats proves a sweet counter to the more savory hors d’oeuvres items. These intensely flavored fig pastes are also amazing with a slice of buttery pound cake, in the filling of a crepe along with some Brie, or melted into a marinade for grilled meat; the list could go on and on. Pretty soon I’ll be putting it on my toast. Wait a minute, that’s actually a great idea…

Persimmon

Persimmons meet and exceed the same thresholds as the other fruits in this collection. They can have both sweet and savory applications. When included in your menu, they elevate the playing field. The color and shape of persimmons are almost cartoonist. They make me smile. As with many fruits, the wild ones have the most interesting flavor. When cooked into pudding and butters, persimmons’ bright flavor adds a complicated sweetness that’s hard to pin down but delightful to the palate.

Red Grape

I have left my oldest friend for last, the red grape. For most of us, grapes have woven their way in and out of our menus our whole lives. They’re an easy and nutritious fruit that your mom packed in your lunchbox during elementary school. For me grapes showed up in their wild form first. Wild grapes grow all over Minnesota. They spread by the birds, so they can be found along many public fencelines or climbing up poles or trees. These aren’t the sweet grapes from the grocery store. Rather they are tiny explosions of richness in your mouth. They really shine when made into jam, juices, or pastes, which I grew up eating. The best grocery store jam pales in comparison. 

Moving into adulthood, the first savory use for grapes was a chicken salad recipe from Lukins and Rosso’s original Silver Palate cookbook. Here red grapes serve as a delightful surprise up against the slivers of chicken, celery, and onion. A chicken, grape, and white wine braise over curried rice was my next iteration.

The grape I chose to paint for this newest collection caught my fancy because of its charming story. A vine was discovered winding its way up and around an old oak tree on Longanesi’s property in the Emilia Romagna region of Italy. They took cuttings and planted them in their vineyard. The grapes grew and thrived, and today roughly 500 acres of this grape variety is grown. Many Uva Longanesi varietal wines are now made from this grape.   

The Gourmet Fruit Art Collection

I painted the gourmet fruit varieties in this culinary art series because each lies close to my heart with its connection to great cooking. They are delicious in countless meals, and with them you can create complexly flavored food year round.

This art collection honors just a few of the sweet and beautiful ingredients in our repertoire. It’s my wish that you enjoy these fruits on greeting cards and fine art prints as much as you would enjoy them in your cooking. 

Posted on Leave a comment

The Story Behind the Mountain Wildflower Collection

Wildflowers of My Life

Mountain wildflowers have been part of the formative memories in my life. Not only did they proliferate on the dry mountainside of our Colorado home, but they have been ubiquitous on our mountain hikes and backpacking trips. Whether it was Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, or New Mexico, the native flowers that have been a part of my life are both tenacious and beautiful.

The Blue Hue of Lupines

Wild lupines transport me back to Montana, when in the early summer, cerulean violet lupine flowers begin to cover the mountain valleys. They form a luscious carpet. The meadows surrounding my family’s cabins take on a blue hue as all these iconic flowers come into bloom. 

Many years ago, my dear aunt Joyce even named her cabin after them, Lupine Lodge. When I think back on lupines, I remember all the summers spent in Montana from the time I was a young girl to now. 

The Bitter Chokecherries of My Youth

It is somewhat of an oxymoron to pick a fruit as bitter and poisonous as the chokecherry only to cook it into something as delectable as chokecherry jam.

I first encountered chokecherries in the days of my foolish youth, when my parents, siblings, and I would stop along the road and pick the Montana berries. We would fill ice cream buckets and then haul them back to the log cabin nestled in the backwoods of the Absaroka Beartooth mountain range. There we would begin the long process of transforming these bitter berries into luscious jams and syrups. 

Backpacking with Thimbleberries 

Likewise, thimbleberries have been part of many a mountain hike. The day typically goes like this: we’re walking along the trail, maybe having just crossed a hot sunny rockslide. We progress into a shaded area, and there’s a small mountain stream that runs next to the path. 

Billowing among the undergrowth are thimbleberry bushes. Of course, we stop, nibble on some for a few minutes, take a big swig of water from our bottles, then start moving again. This scenario could repeat itself over and over depending on how much of a hurry we’re in. 

Thimbleberries to me represent a refreshing pause for a fatigued body. They are a fresh respite to a hot day and a touch of nourishment to our increasingly hungry stomachs. 

Beauty on the Edge of a Mountain

Our house sat just back from the edge of the steep Rocky Mountain foothills of Colorado. The hills were stony with clusters of scrub oak and prairie grasses. Cacti poked their thorny faces out from the rocky soil, just asking you to step on them. 

As I made my way down to the valley below, I couldn’t help but marvel at how so many varieties of wildflowers seemingly thrived in such harsh and adverse conditions. The soil was very poor, and the hillside faced southwest, so it got a beating from the afternoon sun. What moisture did come either evaporated off or ran down the incline. 

Indian Paintbrush

In this unwelcoming xeriscape, wildflowers dotted the hillside, cheerfully beaming their colorful faces. Darling little burgundy Mexican hats, Indian paintbrush, ruby colored penstemon, yellow potentilla, and rudbeckia scattered across the dry slope. 

These wild beauties have adapted to the conditions of their environment. Many of them have long roots that drill down to the moisture and nutrients that are deep below the surface. Indian paintbrush thrive despite the conditions. Being a hemiparasite, this flower piggybacks off the surrounding grasses. They attach themselves to the roots of nearby grasses, which are already burrowed deep in the soil.  

A Flower’s Inspiration 

Is the Indian paintbrush’s stamina and unexpected beauty a metaphor for life? When one fights hard for something, the result becomes particularly striking. Over time, these flowers have figured out not only how to grow, but they’ve learned how to flourish in adverse situations. In fact, for these flowers, their environment isn’t adverse; it’s the norm.

Joy from Wildflowers and Berries

I find wildflowers to be inspiring. When I am huffing and puffing up a mountainside, I look over the steep slopes or high mountain meadows, and I see spectacular beauty in the wildest environments. How can I not breathe easier in their delicate elegance? 

My eyes light up when I see wildflowers in bloom against the stark and vast background they call home. Then the wild berries come as a rare gift in the wilderness when tasted on the edge of a remote trail.

As I sit here, painting within the bleak January landscape, I wait for next summer. I hope my family’s trips into the mountains coincide with the bloom times of our favorite flowers or the ripening of our favorite mountain fruits. 

Until then I draw them, and I paint them, and I offer them for you to enjoy on art prints and cards as well. This is so you can dream along with me. We can wait together for warmer days, for summer mountain wildflowers, for buckets full of chokecherries, for bushes alongside high mountain trails that offer up what little they have so that the fleeting visitor might be refreshed. 

Posted on Leave a comment

Art from the Garden

My Love for Art

In my kitchen hangs a painting of a sprouting potato. An unassuming thing, but it brings me joy. Its creator was Betty Strand, an artist and family friend. I’ve always been enthralled by art. Drawings, watercolors, sketches, weavings, batiks, pottery; the list could go on. My walls certainly reflect this passion, and art takes up residence in every possible area of my home.

As you all know, my fascination with cooking and gardening is all-consuming, and a day doesn’t go by that I’m not dreaming about freshly sliced heirloom tomatoes or something of the sort. So why not tie my love for art with my love for all things food and garden? Thus an idea bloomed.

My original sketches when forming the idea to create garden art. You can see I carried some of my original designs into my later finished pieces. 

As I thought about what I could offer you, my mind went to the passion I have for drawing and painting. If only I could give you a taste of the garden within the home, a reminder of the daffodils and crisp sweet peas of spring when you are surrounded by a January blizzard. The garden and kitchen bring me such contentment, and I hope they will bring you the same. Whether you hang my creations on your walls or send them as a greeting card to a friend, I hope they will brighten each blustery day.

Why I Love Paper

Over the years, as I have wandered through little boutique shops on lazy Saturday afternoons, what always catches my eye is their fine art paper and supplies. I don’t quite know why this is, but I have always had an odd obsession with beautiful, high-quality pens, pencils, and brushes of every ilk.

Don’t even get me started on art paper. Sheets of all sizes and colors stacked in cubbies that line an entire wall. Paper hung in large sheets on racks. The thicker the better, I say, and ideally it has some great texture, as well. Paper is such a simple thing, but I love high quality, thick paper, paper with frayed edges, and envelopes in unique shapes that tie shut with little leather strings.

I no doubt leave the boutique a poorer but happier woman, loaded down with a stack of thick cotton vellums, rolls of paper, several pens, and brushes of various sizes and thicknesses. 

The finished card sets. How do I show paper in a still image? Just rest assured, the paper I found passes the Cami test. Thick, linen-textured, faint ivory color, divine. 

The Creative Process

Drawing and painting is an activity I have come back to time and again over the years. It’s in my bones, a part of who I am. I started off this project by sketching. Then I painted. They were small at first, and then they evolved to larger, more refined paintings that can stand the test of time.

Left: my original artwork as well as some of the original, smaller designs. Top right: close-up of a few of my original ideas. Bottom right: the finished card sets. 

There have been many iterations along the way, and I am sure there will be more. It is my pleasure to introduce you to my initial three collections, selections of favorite fruits, vegetables, and garden flowers. I am excited to continue creating more designs as well.

As we tread in the new water of this artistic endeavor, I hope you appreciate my lovingly painted watercolor art. I also wish for you to find meaning in the prose that I crafted to inspire and teach about each plant. I hope these designs printed on thick, beautiful, linen cardstock will make charming, classic greeting cards. Finally, when these pieces of art adorn your walls in frames, I hope they provide an elegant reminder of our collective love for plants.

I am excited to launch this new venture, and I look forward to hearing your suggestions for future designs.