Southwest Botanical Series

I have long admired vintage botanical illustrations. There is a little artistic flair along with realism that I find so beautiful and pleasing to the eye. Earlier this year I thought it would be fun to step away from loose florals and dive back into creating more realistic illustrations with a focus on what lives and grows here. Something that captured me from my very first visit to the area is how colorful the desert is! I see it large scale; in the actual dirt and rocks, the big picture. But more so in the little details: the roadside weeds, the rock lichen, the birds and even the bugs. Everything blooms and those blooms are vibrant! What a feast for the eyes. The differences between the East and West have been a source of self-reflection.
Coming from the green state of West Virginia, I was enveloped in layers of green and pastels. The flowers there are soft and light and add little "rests" in the soothing symphony of green. But here! My goodness, it's like one of Mozart's more energetic and lively pieces. The colors are cymbal crashes. Purples, deep yellows, neon greens, corral, hot pinks, and vermilion that almost glows. In these two very different eco-regions, the colors seem symbolic of the way of life. The East being more fertile, where the plants are more "easy-going" and not really fighting to survive. They live a soft, cushy life. The desert has a tougher skin; it thrives on living frugally but does so in a big way. When it gets a little rain, and a little sustenance, it goes all out and bursts with color!

What is really fascinating is that plants in either area couldn't thrive if they were moved to the opposite's zone. The cactus needs the heat, the pressure, so it doesn't rot at the core. I wonder if people are similar. There are environments that we thrive in and ones that would rot us to the core or suck the life from our veins until we were mere skeletons of ourselves. This causes me to pause and reflect on the decisions I've made throughout my life. I wonder if what had seemed like juvenile and rash decisions at times was more of deep "knowing" that I wouldn't survive in the environment I was in. Even when that environment was soft and loving. 

I don’t have any photos of this painting finished as little Gabriel decided it needed some pen accents. Luckily, I had already scanned it in so it can live on through our prints!

I certainly wouldn't be the same person if I hadn't married young (19), had a baby young (20), moved all over the country within a short period of time, and pursued my dreams with a fire that was unquenchable. Each of these decisions have acted as a support or fertilizer to my better qualities. My husband Alexander has always been my biggest supporter and cheerleader. I don't believe I would've had the courage to pursue art full-time without him. When little Calvin came along and this small person lit a fire in me to take my art seriously and take steps to turn it into a real business. And with our first big move to Austin, TX, we were like fish out of water. We were in over our heads and didn't have the safety net or support of family close by. This marked the beginning of a mentality shift that I could be confident and knowledgeable in the work I did. (Even if that was working at Ihop) This shift has been a slow evolution with each place we've moved. The stakes were higher, the climate more severe. By the time we moved to Las Cruces and opened the shop, I was stretching my physical and mental stamina to the max. And honestly, there were times where the only option was to survive. All of these decisions combatted my tendencies towards shyness, self-doubt, and laziness. 
I was asked recently if I was extroverted. My knee-jerk response was "no, I'm an introvert." In my scripted brain I was still the girl in the corner burying her head in her sketch book wanting to be around people but being too shy to talk to anyone. It hit me this week that the script has changed. I still bring a sketchbook with me almost everywhere I go and still do enjoy being around people, not talking to them; just enjoying the company. But now I can hold a conversation with a stranger without anxiety and share my excitement over my work without feeling embarrassed. Basically, I am a cactus. I needed to get in the right soil to grow. 

An excerpt of this post was included with our September, 2023 Art Print Club mailing. 

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