by Ellen Keane
One of my first attempts at drawing and water color painting came after seeing Vincent Van Gogh’s Irises at a museum in New York City, but with work and family, I had little time for other interests and did not pursue this interest.
In June 2005 after 25 years, I retired from employment with the State of New Jersey. My career was not art focused. I hold a BSW and a MSW with a minor in gerontology from Rutgers University.
I became interested in taking botanical art classes after a visit to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden (LGB) in Richmond, Va. My first art class began in August 2009 with Beginning Botanical Illustration in Pen and Ink. I continue to take classes at LGG.
I have also taken weekend classes with Lara Call Gastinger (Spring 2010 and Fall 2010) and two field journaling classes (July 2010 and August 2010) at Ivy Creek Nature Center in Charlottesville, Va. with her. I completed the academic classes at LGG and I have been certified as a botanical illustrator through their program (2012). I am currently taking a colored pencil class with Gloria Callahan. I am a member of ASBA, BASNCR, CVABA and FAA.
My love of flowers comes from my mother who maintained her flower gardens well into her 80’s. However, my first real joy in painting came not from a flower, but from a cabbage that my husband brought home from a local farmers organization that we support. I couldn’t wait to paint it. It took me several hours to sketch the cabbage and to study it for accuracy. I quickly discovered it lasted longer if it was refrigerated and it’s smell was also diminished. I took pictures of each of the leaves so that I could work from them if I needed. After drawing the cabbage, I traced the form and then outlined the back of the tracing and copied it onto 300lb paper. As I looked at it from day to day, the cabbage, like a flower, also changed with time. I worked several hours each day and over several weeks it was completed. I submitted my cabbage into a juried competition at LGB and was one of thirteen artist selected to be shown in September of 2010.
My colored pencil project was selected for the juried competition at LGB in 2014, I used the same steps; study of the subject, drawing it, tracing the drawing and transferring it to Stonehenge paper. The large sunflower was purchased from a local florist. It’s size, color and complex bracts, which hold the disk and ray flowers to the stem, appealed to my sense of challenge and beauty.
The sunflower proved to be a wonderful specimen. Strong and enduring during the project, it continued to provide much joy long after the class had ended. Even on a dreary day, there it was glowing and beautiful for many days. My sunflower art continues to convey the glow and beauty for all to admire.
My studio is off of my living room which has been enclosed with lots of windows for light including a sky light and long glass windows. The room, which can be closed off from the main house by French doors, is large enough for my work desk, a small couch, chair, a drop leaf table, my supplies, several lamps and several orchids that I have on the low window sills. The room itself is peaceful and a wonderful place in which to work. It provides a 180 degree view of the trees, and plantings outside. I have classical music playing into my studio while I work. I surround myself with my art, music and the outdoors.
Many of my friends get to admire my work and most of them had no idea that I painted or had time to paint. I believe art is the true essence of the soul; that gentle part of us that we do not readily express to the world. In turn, art provides a means to capture forever the beauty of nature whether it is a flower or a cabbage. I believe botanical art immortalizes nature and nurtures the soul.
Brassica oleracea, watercolor