Posts tagged botanical watercolor
Summer Love Songs and Savoring Each Day

It's the last day of August. I can't quite believe it. Throughout the month I've been noticing the beginnings of fall. It seems early this year.

Summer's my season and although autumn can be beautiful its arrival always makes me a bit melancholy.

I will miss:

Some of the last roses blooming in my garden
  • cut flowers from the garden
  • tomatoes and peppers and herbs (and all the other edibles)
  • endless salads (kale, kale and more kale)
  • being barefoot (or if shoes are necessary, sandals)
  • leaving the house without a jacket
  • spending whole days outside
  • having the windows and doors open (and cats stretched out in windowsills)
  • bees and butterflies and hummingbirds
  • the songs of crickets and cicadas
  • late sunsets
  • the color green (and all the other colors)

I could keep going, but you get the picture.

A little toad is a welcome garden visitor

This week in our area there's been terrible flooding. We weren't hit badly as we live in town at a high point (and my parents, out in the country, are on a ridge), but it's heartbreaking to see devastating flooding happening more and more frequently so close to where we live. It puts my troubles in perspective. Reminds me, again, to savor each day.

So instead of lamenting the loss of all I love about the summer, I've been making a point to savor the days.

Each day.

I try to stop what I'm doing periodically and pay attention to everything around me, to be fully present. Stand in the garden and feel the grass between my toes, to note the perfect beauty of the moment and send off a thank you to the universe.

Three years ago on my old blog I wrote about painting a "love song to summer".

It's one of my favorite paintings, the biggest I've ever done. Truly a love song to my favorite season. 

Some years I paint a lot during the summer. Some years I don't. Creativity ebbs and flows. Energy ebbs and flows. In the summer it's always a challenge to stay inside when my garden is calling me to BE OUTSIDE. It's a bit ironic because summer holds the most inspiration for my art.

In a way you could say that a majority of my paintings are love songs to summer. This one, finished the other day, certainly is.

As are the vegetable (or fruit, depending on your perspective) paintings I've been inspired to paint this week:

What better way to celebrate the joys of summer than to paint them?

Although, I think eating them is a prefect celebration, too. In the summer with abundant garden produce it's easy to quickly pull together delicious meals. 

Many days I make the easiest tomato salads. Large chunks of tomato dressed with shavings of onion, shreds of basil, splashes of balsamic vinegar and a bit of salt and pepper. Nothing tastes more summery.

And eggplant, chopped (with the skin still on), mixed with splashes of olive oil and a shake of some salt and pepper roasted in a 400 degree for about 40ish minutes is a versatile addition to pasta or salads or rice. It pairs as easily with Italian flavors as it does with Asian ones and I'm thinking about trying it in some tacos, too.

I'd love to know how YOU have been celebrating the season these days.

Will you join me in renewing a commitment to savor the moment, in focusing on gratitude as we shift from August to September and begin the transition from one season to the next?

For me, I think it might be a good time to bring out my Joy Lists* again.

I hope your lists are long.

Watercolor Sunflowers from Start to Finish

Sunflowers embody the spirit of summertime. Of buzzing bees and hazy days. Shrill cicadas and fluffy white clouds floating in blue skies. They're some of my favorite plants to grow in my garden. I love the flowers, so many shapes and colors and sizes, but what I like even more is that they feed the bees and the birds.

My garden is filled with flowers calling me to paint them, but right now it's the sunflowers I couldn't resist.

It's been a while since I've painted a larger painting, one that takes many hours to finish. It's nice to paint small and quick, but there's something much more satisfying about a larger piece. It's more difficult -- takes more concentration, more patience -- but the end result is much more substantial.

Each painting starts the same way. I wash the old paint off my palette. That in itself is energizing. A fresh start.

Washing My Paint Palette to Prepare for a New Painting

One of my favorite parts of the painting process is mixing my colors. I study my subjects and decide which colors I'll need and try to re-create them with paint. I do this mostly intuitively, but I also consult my sketchbooks where I've painted swatches and made notes on color mixing.

In My Studio Mixing Colors on My Watercolor Palette in Preparation for Painting a New Piece

When I was first learning to paint I was impatient to get started and saw things like practicing color mixing as "busywork". So not true. If you want to learn how to paint with watercolor spend as much time as you can mixing and testing colors. I find it to be soothing and meditative. It's a bit magical and the colors always bring me joy.

Once my colors are mixed I make some rough sketches in my sketchbook, trying to figure out my composition. And then I make a very light sketch on my watercolor paper.

In My Studio Sketching out a New Painting

(Can you spot my studio assistant hard at work?).

I don't start painting right away. I prefer working with the paint once my mixed colors have dried on the palette. I'm able to get a much broader range of tones working this way. Using the wet mixes there's so much water that the colors end up very light.

Once the paint is dry I get started. One petal at a time, letting each dry before painting an adjacent petal.

The First Stage of a Watercolor Painting of Sunflowers by Anne Butera of My Giant Strawberry

I layer and blend colors while the paper is wet and then go back to add more layers and finish it off with fine details.

The Process of Painting a Sunflower with Watercolor Involves Many Layers

The details are what bring the painting to life. 

I Paint One Flower at a Time, One Petal at a Time, Finishing Each with Fine Details

It helps to have the flowers on hand to refer back to, especially when adding the details. I noticed that the base of each of the petals of this light-colored sunflower was a brighter, warmer yellow. When I went back and added some more yellow it made all the difference. I wish I had a "before" picture to show you, but when I'm in the groove, I often forget to photograph. Below you can see the contrast in the next flower between the petals with details and those without.

Notice the Difference Between the Petals That Have Gotten Details and Those That Have Not in this In-Progress Sunflower Watercolor Painting

I am constantly rotating the paper when I'm working on a painting. Sometimes I knock things off my table in the process, but it makes painting so much easier. When I film my classes for Skillshare I struggle with trying to make sure I keep the page in the view of the camera and in-focus. Trying not to move the page is SOO hard.

Painting Details on the Back of a Sunflower is Just as fun as Painting a Flower From the Front

The rules of composition suggest that an odd number of flowers is more pleasing than an even number. Maybe it's the rule-breaker in me, but I often paint an even number of flowers. In this case there are three different varieties of sunflower so perhaps the two smaller flowers are acting as one.

The finished painting feels balanced, but not in a boring way.

A Finished Watercolor Painting of Summer Sunflowers by Anne Butera of My Giant Strawberry

Although there were times throughout the process that I doubted everything coming together, my mantra was "you've got this". Each day I was excited to get back to my painting table and pick up where I'd left off. And the finished painting (now available in my shop) is so full of joy. Looking at it I can just about hear the buzzing bees and droning cicadas.

Now what should I paint next?


Hello, and welcome to this new blog space. My old blog served me well for almost 8 years, but now it's time for everything to live under one roof.

I'm delighted to have you here with me!

Basil and Zucchini Harvest

These summer days have been filled with so many little joys. And so much creativity. Somehow creativity comes more easily during these long, barefoot days.

I brought my colander filled with zucchini and basil into the kitchen for a quick and delicious dinner this wek. The ease with which summer harvests can be turned into meals is such a joy to me.

I sautéed garlic with olive oil added the chopped zucchini and just before it was finished (but still crunchy) I mixed in the basil, roughly cut in strips. Served over couscous topped with shavings of parmesan cheese it was delicious.

Snapdragons in the Dining Room

I have enough flowers blooming now that I'm trying to remember to cut them and bring them inside.

First of the Zinnias

The zinnias and snapdragons will reward me later as they get bushier and bushier with more and more flowers.

Preparing to Begin Painting Barn Quilts

I've been working on garden projects and projects in the garden. Painting a couple barn quilts has been on my creative to-do list for longer than I'd care to admit. I found the wood, discarded on the side of the road last year. Although the shed I was going to hang them on no longer exists, I have a couple ideas of where they'll go.

Petunia Watercolor Sketch and a Clean Palette

Inspiration for my work in my studio is everywhere. In fact, I can't keep up.

These small original paintings are now available for purchase in my shop

These small original paintings are now available for purchase in my shop

It's no wonder that summer is my favorite season, even with the heat and the bugs.

What's been inspiring you lately?