October 12, 2017

Garden Visitors

 Painted Lady Butterfly Watercolor Print

My garden is always full of surprises from year to year. Sometimes it's a plant that thrives particularly well. Other times it's the disappointment of a plant that fails. And occasionally it's a magical occurrence like the visits by dozens and dozens of painted lady butterflies the past several weeks.

We had an unusually mild September and early October in the Montreal region. Apparently those warm temperatures enticed painted lady butterflies (Vanessa cardui) on their migratory path to descend and stay a while. It was written about in a local newspaper.

When I would go out the back door into the garden, there would momentarily be a small cloud of butterflies in the air as they left the flowers they were on and then went to others. I wish I had been able to capture an image of their numbers!

I first noticed them on my sedum spectabile plants.

Photo of painted lady butterfly on sedum spectabile by Kathleen Maunder

Then I found them on my echinacea.

Photo of painted lady butterfly on echinacea by Kathleen Maunder

They really liked my zinnias.

Photo of painted lady butterfly on zinnia by Kathleen Maunder

They really, REALLY liked my zinnias! If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen my video of a very happy painted lady butterfly flitting about on my zinnias.

And what do you do when blessed by such beautiful garden visitors? Why you paint one of course!

I found one on the ground (poor thing) and was able to bring it into my studio to use as my model.
Here is my watercolor painting in its early stages and, underneath, in its final form.

Painted Lady Butterfly Watercolor Painting by Kathleen Maunder

When you look at a painted lady butterfly, the markings look kind of random and splotchy. It was only through close observation that I realized how intricate some of the markings were. In my painting, I tried to honour the details while still keeping a painterly feeling.

I love how it turned out and now have both prints and note cards available in my shop. I really hope you like them!

Painted lady butterfly watercolor print by Kathleen Maunder of Trowel and Paintbrush

Painted lady butterfly note cards by Kathleen Maunder of Trowel and Paintbrush

If you haven't visited my shop in a while, I hope you will have a peek. I've been busy adding new prints and cards. 🦋

May 7, 2017

Mad for Magnolias

 Pink magnolia watercolor painting by Kathleen Maunder

Many years ago, I worked in a corporate communications job during the day and painted in the evenings. I was living in an apartment in midtown Toronto and having a garden of my own was only a dream. Each spring, I would take an alternate route home from work for about a week or two. It was a winding road through a beautiful residential neighbourhood. Around a curve and at the top of a hill was the reason for my detour--a gorgeous magnolia tree in bloom. 

Years later, I finally have my own magnolia tree in my very own garden. It's a pink star magnolia called Magnolia stellata 'Rosea'. I planted it about ten years ago. It's very slow growing and has taken a long time to get established. It's still quite small, about my height, but the blooms are now plentiful and spectacular.

Pink star magnolia in bloom

Pink magnolia stellata flower

Pink blooms of star magnolia

 Last week I decided that I needed to paint one of its flowers! I took a few photos of the blossom I was going to paint to be sure I had references as I knew it wouldn't last long.

Pink flower of star magnolia tree

Pink star magnolia flower - top view

Here's my painting on the second day when I was still building my washes. I paint slowly! The bloom I picked wilted after about 24 hours which is when I dissected it to have a closer look at the colour and markings on the petals.

Star magnolia watercolor painting in progress

I love holding garden specimens as I paint them. It allows me to observe their details closely. For example, I had never noticed the little speckles on the magnolia tree's bark until I was doing this painting. It took me three painting sessions over the same number of days to complete the painting. Below is the finished original watercolour painting!

Botanical watercolor painting of pink star magnolia

After I completed my painting, I knew I had to create a print pretty quickly if I wanted to photograph it with actual magnolia flowers as the blooming period lasts for such a short time. Each morning when Meeko ran to the back door to do his morning check for squirrels, I would make sure the magnolia hadn't lost its blossoms. To each his own priorities! I am happy to say that I completed my print in time! Here are some photos of my star magnolia print which is now available in my art shop. It's printed on gorgeous paper that reproduces the delicate details of the image beautifully.

8 x 10 watercolor print of pink star magnolia

 Close-up of star magnolia watercolor print

 Star magnolia watercolor print by Kathleen Maunder

Here is my print in front of the magnolia tree that inspired it! You can have a look at more images of it here. Now I wonder what flower I should paint next?

 Star magnolia watercolor painting in front of magnolia tree

🌸  ðŸŒ¸  ðŸŒ¸  ðŸŒ¸  ðŸŒ¸

April 16, 2017

Hello, Garden. I've Been Waiting For You.

White and yellow crocuses

My garden is waking up again. Each trip outside brings intense moments of joy as I discover more plants inching their way up through the soil and bits of autumn debris, first revealing green tips and then, a few days later, the flowers with their beautiful colours. Goodbye grey and brown! The crocuses in the backyard were the first to emerge. Now they have started to bloom in the front too. There are dwarf irises and scilla too. Interesting that the tiniest flowers are the most courageous ones, daring to appear when the snow has barely melted.

I often say that 'I need my garden and my garden needs me'. This year, it could not be more true. I found this winter to be tough. Ever since the U.S. election, I've been feeling a lot of anxiety about the world. That made it hard to think that painting flowers was important when there were so many scary things going on. I got stuck for a little while. But I think I've come to terms with the fact that small things are important. Like paying attention to nature. Celebrating it. Respecting and nurturing it. Creating art. Painting flowers. Being true to myself. All of these things are valid and positive ways to contribute to the world.

I don't make a big income with my art but I have also tried the last few months to contribute, when I can, to organizations who are trying to make a difference in the world. I believe that tiny gestures do count and they are a way of being engaged in positive change.

Clump of white crocuses

Two pale yellow crocuses

Bright yellow crocuses with purple stripes

Those of you who follow me on Instagram will know that the past few weeks have been particularly stressful as my dog Meeko needed to have unexpected abdominal surgery four weeks ago, just days after his seventh birthday. What seemed like minor digestive issues initially were actually much more serious. He has been diagnosed with a chronic intestinal condition. There were some very emotional days the week of his surgery but I am happy to report that he is doing really well. With medication and a strict diet, our vet is confident that his condition can be controlled. He got his stitches out a week ago and we can now go on our walks together again. He is happy and acting like himself (once again monitoring the neighbourhood squirrels and cats). I am so glad to have my buddy by my side again.

Oh! And another bit of good news. My tea cards were featured in the May 2017 issue of Romantic Homes magazine. It's a really lovely magazine and the May issue is available on newsstands now.

 Tea Lover Note Cards by Trowel and Paintbrush

Today I picked the first garden bouquet of this year. It contains dwarf irises, crocuses and a scilla sprig. It was a way to celebrate Easter and the return of my garden. An emissary of more positive days ahead. A sweet handful of hope.

Tiny bouquet of dwarf irises, crocuses and scilla

January 7, 2017

New Beginnings

Hoar frost on red viburnum berries backlit by the sun

It's a new year. A new year signifies a chance to do things differently. It represents hope. A new beginning. But I haven't painted in eight weeks. I have found myself to be in the middle of a creative block. It was partly triggered by the political uncertainty in the world since the US election and my desolation at how it felt like forces of intolerance and hatred were winning. I also was wracked with doubts about my art business and frustrated by the ongoing challenge of finding the right audience for my paintings.

It hasn't been a complete creative block as I gave myself permission to divert my attention from painting to other creative things--things that required wider focus and less concentration. I repainted the walls of our upstairs hallway. I installed new picture rails to display my art and others. I framed art, mine and pieces I had purchased from friends. I built a simple wood bed frame with Chloé for her room. I reorganized shelves and drawer contents. I've been reading. I walk with Meeko every day. I thought of all of the good people I know. I've spent time with family and friends.

Hoar frost on clusters of crabapples

If I was to look at the whole of 2016 in a personal way, it was the year of the neck and back. I had to slow down for several weeks in the early summer after being diagnosed with arthritis in my neck. Physiotherapy has helped so much. I've learned to stand and sit up straighter. This past week, there was a new challenge. I began suffering from dizzy spells. They were scary at first but they have been diagnosed as muscular in origin--my trapezius muscle probably irritated after a vigorous hike over the holidays. My physiotherapist thinks that the dizziness should be resolved in a few days. What a relief. I can't wait for them to be gone. My neck and back keep sending me signals. Don't take things for granted. Look after yourself. Stand up straight.

So I am determined to paint again. To feel hope about the state of the world. To help when I can. To stay aware but not to the point of paralysis. To take moments to appreciate the beauty of nature. To create. To concentrate on those I do reach with my art and to worry less about those I don't. To surround myself with caring people with good hearts. To listen to my aging body but to work with it and remind it that 'hey buddy, we still have plenty we need to do together'. To concentrate on art and love and hope.

Crabapples covered with hoar frost

This morning we woke to sunshine and a magical garden covered in hoar frost. I went out in my pajamas to photograph it for you! These photos of ice and light seem to be the perfect representation of where I've been lately and where I am right now. Frozen but allowing the light to get in.

I'm not sure what I am going to paint when I get back into my studio next week but I look forward to being there. And I want you to know that I'm really glad you are here with me.



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