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The Art, Community (& Cabbage) that Seeds Sow

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Snow was falling as we opened the mailbox and out popped a rather large manila envelope from a name and address we didn’t recognize. Tucking it under my jacket, we rushed into the kitchen and pulled, from the envelope, a nearly life-sized and most exquisite watercolor of Mermaid’s Tale, utterly aghast. The talent before our eyes stirred our souls and the vision, generosity & profound love of ‘strangers’ brought us to our knees. Ever since, we’ve been falling in love with Lyd, @thepittsburgh_gardener whose brilliance you can be surrounded by on her Etsy shop.

Here is the image Lyd saw on Instagram, inspiring her to dive into her watercolors:

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Questions for Lyd

What inspired you to create this work? 

When I saw the photo I was just struck by the colors and textures. It just seemed like it would be a great challenge for my skills. I usually only work from my own photos, so this was a little out of my comfort zone.

Did you struggle with anything as you created it?

Pretty much the same thing I struggle every time I paint, my own self-doubt. I tend to get into the painting and really like how it is developing and then panic that I’m going to screw it up somehow. I always have to force myself to keep going. After all, it’s only paper and paint.

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What would most people not notice about this work, that you can’t help but see?
I always pick out little things that I think I should have maybe spent more time on, or shouldn’t have over-worked, but as far as what I saw in the actual photo that I wanted to be sure to try to recreate was the subtle striping across the outer leaf on the cabbage to the left that I thought was so striking.

What surprise, joyful and not so joyful, unfolded in the process of creating this work? 

Watching the colors blend together as I was painting was pretty magical. Especially for two colors like greens and purples that can get muddy if they aren’t handled well. Watercolor is a pretty magical medium anyhow because water is magical, and the pigments pool and puddle to create their own shapes.

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What connects your work to us all? To future generations?

I like to paint from nature and we are nature. I like to think my work helps people stop and look at nature in more depth or maybe look at it differently. To stop and slow down for a minute and maybe next time they see a plant, bird, or butterfly, they stop and really look at it, observe it, consider it.

What are you hoping people to take away from your work? 

Just to admire nature. I’m not doing anything ground breaking or new. I just want to show people the beauty in things the way I see it.

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Tell us about your artistic/creation process!

I photograph everything that catches my eye. My gardens provide me with an endless variety of subjects. It’s insane how many photos I have on my computer and back-up drive, and I regularly look through them all! When I get time to start a new watercolor, I browse through them and whatever calls out to me that day is what I’ll paint. I decide what size I want to work, I tend to work quite small, and begin to sketch out the subject in pencil on cotton watercolor paper. Once I have everything where I want it, I begin painting. I usually start with light washes of color and build up in intensity and saturation. The nice thing about watercolor is that you can work quickly so if you only have time for a short session, you can still get a good bit done. The bad thing about watercolor is that there is no room for error. If you mess up, you cannot paint over it. You’ve got to start again and that can be pretty intimidating.

Enjoy this incredible time lapse from Lyd:

originally shared on Instagram, this time lapse may be low-res on larger screens

The relationship between art, generosity, building cultures of care & our human relationships — what do you see, amplify & dream of?

I see beauty and fascinating things all around, everyday. My hope is just to draw other peoples’ attention to these things and help them appreciate what an incredible place the world is, especially the natural world. We are all part of it too. Often we separate ourselves from it, but I think we would be a lot better off if we could all be more in tune with the seasons and cycles of the earth and her inhabitants, just observing and feeling what is happening around us and letting ourselves be part of it. If we can recognize that we are all part of a whole, then we would be accepting and understanding of one another’s struggles and celebrate one another’s successes regardless of what we might perceive as differences. 

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“Everything that we touch changes. Everything we touch changes us.” (Octavia Butler) How has this work, and your art in general, transformed you? How do you hope this transforms Fruition? Us all?

I just need to paint, to create. It’s part of who I am and has been forever. I feel the need to interpret what I see with my eyes through my hands. My art has evolved a lot over the years. I used to mostly paint portraits and people, then cityscapes for many years. When I started birding more seriously, I started painting birds. Although I have had a passion for wildflowers and gardening since my teenage years, that was never the subject of my artwork. I couldn’t paint them because I didn’t know how to look at them correctly. I’m not sure how it happened, but a few years ago, it just clicked in my brain how I needed to see plants in order to paint them, and now I’m hooked. My art just makes me who I am. I just want to bring a little joy, a little beauty into the lives of others, help others see the beauty that is all around, even in common things, like a cabbage.

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How can we all learn more about you & your work?

I am on Instagram @thepittsburgh_gardener and I have an Etsy shop where I sell notecards and prints of my work. I’m adding new work all the time.

If there is one word that might characterize your painting or your experience of creating it, what is it?

Communication: painting is how I communicate.

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Thank you, Lyd!

We’re over the moon to exist in this world with you and are endlessly grateful for the seeds that nourish, connect & inspire us all, more than we’ll ever know ~

Sow Seeds & Sing Songs,

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& the whole Fruition crew

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