Hydrangeas and Gifts

by Kerstin Rao for Vivid Cottage


Today's post is for art fans, artists, gardeners, hydrangea enthusiasts, people who are creatives in any field, students of any age, and educators (especially art teachers!)


I've made this 25-minute work-in-progress video where I stopped mid-drawing to talk about the decisions I was making along the way. After the first 10 minutes, I walk through my studio set-up to show how I capture time-lapse video. Finally, the last 10 minutes take place when the drawing is done. I share my great love for the children's book Frederick by Leo Lionni. At it's heart, my video is a pep talk for YOU, because the world needs YOUR creative contributions!


This drawing was a challenge, my friends! Several folks have been asking me to draw hydrangeas for Vivid Cottage. They are eager for greeting cards, tea towels, place settings, throw pillows and more. That's good news, because I am eager to make their day!


The first good sign is I received this bouquet as a gift. Our suburban Connecticut town has a 'Gift Economy' page on Facebook. Much like Freecycle or Buy Nothing, it's a chance for neighbors to offer things that are still in good shape but are not needed, and, in turn, people can ask for their wishes to be granted.


I wished for hydrangeas. And my neighbor Joanne delivered!


Here's the trick about drawing a live bouquet - you have to act fast! The wilt sets in and soon the blooms start to look sleepy and sad.


Once I sat down and started looking, I realized I had signed on to draw a BAZILLION tiny blooms. This required ninja-level concentration. Also, a sharpened sense of curiosity. If you let your mind think, 'Oh, great, another flower that looks just like the other ones,' you'll lose the battle. But, if you ask, 'What is happening with this particular bloom that's unique and real?' you are now on a Jules Verne-worthy voyage.



Color was the next conquest. How to distinguish between three different hues of blue? How to render shadow and dimension among all the different mounds of color? What's going on with the veins, segments, and edges of those leaves?


All in all, this drawing took about 15 hours, over perhaps 4 or 5 sittings. Time disappeared and I was fully immersed. I did feel excitement when I stepped away and came back at this stage ( ^ photo above.) I could see that the close work, attention to detail, and choices about rendering depth and contrast were creating a dramatic and engaging piece.



Today, the drawing is at the professional scanning company in town - ImageWorks. Once I have the digital image, that's when the fun can begin with developing lovely products.


If you have a fun idea for an item you'd like to see embellished with my hydrangeas, please send me an email!


Or - if you are a fellow artist and have great manufacturers to recommend for fabrics, pillows, placemats, etc. - I'd love to hear from you!


Thank you!


- Kerstin