Thursday, May 2, 2019

Room to Grow

Spring is late but it is here! Feeling it’s energy for things that are about to blossom. Last week, my client, collaborator and friend Sonia Di Maulo provided me with a space to exhibit my botanical art prints in the room where she presents her workshop "Take the Leap, Grow into your Legacy"
She is helping me to grow my art business, and I am deeply grateful

Sometimes certain people appear in your life out of nowhere and they end up staying for a while because you were both looking for each other for important reasons. When Sonia asked me to illustrate her story, The Apple in the Orchard several years ago, this collaboration resulted into a gift of enormous growth between the two of us, and as individuals. This major book project led to many other creative projects we collaborated on, but it also led us to a relationship of trust and loyalty and to friendship. This spring, Sonia is offering a workshop with two important elements as a foundation: her story about a brave apple’s journey and her model of growth showing the different stages we must go through to achieve our legacy. I participated in this workshop and it is another gift of growth, but this time it is shared with many new and wonderful people I've never met who are on their own journeys! We are all searching for and discovering aspects of ourselves that we’ve either lost or never found in order to find meaning in what we are going through now, or in our lives as a whole. These discoveries will help us define what is most important to us so that we may live a life that is important, a life that we want people to remember us by. Sonia is helping us find these parts of ourselves, she is helping us listen to the whispers. We are also making connections with each other that will perhaps lead to even more relationships of trust, collaboration, loyalty and friendship. I am so glad and grateful to be part of this workshop and to be able to show my work and tell people about my botanical art projects. You can find out more about this workshop and more at

Thursday, March 7, 2019

100 Leaf Drawings

In mid-December of last year I started a personal drawing challenge: to draw/sketch 100 leaves by the end of 2019. My objective was to start a botanical art project that would motivate me to draw by hand more often since I get lured too easily to computer software and digital tools. I could not make a commitment for a drawing a day and I have had many delays so far but I am hopeful that I will catch up during the summer months drawing outdoors. I will be drawing leaves from observation as much as possible from live plants but during the winter months I must rely on photographs. My focus will be on the anatomy of leaves in a flat view rather than depicting leaves in 3D realism. Depending on the size of the leaf, sometimes it will be drawn as a single leaf, sometimes as a small branch of leaves and because I like assemblage compositions so much they will sometimes be drawn as an arrangement of loose leaves. Most of all though, it will be an experience to develop new work by experimenting and trying something new without worrying about the errors but being inspired by the new knowledge.

This idea somehow came to me at a very good time. I wanted to pursue a botanical art project that had structure and inspiration and that would help me learn more about drawing plants on a deeper level. Becoming a friend of the Montreal Botanical Garden last April and visiting this extraordinary place was also a huge inspiration that led to this project. As well as the benefit of drawing by hand and from observation I will be learning about plant taxonomy because I will be researching and naming each leaf by it's botanical or scientific name. Also it will be a meaningful activity that will help me heal emotionally after losing my dear father on January 1st. Nature was his refuge and it is mine as well and I wish to honor him with this project for all the wonderful things he did and loved including gardening and cooking.

Some of these drawings will evolve into art prints made with colored pencil textures and digital brushstrokes for my Etsy shop FILARIO. So far I have sketched 5 leaves: Olive tree leaf (Olea Europea) Eucalyptus tree leaf (Eucalyptus Obliqua) and Tinospora Leaf (Tinospora Crispa) and the two Oxalis leaves or Shamrocks (Oxalis Pes Caprae, Oxalis Trifolium)
You are welcome to follow me on this little creative botanical journey, here or on Instagram. The two images below are of the Tinospora Crispa plant and are available in natural green or grey/B&W as art prints in my Etsy shop Filario. I have created a section on my blog to display the sketches as I make them. So be sure to drop by to find something new every week :)

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Lisbon - Azulejo Museum & Mosaic Sidewalks

It's been over a month since we've returned from our trip to Europe. This year we left quite late in September to visit Greece. The weather was much cooler and more stormy than normal in Athens where we mostly stayed but also quite rainy in Lisbon during our stopover on our way back home. Not fun for walking outdoors but perfect for visiting museums.

I have become more of a modernist in my taste for art gazing as well as art making and The National Azulejo (Tile) Museum we visited was quite a refreshing change from Europe's traditional museums, monuments and churches which often display lavish baroque style paintings, sculptures and ornate decor. Although the building itself is colonial in style, the actual indoor galleries are bright and airy and modern. The selection of tile art displayed is also quite diverse ranging from classical blue style to colorful neoclassical and geometric designs.

Walking around Lisbon was a beautiful experience. Exquisite architecture and design are present in all areas of the city including the buildings decorated with tiles, the horticulture, the fountains and the mosaic designs in the stone sidewalks and squares. The whole trip was a visual feast that has inspired me to appreciate design on another level. My photos in this blog are only a tiny glimpse of this city's beauty. Hopefully next time we visit Portugal it will be warmer with more sunshine :)

Sunday, July 29, 2018

A Botanist's Journal

In March, I decided to become a friend of the The Montreal Botanical Garden - Space for Life so I could visit whenever I want but also to enjoy certain other privileges like a magazine subscription, access to botanical documentation and books from their library, invitations to friend's workshops, access to special presentations and other various discounts. However the most important reason why I joined was to have somewhere to go that I loved, to learn more about botany and devote more time to keeping a journal of botanical sketches. Where else would I go if I wanted to create botanical art?

This past June the gardens began a summer long exhibition of oversized prints showcasing eighteen illustrations of world-renowned botanist Francis Hallé as well as hosting other activities and presentations related to his work. This was just the inspiration I needed to begin. Like many of us, a quick snapshot with our smartphones to save for a laterwhenIhavetime moment to actually draw by hand is common but I am tired of putting it off. So here I am, instead of going straight to my digital tools, I started using pencils in a dedicated art journal instead of drawing my ideas and observations on scraps of paper. I have a long way to go and as always I struggle to make time for art but I am motivated. I am not a botanist nor do I consider myself a botanical artist at this time, but for now I will focus on exploring leaf anatomy + design through drawing from observation in my art journal and to see where it takes me:)

You can find out more about Francis Hallé at The Montreal Botanical Gardens here!
Some sketches from my my botanical art journal:

Friday, March 16, 2018

Echinacea Project

Getting back into my creative flow after a busy autumn and Christmas, and I have many projects still in progress but which I look forward to sharing soon. I take too much time to plan everything in my life and these first botanical projects were very important to me and although I didn't obsess with perfection, I did struggle with many decisions about my process and defining it, even though I know it will evolve. I also needed to become more familiar with Facebook and Instagram for business as well as learning more about managing an Etsy shop. These things take an enormous amount of time, at least for me, to understand and learn how to operate and I have only made baby steps but that's ok. I have learned to accept my slow pace with dignity. Having only one item in my Etsy shop isn't where I wanted to be at this time but I am moving forward with enthusiasm and my business Facebook page and Instagram page will soon be a reality as well.

The flowers for my echinacea project, inspired by my Montreal Echinacea Balcony print, will be in a flat, top view arrangement, with the petals rendered in colour pencils and the flower centres drawn with vector shapes and lines. I will go more into detail about why I love using this mixed technique in a future post. Because of the importance of this flower in nature for pollination and for it's uses in natural healing therapies it has become a more meaningful goal and experience for me to create these flowers. The echinacea's rounded head which appears to be simple in design, is quite complex and challenging to recreate in a drawing. The ray florets of the flower centre grow in a specific spiral pattern well known to biologists and botanists as the golden ratio or Fibonacci sequence. I laboured for many frustrating hours trying to achieve a proportional arrangement which wasn't working for me so I went back to my own photo reference (above) and after careful observation, I realized once again how perfectly imperfect nature is. I drew from my photo reference instead of geometric calculations and everything is coming together now. Check back for the reveal of the completed flower in my next post coming soon :)

Like many creatives, and from my experience as a technical illustrator, I like to do research and become familiar with the subjects I draw not only to benefit my artwork but also to gain knowledge about new things.  Botanical art inspires me to develop my drawing skills further in a new direction but also to gain new knowledge about plants and botany which I know very little about at this time except for some houseplant and basic flowerpot gardening. The diversity and benefits of plant life is infinite and ever-changing and I am truly excited about continuing on this new journey of creating botanical art to enrich my life and hopefully to also to give back by becoming more involved with conservation and biodiversity projects in my community.