Posts tagged Plants
Jessica Tenbusch

Jessica Tenbusch is inspired by the animal and plant species that live near humans. She explores the relationships between species and how they shaped her experience as a human animal. Her work is an observation on our role as ecosystem builders and destroyers. These works are fragments of our daily environment, showing just how close nature is in our everyday lives, embedded in our homes and neighborhoods. In her childhood, she shared her home with a multitude of other animals and hundreds of houseplants. Outside was always inside.

She loves to work in the spaces between two-dimensional and three-dimensional representation and uses color pencil, ink, acrylic paint, wood, metal, and found natural and man-made materials to create sculpture and works on paper.

Jessica received her BFA in 2011 and MFA in 2014 from Eastern Michigan University where she concentrated in metalsmithing and drawing. In addition to exhibiting her work nationally, she is active in the local arts community curating shows and coordinating events. She lives and works in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Her practice is located within Ypsi Alloy Studios, a 3D arts studio she co-owns and runs with two other local artists.

Explorations of the Natural World by Claire Elliott
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My paintings are centered around explorations of the natural world, with a particular focus on how we catalog, categorize and venerate natural objects. Much of my work is drawn from greenhouses, a space where plants are isolated and bent to human will for our enjoyment.

These types of plants hold a cultural value, we choose to elevate them by letting them into our homes, and preserve and archive them in conservatories. The arrangement of the flora in these spaces reveals narratives ranging from botany to colonialism to romance. Using plants as a vehicle for abstraction, I am fascinated by the disconnect between a painted surface and the artist’s vision. Probing the medium’s capabilities, I find inspiration in the result of trying and failing to capture something, while recognizing the heights and limits of the paint.

Podcast Episode: Art as Ritual, Sourcing Materials from Nature and Artist Residencies with Gillian King

Join us for a special episode of Art and Cocktails Podcast with artist Gillian King as she shares her story, as well as the evolution of her creative process. Gillian talks about how she started using plants and natural materials in her abstract paintings, her experiences in international artist residencies and more.

Gillian King is a painter and art educator from Winnipeg, Manitoba and MFA Graduate from the University of Ottawa. 

Chrysta Kay

Chrysta Kay is an emerging artist based in the Pacific Northwest, who has been growing and developing her creativity since childhood. Many members of Chrysta's family were skilled artists that encouraged her to express herself through painting, drawing, and sculpting. Her love of art only grew stronger as the years went on. After graduating college, Chrysta was accepted into a private art program in 2014. Chrysta gracefully declined the invitation and chose to carve her own creative path and build a career from scratch. Since then, Chrysta has had the ability to quit her day job and live solely from her art. Her work has been featured in several regional and national publications such as The Inlander and Energy Magazine. Additionally, Chrysta has had the pleasure of exhibiting her pieces locally as well as internationally. In the future, she hopes to exhibit and travel to more foreign countries, collaborate with other artists, and experiment with new mediums.


My work is heavily influenced by nature and how humans interact and connect with the natural world. Through the illustrations I create, I hope to convey the idea that we are all woven from the same fabric. The trees, plants, animals, humans – we are one entity and must treat one another with love and respect.

After years of experimenting with different mediums and developing a personal style, I have found a wonderful balance between traditional and digital illustration. First I begin by creating a drawing using materials such as graphite or ink. Then I scan the illustration into my computer. Using Photoshop, I color the piece to my liking. For me this gives the artwork a crisp finish, but maintains the rawness of a traditional medium.

Kaylee Dalton

Kaylee Dalton is an award-winning, mixed media artist living in northern Indiana. Her work focuses on the fascinating consistency of new plant growth and the expressive characteristics natural forms exude. Abstracting the intricacies of leaves, blooms, and the unseen world beneath the soil of roots and earthly formations. Beginning with an encaustic monotype she collages parts of hand-painted papers, ink drawings, and occasional textiles, creating a whimsical interpretation of lush landscapes. She strives for strong textural differences reflective of the various surfaces found in nature.

Sustainable Painting Practices: Interview with Gillian King

Gillian King is a painter and art educator from Winnipeg, Manitoba and recent MFA Graduate from the University of Ottawa (2016). She is the winner of the RBC Emerging Artist Award 2017 as well as the recipient of the 2017 Nancy Petry Award.

King has shown in galleries nationally and internationally and has completed residencies at NES Artist Residency (Skagaströnd, Iceland), The Banff Centre (Banff, Ab), and Sparkbox Studios (Picton, On). In 2016, she exhibited work at PDA Projects (Ottawa, On) and Karsh-Masson Gallery (Ottawa, On) for the City of Ottawa Annual Acquisitions Exhibition 'Souvenirs' (November, 2016) as well as 'The Full Catastrophe' (March, 2016). King also exhibited a solo show, Becoming Animal, at the Ottawa Art Gallery in August, 2016.

More recently, she exhibited 'Megacaldera', a solo show at the University of Marinette Wisconsin (March, 2017), participated in the group show entitled 'Peau' at La Maison des Artistes (Winnipeg, Mb / April, 2017), and for the second consecutive year, her work was included in 'Longevity', the City of Ottawa Annual Acquisitions exhibition at Karsh-Masson Gallery (October, 2017). In 2017, she was chosen as the Ontario representative in the Robert McLaughlin Gallery's 50th Anniversary Exhibition, 'Ab NEXT' (Oshawa, On / April 29 - Sept 3, 2017) featuring five emerging abstract painters from across Canada. 

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Tell us about your artistic background. When did you first develop an interest in pigment and its history?

I am a painter originally from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada and a recent MFA Graduate from the University of Ottawa, Ontario where I am currently based. I started my undergraduate degree in Fine Arts on the path to becoming a ceramic artist. Three years in, I transitioned my focus to painting but found that the elements that drew me to ceramics are still alive and well in my paintings. Material connection to the earth, the visceral, bodily qualities of the materials, and the ease at which they move in my hands are elements that attract me to both ceramics and painting.

My interest in pigments began in grad school when I started to explore how the materials I chose could speak to the body and the land. The first cave painters developed their painting materials from burnt bones, charcoal, and minerals, and depicted non-human animals and human animals, our relationships, and our interactions together. With this in mind, I began using raw (also known as loose) pigments—plant and vegetable matter, hair, animal ashes, sand, and dirt—in my paintings for their symbolic relevance as well as their physical properties. I use my hands to apply the materials in order to gain a more intimate understanding of them.

Using pigments in painting, I attempt to connect ancient art practices and our changing geographical landscapes as a way to address our collective histories, mutual fragility, and mortality with other living beings and the Earth. I explore ways in which we may move forward in this destructive environmental time while questioning what it is to be a human animal and possible ways to reconnect with nature and other living beings.

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How do you feel your work evolved over the past few years? What are you currently focusing on?

Over the last few years I have continued to educate myself on new materials and sustainable methods for painting. I have been reading and listening to audiobooks on Earth Based Spirituality and Witchcraft as well as authors that challenge and build on the idea of the Anthropocene: a new destructive environmental period thought to be caused by human impact on the natural environment. These texts explore how to navigate existence by being actively aware of art-making from postcolonial, feminist, and environmental perspectives.

In 2017, I received a Canadian painting award that gave me the opportunity to live and work in Europe in order to research changing geographical landscapes and the methods and techniques used in ancient painting practices. I travelled to the Lascaux and Chauvet caves in southern France to see the land that the first cave painters collected their materials from and was able to experience the replicas of the original caves which were located close by but are permanently closed for preservation purposes. Following my research at the caves, I spent the next three months in my Berlin studio working on a new series of paintings. I continued that work during a month-long residency in rural Iceland early 2018. The work I’ve been making for the last six months will be exhibited in Ottawa with my gallery, PDA Projects in a solo exhibition ‘Ghosts’ this spring.

Your process is fascinating. Tell us a little bit about your work with plants and natural dyes. What initially inspired this part of your practice?

Thank you! After experiencing the Lascaux and Chauvet cave paintings, I was eager to continue to learn how to create pigments and dyes from my surroundings. I was in Berlin, so I contacted a local eco fashion designer, Elke Fiebig of Still Garments, and began working with her to dye my canvases using locally gathered plants and flowers. Learning from Elke about dye plants and how they function was an incredible experience. She has many years of experience in plant dyeing, so working with her allowed me to learn quickly from her breadth of knowledge in the area. We dyed canvases with a variety of plants, including tansy flower, wildflowers, ferns, acorns, madder root, onion skins, avocado, and one of my favourites, rose petals. Yellow rose petals create beautiful speckled lime green when dyed with a steaming process.

When I arrived at the residency in Skagaströnd, Iceland, I continued to gather my own materials for dyeing, including seaweed, moss, and the blueberries that a previous artist had picked in the summer months. My wonderful studiomates also saved their avocado pits and onion skins for me!

Through material gathering, I am able to develop a more intimate understanding of my immediate surroundings. These working materials reflect my aim to become more aware of how I function within local ecosystems. My new body of paintings combines the beeswax, raw pigments, and oil paint I was using in previous bodies of work with plant dyeing.

What do you hope the viewer learns from your paintings?

My hope is that when viewers experience my paintings they will feel that the marks made by my hands could be made by their hands. I want them to be able to imagine what it is like to move the wax, pigments, plant materials around the canvas as I did. I hope that the familiarity of materials used combined with the visual unease created by contrasting colours and shapes will prompt viewers to question their own relationship between their bodies and the natural world.

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How has traveling and participating in artist residencies in Germany and Iceland influenced your art?

Travelling to Germany and Iceland had an immediate impact on my paintings because of my choice to start plant dyeing with European plants. However, the impact both places will have long term are still unfolding.

While in Europe I was exposed to the art practices of contemporary artists from all over the world as well as new landscapes and dynamics between people, their environments, and other animals who share those environments. My friends joke that most of my photos and videos from the big cities I visited were of the animals that live in them. I would continually find myself following the German crows around Berlin, fascinated by their grey and white feathers, their intelligence and adaptability to the city.

Iceland was drastically different than Germany. The sparseness of the volcanic landscape in winter, the low population density, combined with the harshness of their weather made me feel right at home—as if I was in the Canadian prairies, the maritimes, and the Rockies simultaneously. The immense power of that landscape will have a lasting effect on me.

I have been looking at my home in Canada in a different way since returning. Back home now, I am experiencing the everyday surroundings with fresh eyes, which has allowed me to appreciate the Canadian landscape in a new way. For instance, I’ve gained a new appreciation of the particular animals we share our home with here. In Iceland, the largest animals you could run into in remote areas are reindeer, horses, and foxes. Meanwhile, in Canada, you will find moose, bears, elk, and coyotes. I’m also looking at my garden in a new light. I was growing mostly edibles last year, whereas now I am beginning to consider plants that can be used for plant dyeing and will thrive in my specific environment. One of my goals since my experience overseas is to plant and maintain a dye garden and to continue to learn what painting materials can be sustainably gathered and grown within Canada.

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What do you enjoy doing when you're not in the studio?

I keep myself very busy in and out of the studio. When I’m not in the studio I am often playing cribbage or knitting over wine with friends, attending art openings, travelling, cooking vegan meals and reading. Last year, after a long hiatus, I started playing soccer again, so once a week I can be found running around on a soccer pitch working on my bruise count.

Living in Ottawa also means that the wilderness is very close to city. In fifteen minutes you can travel from downtown Ottawa and be in the middle of the woods. I feel best away from the noise of busy cities, so I try to plan escapes into nature as often as possible. A substitute for being in the woods is being in my garden.

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Share a quote or a piece of advice that helped you so far.

A piece of advice that was given to me by my former painting professor Sharon Alward was when it comes to painting, “... Don’t be precious”. This is a challenging instruction but is something I think of often. It was very helpful advice when I first began painting and still is today. It allowed me the confidence to edit and eliminate work in order to rebuild and improve.

It is an idea that I wrestle with though, especially as I become increasingly concerned with the materials I am using and my processes of making become more labour intensive. What does ‘don’t be precious’ mean when you have given so much thought, time, and energy into the sourcing and production of your materials? What does ‘don’t be precious’ mean when you think about sustainable painting practices?

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Lorena Mateu

Lorena's paintings have been the subject of numerous solo and group exhibitions and art fairs in Spain, the United Kingdom, Italy, and the U.S.A. She earned her BA in Fine Arts at San Carlos’ College in Valencia, Spain. She also went on to complete her MA in Artistic Production at the Polytechnic University of Valencia, Spain in 2008. In 2007, Lorena was awarded with the 1st prize for Artistic Creation by the University of Zaragoza; furthermore, she has been selected in numerous painting’s awards.

“My intention is to focus my painting towards the presence of nature and our relationship with her. It is also to understand the existence as a process of changes and transformations, in other words as an act of reinventing oneself. The nature’s view emerges as a means of encouraging the awareness about who we are.”

Anna Wehrwein

The paintings of artist Anna Wehrwein contain striking angles and unique perspectives that will pull you into a space of self-reflection and intimacy. Intense fields of colour spread across the composition, flattening foreground and background and creating a still sense of unity amongst the people and their environments. The vivid, outlandish hues that are so distinctive to Wehrwein’s style draw our attention to each seemingly commonplace interaction, allowing us to slow down and find the joy in these everyday encounters. Calm scenes of haircuts, bathing, gardening and just simply lounging explore domestic activities and the people that reside within what can often be seen as both a private and public space. The figures in her paintings appear comfortable and relaxed, as they allow us to share with them a sense of closeness and trust. Wehrwein describes her artwork:

“At the heart of the work are the real relationships and community it depicts: artists and friends who use the domestic space as a site of creativity. It is a space in which beers are had, ideas are shared, tattoos are given, and paintings are made.”

Having studied both creative writing and fine art, Wehrwein has a large and diverse range of talents that not only extend to the medium of painting, but also drawing, collage, video and curation. 

Kyle Stewart

Kyle Stewart's paintings reveal the familiar yet foreign interactions that can arise in the complicated relationship between an individual and their environment. Each person in his compositions seems to inhabit a world in which they are unsure how to approach. His subjects appear to be searching for something in the complexity that is their surroundings; places filled with a strange and beautiful mixture of man-made space and organic nature. Peculiar plant life sprout out from the walls and floors, warping perspective so that it is unclear what is really there and what is perhaps just an artificial decoration on the wall. Stewart’s characters seem just as puzzled and amazed as we are, as they attempt to interact with the nature as if to uncover something. Is the nature they are encountering real or artificial? What is their role in relation to organic life in an urban setting?

The artist, originally from a rural community, now works and lives in the strikingly different environment of the city of Toronto. Stewart explains, “Now, after years living in a major city, encounters with nature feel uneasy and foreign. This ongoing series of oil paintings depicts the difficult relationship with nature as seen from an urban perspective.”

More of Stewart’s work can be found at RawSalt Gallery, where he his currently represented. 

Stephen Eichhorn

Chicago-based artist Stephen Eichhorn creates work that is both bold and visually striking due to its rich us of colour and endlessly elaborate clusters of collage. He beautifully combines the intricate details of collaged plant life with the minimal, simplistic design found in his compositions. Playing with elements of design, his compositions often shift the point of focus in the space, creating a remarkable sense of balance. In his Stacked Minerals series, the collage is not in the middle of the frame, but instead off centre. Other works of his use various shapes to shift the balance of the piece.

One of the unique aspects of Eichhorn’s collages is the inclusion of shadows in his Stacked Minerals series. These complex forms of crystal and cacti do not exist in real life, as they are created from cut photographs. However, these structures cast a shadow in his work, creating depth as if they were sculptures. Eichhorn’s other collages, such as Cluster Fade, construct flattened compositions of plant life against gradients of warm colours. Experimenting with the usual format of a 2-dimensional work of art, the artist overlaps and intersects photography, shape and form until the layers of his work are seamlessly fused together.

Make sure to check out Eichhorn’s recent photo book titled Cats and Plants, which features equally impressive collages of plant-infused cats, with a bit of humour. 

Miranda Crooks

I am a South African artist, living in Rural Zwa Zulu Natal. 

Much like a cat gets excited by a flutter of wings, I am thrilled by an intrinsic primal hunter-gatherer desire to visually immerse myself in plant forms.

The lines and shapes of plants are both exciting and captivating and I can only think that, like the smell of soil, this visual engagement produces endorphins that make us happy.

Interview: Anna Valdez

As a visual artist with an academic background in anthropology, and video, I view artists as cultural producers. In my work, I attempt to combine these practices into a specific investigation that cultivates not only personal identity, but also cultural meaning. Currently, I am working on various narratives that explore my own traditions and history through a visual format. This process has led me to rely on photographs, stories, family recipes, horticulture, and the tradition of crafting as something concrete in order to construct my autobiography. I consider this examination to be a rite of passage into a globalized society while simultaneously finding my niche within.

Recently, many of my pieces have been still lifes. These arrangements have been composed from various household items such as my clothes, quilts, scarves, blankets, houseplants, drawings, paintings, books, records, and vessels. These items exist as a part of my domestic environment, and I have put them in my paintings to understand the domestic sphere as emblematic of both personal and collective experience.

Tell us about how you got started in your art career. You mention you have a background in Anthropology. When did you decide to become a painter?

I don’t really recall a specific moment when I decided to become a painter. I think with anything that you feel a need to do you prioritize it, and I kept prioritizing painting. Art, and particularly painting, seemed to open a door for me to explore ideas in an infinite way. I never felt that Art was a huge leap from Anthropology since it combines cultural investigation, the maker’s psychology, and philosophy, and is an invitation into the thoughts of individuals and the collective consciousness. I find a connection through painting because there really is not a right or wrong answer as it is based on experience.  

We absolutely love seeing images of your studio. Tell us about your interest in plants and gardening. Was it always a part of your life?

My father was an arborist and managed the City of Sacramento’s nursery for the majority of my childhood. I remember our weekend project in the spring and summer was to work in the garden, which is a tradition I have carried on. I’m not sure if it’s through nature or nurture that I feel connected to plants, but there is something incredibly therapeutic about watching something come to life right before your eyes. Perhaps I also think of them as a metaphor for how paintings emerge. Through patience and ritual (practice) ideas become a reality.

What have been some experiences that made a positive impact on your art career? 

I think any experience that broadens my community and creates connections with other artists has been incredibly positive for my work and growth as an artist.

How has social media influenced your journey? Did you receive any opportunities because of your online presence? Share a few tips and best practices with us. 

Through social media, I have been able to connect with artists that are not in my immediate network. I think social media provides access for anyone trying to expand their communities, and it’s great for exposure to new artists and exhibitions. I post on my Instagram and Tumblr pretty regularly and think those two applications are great for finding new work and establishing connections.

What are some ways you replenish your creativity? What do you love to do when you are not painting?

Reading, cooking, gardening and fermenting are my favorite pastime activities. They are all practices that amplify my creative process because they also require similar skills, such as patience, techniques, curiosity, and industriousness. I think at some point you just realize your tendencies and go with it. 

Yvonne Cheah
These works are inspired by nature and beautiful landforms. Born and raised on the island of Penang, Malaysia, known as the Pearl of the Orient, I was constantly surrounded by the harmonious blend of nature and modern cityscapes. A self-taught artist, now living in and traveling the United States, a fresh and beautiful array of landscapes offers me unending inspirations for my art pieces. The arrangement of these pieces focuses on abstracted forms while encapsulating the beautiful and peaceful essence of the subject.

Painting with an organic approach, the focus on color harmony and composition does not occlude the importance of simplicity and breathable space. This vibrantly open tranquility is at the heart of the Simplicity Series that I am currently exploring. With today’s fast moving sometimes too complicated lifestyle, my goal is to share a sense of restful ease.

The ‘gem’ like colours used in the submissions are inspired by Batik, a traditional Malaysian art. As a girl, I spent my after-school time at the Batik shop my late mother managed. Surrounded and inspired by such beautiful colours and patterns, I would spend many hours drawing on the leftover or damaged cardboard backings from Batik shirts sold in the shop. This, of course, was done after my homework.

While both acrylics and oils are enjoyable to work with, most pieces in this series are painted in acrylic. This medium provides me with the ability to decide on the next ‘layer’ or step in painting quicker than oils. The creation of these pieces takes on its own energy or ‘groove’ where there is a need for things to move (in this case ‘dry’) with a continuous and organic flow.

Erika Hess
Erika b Hess is a painter who is known for her use and interest in color. Hess’s work has been exhibited nationally including Prince Street Gallery in Manhattan, NY, Last Projects in Los Angles, CA, and Boston Center for the Arts in Boston, MA. Her work has been published in various publications such as Poets and Artists, Fresh Paint, and in Post-Industrial Complex, a book released by the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit. Her work was selected by John Seed to be featured in “Fifty Memorable Artists 2015”. She served as a visiting juror for Dayton Visual Art Center’s 2016-2018 biennial in Dayton, OH, and as a recurring juror for the Walker Art Prize at Boston University. She served as a panelist for Cleveland Institute of Art’s, “Feminism Now 2014: Exposing the Truth”, a symposium focusing on art, feminism and digital culture. Hess received her BFA from Wright State University and her MFA from Boston University.


I begin each of my paintings with a compositional idea in mind and a narrative derived from my day-to-day experience. The narrative may be based on a personal exchange or driven by an object in my studio. Recently the narrative in my work investigates objects that make up my day-to-day life: flowers from my garden, postcards hanging in my studio and small trinkets I have kept over the years. I arrange them on a milk crate against my painting wall, look at the light, and observe how a flower leans towards a postcard. They are arranged in a way that allows me to investigate the formalities of painting: the accumulation of paint marks, color, and value to form an image. While the formal properties are important, they are only a vehicle. It is the time spent looking at the objects, and painting them, that allows them to be transformed into something larger.

I began painting flowers after receiving bouquets for the birth of my daughter. The action of giving flowers is a tradition we still partake in for the birth of a child, a gift for a lover, the death of a friend. It is a way to communicate a deep emotion that we may not have the words to express. In that way, flowers are a way to visually communicate, like a painting.