On Assignment: Family tree mural

10 03 2015

One project I assisted on while working in Texas over the holidays was this large tree mural (you’ve seen them on Pinterest with framed photos hanging over the branches like a “family tree.”). Last fall, my friend William painted a mural for Color Clay Studio in Schertz, TX. A customer saw it and William got a gig painting this larger one in a house outside San Antonio. I played assistant artist and it was a lot of fun to create. This mural was considerably bigger than the Color Clay one (the wall was 20 ft. wide x 12 ft. high!), but since it was one solid color (and no birds on the branches, etc.), the task was a little bit easier.

When drawing out the initial sketch with conté chalk, we only had a small printout of a family tree for reference. William went left and I went right and within what seemed about 20 minutes or less, we had the tree roughly drawn in! The little leaves sketched out in the center of the trunk were practice sketches to determine shape and size of the leaves. The remainder of the day was spent going up and down the ladder to paint in branches and leaves. The homeowner was thrilled with the results and said she didn’t even want to put frames over it. Yes, he’s available for murals in the San Antonio area and I’m for hire on the east coast, too. Inquire within! 😉

Photos © Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

WilliamTreeMural

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Images available on Iconella Arts

23 01 2015

David Von Metz’s site, Iconella Arts, has four of my botanical images for sale. I’ve seen them printed and they are stunning (if I do say so myself). From the site: “Our archival pigment print is produced on heavyweight (300 gsm) fine-textured watercolor paper, made from 100% cotton fiber, archival-certified for 100+ years, acid and lignin free.” Check them out here:

http://www.iconella.com/collectio…/artist/Artist:-Cindy-Dyer

Screen Shot 2015-01-23 at 8.44.45 AM





Re-post: Photographs? Well, not technically…

20 01 2015

Originally posted 1.28.2010

A few years ago I dabbled in scanning flowers on my Epson flatbed scanner and got some pretty good results. The technique works best if you can cover the flower arrangement with a dark piece of fabric or black cardboard. While the original images were nice “record” shots of my flowers, I wanted to do something more with them. I ran the scanned images through some artsy Photoshop filters to give them a romantic, soft-focus glowy look. So there you have it…photographs without a camera!

Not long after I toyed with the process, I saw an exhibit of photographer Robert Creamer’s images at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. These large-scale works were amazing! He scanned all sorts of things—dead birds, flowers, fruit, bones, and more. You can read more about his Smithsonian exhibit here and see more of his work on his website here. Watch the video here for a demonstration of his setup.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Re-post: Craft project—The Monet Chair

16 01 2015

Originally posted 7.20.2009 (Hey Karen W.—this could be one of my craft projects to (finally) finalize in 2015!)

My friend Karen inherited this rocking chair from her grandmother and took it out to the lake house a few weekends ago. She has often declared, “I’ve never met a little chair I didn’t like!” Since the fabric wasn’t in great shape, she asked what I thought about painting something on the chair to make it more whimsical. And, of course, I took on the challenge with gusto!

NOTE: The chair is not finished yet—the photo on the right is a Photoshop collage utilizing the chair in its current state with an overlay of a screen grab image of one of Monet’s water lily paintings. I combined the two images to use as a painting reference. This is what it should look like when I’m done.

Over the July 4th weekend, I painted a base coat of metallic blue, green and gold paint (finally, a use for all those little bottles of fabric paint I bought when such-and-such store was going out of business!). My initial plan was to paint sketchy leaves or swirly abstract shapes on top in a lighter color. I thought that it was starting to look like the water in one of Monet’s paintings of water lilies at his garden in Giverny, France. I shot some record shots of the chair after I was done. Karen loved the idea of turning it into a “Monet chair,” and it was her idea to split up the painting with the Japanese bridge on back of the chair and the water lilies on the seat. We found one of Monet’s many water lily paintings on the web, including one with very bright blue/teal and green combination of tones in the water. I did a screen grab of the painting and superimposed it over the chair in Photoshop to see what it would look like. She loved the effect—so guess what my project at the lake house this next weekend is? I’ll shoot some during-and-after shots so you can see how it turned out. I’m estimating it will take about 3-4 hours to complete.

Monet Chair





2014: A Visual Recap

2 01 2015

I’ve picked one photo from each month of blogging in 2014 to recap the year visually (starting with December 2014 and working my way back to January 2014). Now here’s to 2015—hoping it is another year of immense creativity, staying connected to family, nurturing friendships both near and far and old and new, growing my graphic design and photography business in fresh and challenging directions, continuing to dust off my rusty sketching and painting skills, decluttering my physical space, communing with nature, photographing more flowers and bugs, updating my garden with quirky and photogenic new plants, hitting the road in search of adventure (and fresh photographs), honing my writing craft, acquiring new skills and learning something new every day.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

LovelyNicole

Screen Shot 2014-11-06 at 6.49.29 PM

JeffAngieWater DropletsBee on GanzaniaBlueDasherLotusBudBruarfoss iPhone lorezShutterbug Column lorezFrontDoorSunsetlorezSnow Branches lorezScreen shot 2014-01-28 at 5.58.36 PMElise Portrait





Announcing the debut of www.cindydyerphotography.com

23 09 2014

After more than two weeks of digging through my photo archives and trying not to overload my web designer, we have finally launched my photography-only website. I love, love, love it! And for those of you who know me personally, don’t be surprised if you see some familiar faces in the FACES and LIFESTYLE categories. Thank you for being lovely subjects for my lens through the years.

Thanks to Ian Wright for doing such a spectacular job of organizing things and bringing this site to life with all his web magic.

Thanks to William Lee for composing a beautiful instrumental piece to complement the opening slide show.

And thanks to my blogging friend, author Barbara Sullivan, for helping me condense my “bio/novella” to something that wouldn’t put my viewers to sleep.

Be sure to click on FREEBIES at the top, hand over your name and email address (I won’t overload your in-box, I promise), sign up for my free quarterly photography newsletter, and download a free 16-page “How to photograph your garden” pdf. Enjoy!

www.cindydyerphotography.com

Screen shot 2014-09-22 at 8.00.13 PM





Re-post: Concrete leaf casting

7 08 2014

Originally posted July 2008.

This is my fourth most-visited post of all time with 21,984 visits on my main blog (www.cindydyer.wordpress.com) and the second most-visited post on this gardening-only blog with 47,834 visits. That’s a total of 69,818 visits for this one craft project!

My friend Debbi and I have been making these concrete leaf castings for several years now, and my Garden Club members have also tried their hand at it. We have used Portland cement type 1 for our earlier creations, but then started making them with Quikrete instead. Several artists recommend using vinyl patch instead because it’s stronger, lighter in weight and picks up more detail from the leaf texture and veining. It’s also more resistant to flaking and cracking associated with traditional cement mixtures. The next batch I make will be with the vinyl patch product!

This site here has step-by-step instructions (plus a youtube video). The steps are the same no matter which product you’re using.

Click here for Craig Cramer’s blog posting, “The Secret to Great Leaf Casts.” He recommends using Quikrete. Click here for another site with an extensive gallery for inspiration. David, the artist, recommends waiting 30 days before painting your creations. (I’ve never waited that long—don’t know if I would have the patience!) He mixes Quikrete with his concrete mixture, but I’m not sure what the ratio is. At the very least, his photo gallery will endlessly inspire you!

Since most of the leaves we create are smaller, we don’t often do the chicken wire reinforcement. Larger elephant ears do require a bit of reinforcement, though, and we have made some of those (the larger the leaf is, the more likely you’ll need two people to move it when it’s dry!). Most of the ones we have done are made with leaves from hostas, pokeweed, grape leaves, caladium leaves, and smaller elephant ears. Leaves that have nice, deep veins work best. If you want to hang your leaf on a fence or wall, insert a curved piece of clothes hanger or thick wire (formed into a loop) into the back before the leaf is cured.

Artists Little and Lewis  suggest using powdered pigments to color your concrete before creating the leaves. Read more about their approach with hosta leaves here. They have created some really beautiful (and large!) ones using Gunnera leaves, which grow well in the Pacific Northwest.

We haven’t tried the “color-in-the-concrete” approach yet. We do ours in the natural color and then paint after curing is done. Our favorite style is to paint the front and back with black acrylic paint, then rub on powdered metallic powdered pigments (the type often used in Sculpey jewelry projects). We used the Pearl Ex powdered pigment series, and we find silver, gold, bronze, blues, greens, and purples work much better than the pastel colors. We only apply the additional coloring and metallic powder to the front. The back remains black only. Check out Pearl Ex pigments on the Jacquard Products website.

I buy my Pearl Ex pigments from Michael’s or A.C. Moore. They sell them in sets of 12 different colors, or you can buy a larger bottle of one color. It doesn’t take much to cover the leaf. We use a soft cloth (and end up using our fingers) to rub in the pigments, which are very concentrated and go a long way. We find it best to paint the leaf with black acrylic craft paint in order for the metallic pigments to be intense in color when they are applied.

The metallic pigments are stunning and you can get a variegated look using various colors! If you try this style, you’ll need to seal the front of your leaf with an outdoor spray sealant to keep the pigment from rubbing off. I seal the front of the leaves with Krylon’s Make It Last!® Sealer, which has a satin finish and dries (for handling) within two hours.

Don’t expect the colors to hold up 100% in direct sunlight over a few years, though. The paint will chip a little but you can always paint over it and do it again to freshen it up. They still look good chipped and faded, though…sort of a shabby chic, relic-look! And you can try a new color scheme the next time around. Remember to seal after every repainting. Even if you hang or display yours indoors, you’ll still need to seal the pieces so they can be handled. And they certainly won’t fade as soon if they’re used as indoor art.

If you want a solid colored metallic leaf, you can use inexpensive acrylic craft paint instead of the powdered pigments. First, paint the front and back of the leaf solid black (the leaf is porous so it will soak in the black) and then paint the entire front with your colored metallic acrylic paint. After everything is thoroughly dry, seal the front of the leaf with the Krylon Sealer.

The good news: supplies for this project are CHEAP, CHEAP, CHEAP and the results are incredibleThe downside? Those bags of Quickrete, etc. are HEAVY!

Whichever method you decide to try (Portland cement type 1, Quikrete, Quikrete + vinyl patch, vinyl patch only), I’d love to see your results and will share them on this blog!

Note to those of you who want to try it and live near me—if you buy the materials and lug them into your yard, I’m happy to come over and instruct! 

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Don’t miss Art on the Avenue, Saturday, October 5, 10-6

29 09 2013
The event is this coming Saturday, October 5, 2013, from 10-6. This festival was voted “Best Art Event in Northern Virginia” by readers of Virginia Living Magazine. More than 300 artisans will be exhibiting and selling their creations and there is music and food as well. I’ve been to two of these events and the weather was nice both years—a great time to be outdoors (and supporting the arts!). Visit www.artontheavenue.org for more information as well as a list of vendors.
You’ll find me at Booth E104, which will be located between Oxford and Uhler, down from Cheestique (love that place!) and across from Taqueria Poblano and Yoga in Daily Life. Look for a black and green banner that reads “Garden Muse.”
I will be selling gallery wrap photo canvases (variety of sizes), matted and framed photographs, matted photographs, lots of different greeting cards and colorful photo necklaces.
Directions by Metro: Your best bet to the festival—Braddock Road is the Metro stop nearest Art on the Avenue. Each half hour, starting at 10:00 am until 6:00 pm, there will be a FREE DASH bus going to and from the corner of Bellefonte/Mt. Vernon Avenue and the Braddock Road Metro Station. Look for the sign that says “Ride Me to Art on the Avenue.” Or you can walk — it is a 15 minute walk to the Festival from the Metro stop. Simply exit the station and turn right to Braddock Road. Follow Braddock Road under the underpass to the next light and turn right onto Mt. Vernon Avenue.

Driving Directions: Click on this link for a map to Mt. Vernon Avenue: http://artontheavenue.org/?page_id=39

If you’re in the area and can make it, stop by to say howdy or if we’ve never met in person, introduce yourself!

Pick up a free bookmark and register to win a FREE 20×30 gallery wrap canvas (your choice) from my existing inventory!

Below are just some of the images I have available in 5.5 x 8.5 greeting cards.

Card Samples lorez





Come join me at “Art on the Avenue” on October 5!

14 09 2013

ArtontheAvenueI’m having my very first art fair show at the annual “Art on the Avenue” is a regional multicultural arts and music festival on Mt. Vernon Avenue in Del Ray (Alexandria), Virginia. (No RSVPs are needed!)

The event is Saturday, October 5, 2013, from 10-6. This festival was voted “Best Art Event in Northern Virginia” by readers of Virginia Living Magazine. More than 300 artisans will be exhibiting and selling their creations and there is music and food as well. I’ve been to two of these events and the weather was nice both years—a great time to be outdoors (and supporting the arts!). Visit www.artontheavenue.org for more information as well as a list of vendors.
You’ll find me at Booth E104, which will be located between Oxford and Uhler, down from Cheestique (love that place!) and across from Taqueria Poblano and Yoga in Daily Life. Look for a black and green banner that reads “Garden Muse.”

I will be selling both new and older botanical images in:

Gallery wrap photo canvases (variety of sizes)
Matted & framed photographs
Matted photographs
Greeting cards
Photo necklaces

Directions by Metro:
Your best bet to the festival! Braddock Road is the Metro stop nearest Art on the Avenue. Each half hour, starting at 10:00 am until 6:00 pm, there will be a FREE DASH bus going to and from the corner of Bellefonte/Mt. Vernon Avenue and the Braddock Road Metro Station. Look for the sign that says “Ride Me to Art on the Avenue.” Or you can walk — it is a 15 minute walk to the Festival from the Metro stop. Simply exit the station and turn right to Braddock Road. Follow Braddock Road under the underpass to the next light and turn right onto Mt. Vernon Avenue.

Driving Directions: Click on this link for a map to Mt. Vernon Avenue: http://artontheavenue.org/?page_id=39

If you’re in the area and can make it, stop by to say howdy or introduce yourself (and pick up a free bookmark, too)!

While you’re there, register to win a free 20×30 gallery wrap canvas (your choice) from my existing inventory!





Foxglove

20 05 2013

Foxglove (Digitalis), photographed at Green Spring Gardens

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Foxglove

I was aware that Foxglove is highly poisonous, but wanted to do some further research. I found a fascinating reference to Van Gogh’s paintings and his possible use of digitalis therapy during his “yellow period.” Here’s what I found on wikipedia on the subject:

The entire plant is toxic (including the roots and seeds). Mortality is rare, but case reports do exist. Most plant exposures occur in children younger than six years and are usually unintentional and without associated significant toxicity. More serious toxicity occurs with intentional ingestions by adolescents and adults. Early symptoms of ingestion include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, wild hallucinations, delirium, and severe headache. Depending on the severity of the toxicosis, the victim may later suffer irregular and slow pulse, tremors, various cerebral disturbances, especially of a visual nature (unusual colour visions (see xanthopsia) with objects appearing yellowish to green, and blue halos around lights), convulsions, and deadly disturbances of the heart. Vincent van Gogh‘s “Yellow Period” may have been influenced by digitalis therapy which, at the time, was thought to control seizures. As noted above, other oculotoxic effects of digitalis include generalized blurry vision, as well as seeing a “halo” around each point of light. The latter effect can be seen in van Gogh’s Starry Night. Van Gogh’s digitalis use is strongly suggested by multiple self portraits that include the foxglove plant.

_____________

SIDEBAR: I initially majored in fine art (painting) in college before switching to graphic design. I don’t regret that decision as my education and experience has afforded me a fulfilling career in design. Through the years, when I have attempted to return to painting, I have found it difficult to get traction and to find my “style.” I prefer painting loose and sketchy, using lots of paint. I also don’t want to copy work as I did when I was learning to paint all those years ago. As a photographer who continually strives for sharp focus in my images, it can be hard to loosen up when I return to the canvas. Despite this struggle, I don’t think I’ll be partaking of foxglove as Van Gogh did!

Earlier this year, I wrote about what I call “the painting years.” You can read those postings below:

http://cindydyer.wordpress.com/2011/12/29/the-painting-years-first-florals/

http://cindydyer.wordpress.com/2011/12/31/the-painting-years-texas-bluebonnets/

http://cindydyer.wordpress.com/2011/12/30/the-painting-years-apple-harvest/

http://cindydyer.wordpress.com/2011/12/30/the-painting-years-landscape-with-deer/

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Re-post: Leaf casting

17 04 2013

Updated 8.04.2011. Originally posted July 2008. This is one of my top visited posts of all time with 17,948 visits on this blog and 32,476 visit on my gardening-only blog!

My friend Debbi and I have been making these concrete leaf castings for several years now, and my Garden Club members have also tried their hand at it. We have used Portland cement type 1 for our earlier creations, but then started making them with Quikrete instead. Several artists recommend using vinyl patch instead because it’s stronger, lighter in weight and picks up more detail from the leaf texture and veining. It’s also more resistant to flaking and cracking associated with traditional cement mixtures. The next batch I make will be with the vinyl patch product!

This site here has step-by-step instructions (plus a youtube video). The steps are the same no matter which product you’re using.

Click here for Craig Cramer’s blog posting, “The Secret to Great Leaf Casts.” He recommends using Quikrete. Click here for another site with an extensive gallery for inspiration. David, the artist, recommends waiting 30 days before painting your creations. (I’ve never waited that long—don’t know if I would have the patience!) He mixes Quikrete with his concrete mixture, but I’m not sure what the ratio is. At the very least, his photo gallery will endlessly inspire you!

Since most of the leaves we create are smaller, we don’t often do the chicken wire reinforcement. Larger elephant ears do require a bit of reinforcement, though, and we have made some of those (the larger the leaf is, the more likely you’ll need two people to move it when it’s dry!). Most of the ones we have done are made with leaves from hostas, pokeweed, grape leaves, caladium leaves, and smaller elephant ears. Leaves that have nice, deep veins work best. If you want to hang your leaf on a fence or wall, insert a curved piece of clothes hanger or thick wire (formed into a loop) into the back before the leaf is cured.

Artists Little and Lewis  suggest using powdered pigments to color your concrete before creating the leaves. Read more about their approach with hosta leaves here. They have created some really beautiful (and large!) ones using Gunnera leaves, which grow well in the Pacific Northwest.

We haven’t tried the “color-in-the-concrete” approach yet. We do ours in the natural color and then paint after curing is done. Our favorite style is to paint the front and back with black acrylic paint, then rub on powdered metallic powdered pigments (the type often used in Sculpey jewelry projects). We used the Pearl Ex powdered pigment series, and we find silver, gold, bronze, blues, greens, and purples work much better than the pastel colors. We only apply the additional coloring and metallic powder to the front. The back remains black only. Check out Pearl Ex pigments on the Jacquard Products website.

I buy my Pearl Ex pigments from Michael’s or A.C. Moore. They sell them in sets of 12 different colors, or you can buy a larger bottle of one color. It doesn’t take much to cover the leaf. We use a soft cloth (and end up using our fingers) to rub in the pigments, which are very concentrated and go a long way. We find it best to paint the leaf with black acrylic craft paint in order for the metallic pigments to be intense in color when they are applied.

The metallic pigments are stunning and you can get a variegated look using various colors! If you try this style, you’ll need to seal the front of your leaf with an outdoor spray sealant to keep the pigment from rubbing off. I seal the front of the leaves with Krylon’s Make It Last!® Sealer, which has a satin finish and dries (for handling) within two hours.

Don’t expect the colors to hold up 100% in direct sunlight over a few years, though. The paint will chip a little but you can always paint over it and do it again to freshen it up. They still look good chipped and faded, though…sort of a shabby chic, relic-look! And you can try a new color scheme the next time around. Remember to seal after every repainting. Even if you hang or display yours indoors, you’ll still need to seal the pieces so they can be handled. And they certainly won’t fade as soon if they’re used as indoor art.

If you want a solid colored metallic leaf, you can use inexpensive acrylic craft paint instead of the powdered pigments. First, paint the front and back of the leaf solid black (the leaf is porous so it will soak in the black) and then paint the entire front with your colored metallic acrylic paint. After everything is thoroughly dry, seal the front of the leaf with the Krylon Sealer.

The good news: supplies for this project are CHEAP, CHEAP, CHEAP and the results are incredible! The downside? Those bags of Quickrete, etc. are HEAVY!

Whichever method you decide to try (Portland cement type 1, Quikrete, Quikrete + vinyl patch, vinyl patch only), I’d love to see your results and will share them on this blog!

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Recycled Mosaics by Daniel Scott, Jr.

4 04 2013

I interviewed fellow graphic designer, Daniel Scott, Jr., for our artist feature in the spring issue of Celebrate Home Magazine. I first interviewed Daniel on my blog two years ago. You can read that post here.

Daniel’s work is simply amazing! He creates these beautiful pop-art works of art with tiny slivers of product labels. Learn more about his work beginning on page 66 of the issue, which is free to download in the links below. He has beautiful prints available for purchase; see the store link on page 80.

The more clicks we get, the better we do with promoting and getting advertising! We thank you for your support.

Single pages version: Celebrate Home Spring 2013

Reader spreads version (my favorite!): Celebrate Home Spring 2013 Spreads

Order a print copy (at cost, plus shipping): http://www.magcloud.com/browse/issue/540569

You can also view it on issuu.com here.

DanielScottArt

 





Spring 2013 issue of Celebrate Home Magazine now ready for digital download!

4 04 2013

The spring 2013 issue of Celebrate Home Magazine is now available for digital download. Click on either of the links below to download your FREE pdf copy of this issue.

This issue is jam-packed (and there’s even a jam-making feature!), so download today and get started reading.

The more clicks we get, the better we do with promoting and getting advertising! We thank you for your support.

Single pages version: Celebrate Home Spring 2013

Reader spreads version (my favorite!): Celebrate Home Spring 2013 Spreads

Order a print copy (at cost, plus shipping): http://www.magcloud.com/browse/issue/540569

You can also view it on issuu.com here.

On the cover: What says “spring” more than colorful tulips? I was photographing this bed of flowers and was standing on the edge of the wall when this little girl, clad in a princess skirt with sparkly shoes, came running around the corner. I got this one shot and she was gone. Serendipity!

CHM Spring 2013 cover





Winter 2013 Celebrate Home Magazine now available for digital download!

17 02 2013

The winter 2013 issue of Celebrate Home Magazine is now available for digital download in the links below. Click on either of the links below to download your FREE pdf copy of this issue. The first links is for single-page viewing (perfect for printing off your favorite recipe!); the second link is set up for “reader spreads,” so you can see the magazine in spread format (my favorite!). Below are just some excerpts from our latest issue! Stay tuned for our spring issue, which will be CHOCK FULL of gardening-related features and crafts.

The more clicks we get, the better we do with promoting and getting advertising! We thank you for your support!

SINGLE PAGES PDF HERE: Celebrate Home Winter 2013 

READER SPREADS PDF HERE: Celebrate Home Winter 2013 Spreads

Click here to view on issuu.com.

Purchase a beautiful print copy at cost plus shipping:

http://www.magcloud.com/browse/issue/513977

On the cover: Gladys Roldan-de-Moras, award-winning Impressionist painter from San Antonio, Texas

CHM Winter 2013 Blog

In this issue:

FEATHER YOUR NEST
Winter-inspired lovelies for you and your home.

HOME
Delicious Pops of Color
Easy on the eyes, the Hedstrom house takes advantage of light-filled views with clean lines and engaging color.

FAMILY
Living the Fairy Tale: To Quit or Not to Quit?
Mothers share their struggles with jobs and families.

FOOD & ENTERTAINING
Bowls of Comfort
Take the chill out of winter with our filling soup recipes!

A Wintertime Dessert Party
Pair wine and desserts for elegant and easy entertaining.

Green Chicken: Creating a Family Heirloom Cookbook
Create a cookbook that cherishes family recipes.

The Many Seasons of Beer
Beer aficionado Jefferson Evans explores the world of seasonal brews.

THE ARTIST
Gladys Roldan-de-Moras, Impressionist Painter
Always proud of her Colombian and Mexican roots, this artist’s passion is reflected in her colorful work.

HOW-TO
Winter Photography Indoors
Stay indoors to photograph nature this winter.

PETS
How Much is That Doggie in the Window? Choosing the Family Pup

Think you’re ready to add a furry friend to your family? Here are some things to consider.

THE CREATIVE LIFE
Every Picture Tells a Story
Discover five tips for decorating your walls with original art.

THE COLLECTOR
Bejeweled: Camilla Houghton’s Unique Ring Collection
What started as a gift exchange between two sisters expanded into a beloved collection of rings.

CRAFT
Ring Bling Box
Give your rings a new home with our easy craft project.

PERSPECTIVES
What Home Means to Me

 





P. Allen Smith’s Garden Home at Moss Mountain Farm: Part 6

21 12 2012

One of the most inviting spots in P. Allen Smith’s Garden Home was the screened sleeping porch at the back of the house. In his introduction before the tour, he mentioned one of the designers wanted to add a fourth bed to the porch, but he nixed that idea, saying, “We don’t want it to look like a tuberculosis ward!” Below is a shot of the three beds in the sleeping porch, which is the top level of the two-level porch.

SleepingPorch

Below: This room also has a gorgeous copper bathtub (not a lot of privacy, obviously!) and Sue just had to try it out (yes, she is tiny and yes, the tub is huge).

SueBathtub

Below: On the same floor in the front of the house was a guest bedroom with two beds with a crisp color palette of brown, beige and white. I think the two paintings of clouds above the beds might have been done by P. Allen Smith.

BrownBedroom1

Below: Corner desk area

BrownBedDesk





P. Allen Smith’s Garden Home at Moss Mountain Farm, Part 5

14 12 2012

One of my favorite highlights of the tour was P. Allen’s detached art studio with windows overlooking the gardens and French doors opening onto the lawn behind the screened porch. Sue dared me to paint something on the blank watercolor paper pad and I was so tempted. Now I wish I had (and signed it! Although he professes to “just dabble,” he is a talented artist (something I didn’t know about him!). The large American vegetable paintings hanging throughout the house and lining two walls in the “dinner barn” are his work (photos to come).

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

ArtStudiolorez





Let’s Chip It!

27 10 2012

Thanks to fellow Pinterest-user, Vanessa Lam, I learned about Sherwin-Williams new color-palette-generator at http://www.letschipit.com. I can see that this new toy is going to be a huge waste of time huge benefit to my design, craft and photography projects. I love collecting color palettes to reference on my Pinterest boards, but now I can create my very own. Here’s my very first palette using a photo I shot at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens a few years ago. Way too much fun to use!

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





A labor of love: Celebrate Home Magazine is born!

2 10 2012

The Fall 2012 Celebrate Home Magazine debuts today on the first day of October with the mantra of “making the ordinary extraordinary.”

Published quarterly, Celebrate Home Magazine focuses on family, food, entertaining, gardening, art, crafts, hobbies, personal expression, hospitality, pets, decorating, communities and neighborhoods.

The time has come for a magazine like this—highlighting ordinary people doing extraordinary things. No matter your budget, your skills or the size of your space, we’ll enthusiastically share experiences of those who nurture the space they call home. Let us inspire you!

I’ve teamed up with the talented and renowned Barbara Kelley, whose editorial expertise has graced Hearing Loss Magazine for more than 20 years. She brings her passion for hospitality and her publishing experience to this brand new publication! We are both passionate about all things home and welcome you to open the door and come on in. We also welcome you to be contributors. This magazine is for you and about you.

Click the link below to download a two-page spread pdf of the magazine:

CelebrateHomeMagFall2012 Spreads

Click the link below to download a pdf designed for single page printing:

CelebrateHomeMagFall2012 Pages

Want to order a print copy of Celebrate Home Magazine? Click here, then sign up for a free magcloud.com account. You can download the FREE pdf or purchase a print copy on this link.

 

Would you like to be a contributing author or photographer? Please e-mail writing and/or photography samples and links to websites with your work tobkelley@celebratehomemag.com.

Do you have an original recipe you’d like to share? Please e-mail your recipes tobkelley@celebratehomemag.com.

We can come to you! Are you having a party or special event at your home or an activity that relates to the subject of home? Contact us to discuss your idea. If it fits the editorial scope of Celebrate Home Magazine, we may photograph your event and write the story.

Do you have a product or service? If you would like to advertise your product, service, or your city/town/region, contact advertising@celebratehomemag.com.

Check it out and celebrate home with us!





Announcing Art, Photography and Cooking Workshops in Tuscany in April and May, 2013

16 09 2012

Earlier this year, my friend and fellow artist, Suzy Olsen, invited me to teach photography workshops at her villa in Tuscany. We had originally planned for workshops to happen later this month but the timing was too short for planning, so we moved the date to spring 2013.

Join us in Italy for a feast for the senses!

Spend seven days/eight nights in Tuscany for workshops in watercolor painting and photography, topped off with authentic Italian cooking lessons! Accommodations are in a lovely artist community at the top of a hill overlooking the Poppi. The little town of Poppi is located in the beautiful Ortignano Raggiolo region at the center of the Casentino Valley, not far from Florence.

Two dates to choose from: April 19–27 or May 2–10, 2013

Trip includes accommodations, all meals, and daily workshops—watercolor and pen and ink classes with Suzy Olsen each morning; a travel, nature and portrait photography class with me each afternoon, and three authentic Italian cooking classes in the evening with Chef Daniela Cursi.

WORKSHOP INSTRUCTORS

Artist Suzy Olsen will teach you a great way to use watercolor with pen and ink for travel sketches using just the supplies in your backpack. You will learn how to access views and single out what works best—sketching and using your pen, then you can later fill in with watercolor back at the studio where you will utilize photos for reference. Her demos will be done every day to assist you with how to use pen, papers, and watercolor to your best advantage. You can paint with both a notebook and a watercolor paper pad, and are encouraged to further your creativity in the studio at the villa. She will share her paintings and demonstrate watercolor and sketching techniques during the morning hours.

Graphic designer, avid blogger and award-winning photographer Cindy Dyer will show you how to capture the beauty of the Tuscan countryside with your camera including landscapes, nature, still life and portraits. You’ll learn about composition, depth of field and lighting and receive hands-on, personalized instruction in every session. Cindy will review your digital images throughout the week so you can improve your skills with each session. She will show you how to combine your watercolor paintings, sketches and photographs with narrative and captions to create an online blog or publish a travel journal with magcloud.com.

Chef Daniela Cursi has spent more than 20 years mastering traditional Tuscan cuisine and has worked as a chef since 1998. She will prepare our food and teach us how to make our favorite Tuscan meals such as homemade pasta and wood-fired pizza. She has mastered the local cuisine of the Casentino Valley near Poppi and Arezzo, which is famous for lasagna and ravioli. During late afternoons, Chef Daniela will host three cooking classes in which she will focus on these areas:

Homemade Pastas—You’ll learn how to roll it out using fresh country eggs to make the classic noodles: raviolis and lasagnas. Chef Daniela will also teach you how to create pestos and vegetable- and meat-based sauces.

Vegetables and Roasting Meat—You’ll learn to use fresh vegetables in side dishes and salads and how to grill meat over an open fire. Chef Daniela will share how the locals prepare wonderful appetizers—the traditional way to start a great meal!

Pizzas—You’ll learn how to make homemade pizzas using wood fire and desserts using pastries. You’ll see firsthand how beautiful simple food can be. We embellish with good wines from the area, and we’ll sample cheeses, local delicacies, sweets and more.

QUESTIONS? E-mail Cindy at dyerdesign@aol.com or call 703.971.9038. Contact Suzy directly via e-mail at suzy2art@gmail.com or text her cell phone at 210.556.8909 for more information.

For more details, download the preliminary brochure by clicking this link here: Tuscany Workshops





Daniel Scott’s Recycled Mosaics—prints now available!

5 08 2012

I met graphic designer and artist Daniel Scott, Jr. through my blog last spring. He asked permission to use a photo I had shot of a cluster of purple Spiderwort flowers as inspiration for one of his recycled mosaic illustrations, which he has been creating since 1995. My photo, shot at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, inspired him to create “A Vibrant Morning Wake,” which is seen here in a posting I did in July 2011, and in the collage below (upper left).

Each beautiful mosaic is made from thousands of tiny bits of recycled candy wrappers, drink labels, gum wrappers, and sugar and tea packets. He now has limited edition prints available for purchase in the store on his website here. His work is spectacular—check it out!





Announcing Art, Photography and Cooking Workshops in Tuscany this September

6 07 2012

My friend and fellow artist, Suzy Olsen, has asked me to teach a photography workshop at her villa in Tuscany this September! The 10-day trip includes accommodations, all meals, and three daily workshops: watercolor and pen and ink classes with Suzy each morning, a travel, nature and portrait photography class with me each afternoon, and authentic Italian cooking classes each evening with Nadége Bernardi. Accommodations are in a lovely artist community at the top of a hill overlooking the town of Poppi.

Questions? Contact Suzy directly via e-mail at mandalas2art@yahoo.com or text her at suzy2art@gmail.com.

To learn more, download the preliminary brochure by clicking this link here: Tuscany Workshops





Tiny bling

16 06 2012

These are some of the images I’ve chosen to create pendant necklaces (1″ silverplated, copper or brass bezels with acrylic or glass domes and dogtag, silver snake chains or cotton and satin cords). I’ve launched a shop on etsy (Garden Muse Studio) to sell prints (loose, matted, framed), photo notecards (regular botanical photos and my older line of Polaroid transfer reproductions) and crafts such as jewelry, linoleum cut prints (my next endeavor) and small acrylic paintings (landscapes, botanicals and mixed media). There’s nothing in the store yet, but I’m working on it! The two kitten faces are for my friend Karen and her daughters, FYI.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Pressed plants as art

24 04 2012

These individual one-of-a-kind pieces of art are actual Texas wildflowers collected from the wild and pressed, dried and preserved as two-dimensional ecological décor. My friend, Shirley Loflin, is the collector and artist responsible for preparation of these most interesting botanical specimens. She is a naturalist and author who, along with husband Brian (who just happens to be a former employer of mine as well as my photography mentor), have written several articles and books on the natural science of Texas.

The concept of this art series grew out of the requirement to preserve “voucher specimens” for the herbaria at Texas A&M University and the University of Texas. A voucher is a botanical specimen carefully mounted on archival materials of high quality, and completely identified with both common and scientific names. These vouchers are documentation of plants photographed in the wild for their books: Grasses of the Texas Hill Country, Texas Cacti and their latest, Texas Wildflower Vistas and Hidden Treasures.

Shirley and Brian have been writing about and photographing Texas as a team for more than 20 years. In addition, they lead natural science photography tours and workshops in a wide variety of locations in the Americas.

Their work may be found at www.loflin-images.com, www.thenatureconnection.com and www.bkloflin.wordpress.com. Their books are published by Texas A&M University Press and may be found at most major booksellers.

Shirley’s botanical art is available for purchase in her etsy shop, www.etsy.com/shop/thenatureconnection.





Scenes from an exhibit reception, part 1

18 04 2012

WOW. That’s how I can sum up my photography exhibit reception on Sunday at Green Spring Gardens. My friend Martha says her favorite moment was when I came by her and simply said, “I am just soooooooooo happy.” I kept repeating it like a Stepford character. I’m just soooooooooo happy. Really, I am just soooooooooo deliriously happy! Sales and attendance were way beyond what I expected (or dared to hope for).

Remember, the show is up for two more weeks—you have until April 29 to see it if you haven’t already done so. For more details and directions, visit my show site: www.gardenmuseshow.com! FYI—I will have an etsy.com store up and running soon. I’ll be selling matted and framed images, greeting cards and jewelry (and any other crafty endeavor that strikes my fancy!). Stay tuned for more info on that venture. More photos to come from the reception…

Reception photos © Ed Fagan, Columbia Photography

Martha, my friend who came up for the weekend from San Antonio, Texas, confidently pitches the “buy all eight greeting cards for $20 and get a nifty floral gift bag” deal to a potential customer.

Above, from left: dear friends Holly and Tom, yours truly (with my trusty Coolpix) and lovely Sue-in-blue, who flew up from Huntsville, Alabama

With a lot of help from family and friends (Karen B., her daughter Margot, my sister Debbie, sister-in-law Nancy, Karen W. and Martha), the table decor—inspired by spring and all things gardening—became the perfect backdrop to showcase Barbara‘s wonderful sweet and savory appetizers! The only downside—putting all those decorations back in their place in our townhouse.

Above, left: The view of the banquet tables from the “savory” side. Right: Barbara Kelley, caterer extraordinaire, displays her Magnolia Bakery vanilla cupcakes, topped off with homemade fondant butterflies made by Karen B., daughter Hannah and me.

Above: The photo pendants were a hit, much to our delight! My friend Paula and I made about 30 of them and we sold more than half of them. I’ll be preparing more to sell in my etsy.com store, which I’ll be working on next month. We hung them on satin cords (longer length), vinyl cording and silver-plated chains and sold them sans chains as well.

Barbara and Hollace made open-faced tea sandwiches and adorned them with edible flowers—which required some cajoling to get attendees to eat. I heard several times, “are you sure we can eat these?” Michael proved they were edible by devouring a complete pink rose (photo to come). Another guest poked at the mozzarella balls (!) and asked if they were real (!) Thank you to Sue for helping me festoon the cupcake stand with garden-inspired fabric and ribbon. We went through a lot of hot glue on that project!

Above: getting the store set up before the crowd comes through the doors. Thanks to everyone who set up the shop—Michael, Karen B., Karen and Joe W., Pete and Nancy, Martha and Debbie. We filled up 3.5 cars with matted/framed prints, greeting cards and buffet decor elements. From left: Holly and her friend Helen examine the necklaces on display; center: Michael explains how to use his credit card machine to Karen B. and her daughter Margot; far right: me explaining something (?) to my friend Leda

Above: seven of the eight 5.5 x 8.5 greeting cards available for sale. Not shown, my “Unfurled” image with a ‘Negrita’ Tulip

Above: another shot of the buffet—tea sandwiches, fruit skewers and pesto pinwheels

Above, left: the jewelry display with my brother-in-law Pete in the background. Peter and his wife Nancy (Michael’s sister) drove up from the Columbus, Ohio area. Right: one of my favorite people—friend and neighbor Michael P. —deciding with “hairy legged” insect photo to purchase (thanks for giving Vault and Whirly Girl a good home, Michael!) Below: lines began to form—how cool is that?

Above: It was so great to see my former roommate (from way back circa 1998 or so) Wendy and her husband Mark—I last saw Wendy at Potomac Mills mall when her son Eli (now 17) was still in a stroller! We reunited on Facebook (but of course) and they truly surprised me by driving down from West Virginia just for the reception! She has asked me to do a presentation to her second grade class on “how to learn how to see” things in nature. Now that I can do!

During this entire process, I have had such a tremendous show of support from family and friends. Since the show went up, I have had guests coming from Florida, Texas, Ohio, West Virginia, Wisconsin, South Carolina, Alabama and Maryland. I am so blessed to have these people in my circle!

In preparation for the show and reception, I’d like to thank a slew of great people:

A very special thanks to Jeff E.—thank you for the kick in the pants to get “exposure for my exposures!”
Dorothy Norpel
, F.R.O.G.S. (Friends of Green Spring Gardens) show coordinator, for giving me the opportunity to exhibit
• Mary Olien and Janet Hammes of Green Spring Gardens for their support of my work and Janet in particular for letting us in early on Sunday so we would have ample time to prepare for the reception (and also for purchasing several images!)
• All the employees and volunteers of Green Spring Gardens who answered questions, fetched a ladder, made a sale, answered my myriad questions and honored my requests
The Green Spring Gardens horticulture staff who are masters (and artists) at what they do—for always having something new and beautiful for me to photograph (not many people know that more than 75% of the images in the show were shot at Green Spring Gardens)
Dad
for his financial input, patient framing guidance and being the best cheerleader/dad/patron of the arts a girl could have
My sister Kelley for helping me select all the images for the show and being the genius behind the idea to name the images
Tom and Holly for loading up 98% of the framed images in their van and transporting and unloading it all—you just don’t know how much I appreciated that!
Dear Camilla for flying up to help me hang up the show and her invaluable creative direction (not to mention her long-time friendship)
• Karen W.
and Michael for helping hang the show from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (thanks also to Karen for constantly promoting my work, whether it’s jewelry making or the exhibit—there’s a reason you’re a key component of the K.I.T.A. club, ya know!)
Carmen and her sister-in-law Ester for driving eight hours from Greer, South Carolina just to attend the exhibit
Mary Ellen
for flying from Wisconsin
My sister-in-law Ronnie and her husband Ed for coming to see us and the exhibit en route from Florida back to their home in Cleveland
My sister Debbie and our friend Martha for hopping planes from San Antonio to share in the big weekend
Karen B.
for helping design the buffet tables, create the table covers and decorations, making fondant butterflies for the cupcakes, sleeving greeting cards and for every single creative project she is willing to tackle alongside me (I enjoy all our creative time together, KareBear) and for her patience in heading up the store
Mo Sherman
for spreading the word to his Virginia and Maryland friends and for being so supportive of my work
Sue
for flying here from Huntsville, AL, helping me make the three-tiered tea sandwich stand and putting matted prints in sleeves (and for her never-ending cheerleading!)
Hannah
for help with creating the butterflies and manning the store with her mom
Margot
for her flower arranging skills, buffet decorating and helping in the store
Paula
for helping me make those pretty photo pendants that were such a hit (and for her and Ken spreading the word of the exhibit to their friends and colleagues)
Nancy
, Pete and Martha for helping frame (assembly-line style) some last-minute pieces
Karen W.
and Joe for preparing and bringing a great breakfast spread to the house Sunday morning so we wouldn’t pass out during the day
All the help transporting to and fro in four separate cars from Michael, Pete, Joe, Nancy, Karen W., Martha and Debbie
Barbara
and Hollace for the amazing reception food—it was colorful, tasty, imaginative, filled with love, and I couldn’t imagine a catered event going more smoothly than this one did—you are a pro, Barbara!
Karen B.
, Margot, Hannah and Martha for minding the store and taking care of sales, wrapping, etc. (I know it was a crazy, unexpected time and I thank them profusely for all their efforts; nothing I can do can repay their generosity of time!);
Michael for running errands to get more change, to the house for more supplies and bringing fans to cool off the place (we learned that they turn off the air at the Horticulture Center on weekends!)
Karen W.
, Debbie, Martha, Karen B., Margot and Nancy for all their help decorating the buffet tables and setting up the store
Jeff S.D. for his constant support and helping me determine pricing (why is this always so hard for an artist?)
Brian for his mentoring and valuable input, always
Kudos and thanks to my hard-working friend Ed for so thoroughly and beautifully documenting that wonderful day with nearly 700 images (shot from above, below, from the side, on a ladder, on the floor and from the ceiling)!

If I have left out anyone in the never-ending gratitude list above, it is not intentional. Finally, thank you to all my local friends, faraway friends, Facebook friends, WordPress fellow bloggers and design clients for being a constant source of support and enthusiasm for this pet project of mine. Thank you to all my local friends who were able to make the reception and for your purchases as well. I thank you profusely and Green Spring Gardens thanks you, too!





The Garden Muse Portfolio goes to print!

17 03 2012

Dear MagCloud, I take back every awful thing I thought about you last night (including the sailor-worthy words I uttered under my breath). I still think you should have official tech support (phone support, perhaps, and I’d gladly pay by the minute for it), but in the end, my case worker, Adriana, was a big help via e-mail (even if it appeared I was hell bent on proving her wrong). In one e-mail, Adriana wrote: “Also, the images on that file are stunningly beautiful. I’m sure when you are done, this will be a stellar piece. Hang in there.” (Thanks for that, Adriana—your comment cheered me up until I got frustrated again.)

I wrote about MagCloud on this blog here in 2009 and here in 2010. This is the first time I’ve taken the time to work on a project to try out the service.

Despite my repeated attempts to upload what I thought was a properly-prepared file, I was met with the same *&#)*!@&#)!# error message every time. I was using their template that I had downloaded for this size and was told later by Adriana that they discontinued the template so I shouldn’t use it (did I miss that meeting?). I read the pdf preparation file that Adriana e-mailed me so I could amend my template to their exact specs. I created seven different files, all with the same end result. Eventually I resorted to exporting four page simple test pages just to prove my theory that it couldn’t possibly be me causing these latest problems. After a while, I started naming things like: magtestone.pdf, magtesttwo.pdf, final.pdf, finalfinal.pdf, reallyfinalfinal.pdf, thisisthelastoneIswear.pdf, Igiveupmylifeisover.pdf, magcloudyouareonmylastnerve.pdf, Illneverbeaselfpublisher.pdf and magcloudpleaseletmeinorIwillunpostallthoseglowingreviewsaboutyou.pdf. I briefly contemplated assigning a file name that would make even my toes curl, but I figured the system would spit it back at me for being so unladylike.

After a day to reflect, run errands and come back with fresh eyes, I figured out what I was doing wrong. It was a very simple little step that I had overlooked—do not click on “spreads” when you’re outputting the pdf for MagCloud. If you do, you will be informed (repeatedly) that page 1 is okay but the other pages aren’t the same size (which sounds completely insane because it is the same file). You will also be told that your bleeds are not correct. That one stupid mistake kept me up until 2:00 a.m., then I finally waved the white flag.

The file is now uploaded and I’ll receive my sample copy sometime next week. I’m crossing my fingers that it looks as good in print as it looks in the file! I already know the quality of their paper and printing is great—I’ve bought sample magazines in the past. It’s a great way to publish a magazine with very little investment (more time than money, actually)—no need to go to a traditional printer to get a decent-looking publication with this print-on-demand option. I paid an extra buck for it to be perfect bound rather than saddle-stitched (due to the number of pages). I may even open the publication up for purchase if it meets my quality control standards.

I’ve scattered some of my favorite gardening quotes through the 88-page document and have identified all the images by their print name, common flower/plant name and the Latin name. All of these images are either in the current exhibit or will be for sale at the reception on April 15. I may expand the publication (as if it isn’t long enough) and include garden photography tips as well before I offer it for sale in the MagCloud store.

If you’re in the D.C./Northern Virginia area, just skip, sashay, slink, saunter or skidaddle on over to the Horticulture Center at Green Spring Gardens from now until April 29. If you’re in the mood for great appetizers (courtesy of Kelley Hospitality), good company and photographic eye candy (who doesn’t love flowers and bugs?), join me at the reception on April 15 from 1-3 p.m. Since the show runs until April 29, you’ll have plenty of time to see it! For more details, visit my show website here.

For now, I hope you enjoy the cover and the first 16 pages (I’ll just be over here in the corner…wearing my dunce cap).

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





From the Polaroid transfer archives: Lupine

22 02 2012

I photographed this beautiful Lupine bloom many years ago when I was visiting my friend John in Barrington Passage, Nova Scotia. When I hopped out of the car to photograph a field of these beauties, he laughed and said, “why on earth are you photographing weeds?” They grow so abundantly in his area that the locals consider them weeds! I took the 35mm slide and create this Polaroid transfer piece soon after. You can learn more about the Polaroid transfer process in my blog posting here.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





22 things I have learned while preparing for my photography exhibit

21 02 2012

Someone once said, “it takes a village to produce a photography exhibit,” (or something to that effect). It’s true, and I will thank as many people possible in this posting. I know there will be more thank you’s to come in future postings, so if I’ve missed naming you, please forgive me.

1) Be careful what you wish for. Oh, and thanks (both heartfelt and sarcastically) to dear friend, Jeff Evans, for suggesting I hop on the photo exhibit bandwagon with him.

2) Every image that ultimately gets vetoed, even after trying to assess it with a critical eye 87 times, feels like I’m abandoning a child (that I don’t have). I’m down to this: does this image make me immediately say, “ohhhhh, yes. You are good.” Or does it elicit a “meh” or “Really? A point and shooter coulda shot that” at first glance?

3) Acid-free framing tape makes an excellent bandage around a wedge of Bounty paper towel when you stub your big toe on that piece of unusable glass you forgot was there.

4) Don’t try to continue framing when you get a paper cut. It’s not pretty. And no, an eraser won’t help.

5) Even the nicest frames can come with crappy glass. If there’s a scratch on my brand new glass, can I assume someone took a diamond ring and ran it across the surface? I thought the only thing that could scratch glass was a diamond.

6) And while we’re on the subject of frames…when you need 20 larger frames and the best price online for a particular frame is one that has acrylic/Plexiglas instead of actual glass (cheaper and safer to ship, I’ve learned), this is still not the way to go—no matter what you read on the forums by all those exhibit know-it-alls when you Google, “glass vs. Plexiglas for a photography exhibit.” When you get the frame in, you will peel off the protective cover on both sides of the flimsy sheet and every speck of dust in Bexar County, Texas will find its way to you. No amount of compressed air will alleviate the problem. When you use that baby soft dust brush to lightly remove the dust, it will make permanent scratches on the surface. You will then spend an hour on the phone researching the cheapest place in San Antonio to have glass cut in 18×24 sheets. Sigh, another purchase? (See #12)

7) Converting one’s craft room to a frame shop makes it irresistible to a cat. ZenaB, our tuxedo cat, has this thing for licking plastic (bags and the like). Every frame I unwrap is covered in acres of shrink wrap or a plastic envelope. Seriously, she needs an intervention.

8) Speaking of cats, did you know that the sound of compressed air will send a cat back upstairs in two seconds flat?

9) When one is so pinned in by empty frames, backer boards, acid-free foam core, prints of various sizes, mats, good glass and diamond-scratched glass, glazier gun and points, tape, scissors, xacto knives, rulers and framing wire that one can’t get up to change the radio station when a song one really hates comes on or one debates whether one should go pee or just hold it in a little longer, one should question one’s sanity. All that is missing is that adorable and extremely patient Matt Paxton, extreme cleaning expert from Hoarders, coming around the corner and chuckling nervously as he assesses the mission and asks “can this woman/house be saved?” Excuse me while I diverge…a few months ago I saw a magazine cover (some pricey creative/artsy/craftsy publication whose name escapes me) and the main headline read, “Are you a horder?” Who is proofreading this thing?

10) And speaking of purchases…buy everything you need online, from coated framing wire to hooks to mats and foam core boards (even cut to exact specs!). It will be considerably cheaper, even after you add shipping costs, than getting it locally at a craft store or frame shop. This was a valuable lesson at the outset.

11) Every time I enter my temporary “frame shop,” I hear that “thrinkkkkkk” sound from Hoarders—the one that sounds right before they type something like “Cindy, Alexandria, Virginia” on the screen. Ditto when I step into the living room, where all the finished frames are awaiting transport to the venue next Monday. Will my house ever be back to normal?

12) My bank account may never truly recover. Ever. So if you do come to the show, have pity—buy something. Or two somethings. And really, an odd number is better for a whole host of reasons, so make it three somethings. I promise to apply a quantity discount.

13) You would be surprised at how guerilla-marketing-ish you’ll get when you’re parting with this much time and money in preparation for an exhibit (not to mention you haven’t had an exhibition of your work since the covered wagon days). I have e-mailed people that I haven’t talked to in years in an effort to promote the show. If I could find my kindergarten teacher, I would mail her a postcard, too. To what end, I have no idea. It is something I feel compelled to do. What if I leave her out? She might know someone who knows someone who knows someone who publishes a magazine about flowers and they are in dyer dire need of fresh images.

14) Note to self: A Flower fly does not a Honey bee make. Surely you knew that when you signed that print, matted it, framed it, sealed the back and added the framing wire and hooks. Your heart really wasn’t in it when you came up with that lame title, “Busy Bee,” anyway. Maybe it’s because it’s not a bee in the first place. You know the difference. Were you inhaling compressed air? There’s one do-over to add to the queue. Muchas gracias to my younger sister, Kelley, for her very keen eye in helping me cull the first round of images and for suggesting (and assisting in) naming the images. You really have do an eye for this, Wap-Wap! Wanna represent me? Thanks to my high school buddy James Williams and his wife Irma and daughter Elise for being the first to preview the show (or what I had finished preparing at that point), spread out all over the King’s living room (the prints, not the Williams family).

15) When you get notice that the XYZ Chrysanthemum Society is taking orders for mum plants via e-mail (and you joined the group who knows why at that plant sale years ago), don’t e-mail the entire list back to (very politely) ask if anyone knows what hybrid a particular mum is in the attached photo. More than two dozen people received my question and not one responded. I thought gardeners were more open than that. Seriously, not one. The lesson in this sad tale is to never assume just because you’re excited about your show that total strangers want to make sure you get your IDs correct. They’re too busy growing mums to bother with your little project.

16) But on the identification flip-side, your fellow bloggers and rabid gardeners will respond within minutes on your Facebook wall when you attach a photo and beg for help labeling the flower. Thanks in particular to fellow blogger and garden designer Pam Pennick and Bobbie Hill Evans for identifying my Autumn sage (Salvia greggii), but also to Mahvelous Mahvin, Jimmie, Patricia, Sean and Anna, for chiming in on the “pretty flower.”

17) Ditto on the spider identification, too. Bug people are busy people, apparently. Why don’t you look it up in one of your umpteen spider books, Cindy? What are ya—lazy? Deep in my heart, I knew it was a sort of crab spider, but I wanted absolute confirmation of which crab spider it was. Didn’t get it. My mind flashed to this very possible scenario: A local entomologist is on his lunch break one balmy April day at Green Spring Gardens. After finishing lunch, he wanders into the Horticulture Center. “Oh, look, a new exhibit,” he thinks to himself. He wanders down the ramp, admiring each image (drawn in particular to the ones with insects, of course), until he comes to the image titled Bird’s Eye View. “Hmmm…let’s see…what an interesting perspective.” He leans forward to read the accompanying sign. “Crab spider on Chrysanthemum. Hmmm…girl should really have consulted a bug expert. That is most certainly not a Crab spider. Sheesh.” (Oh, and a note to that hypothetical entomologist—if you’re reading this, take this into consideration. I really did try to get my ID correct. Don’t you judge me.)

18) Despite the long (but happy) hours I’ve spent preparing for this exhibit, I’ve discovered that framing my images—with all the little details that go into it from start to finish—is very zen for me. Extreme thanks to my father, aka The King of Texas, for showing me how to do all of this by my lonesome self—and for letting me thoroughly deplete his ample (and expensive) supply of acid-free foam core board. (His framing shed, er, castle, is like being in a craft shop. The supplies never ran out!) The King (shown at left) is a major sponsor of this exhibit—so a grateful tip of this peasant’s bedraggled hat to his Royal Highness. When I’m framing, every image conjures up when, where and how I created it and that feeling I had knowing I got the best shot possible. However, I’m well aware that meditation is a far cheaper endeavor. Of course, I needed another hobby. 🙂

19) Friends, family and complete strangers who learn of the show will become your ultimate cheerleaders. You were already excited about the venue, the opportunity to do the show, seeing your work actually printed and framed (and not just contained within the boundaries of a computer screen on a blog) and the myriad possibilities that might accompany such an event—but your fans and supporters will only bolster that feeling with their feedback. They will spread the word, pass along your invite, and suggest other advertising outlets. Friends from far away will start making flight reservations just to come to see your little show.

20) The show will consume your life at every turn. When you are not designing something to make money to actually pay for the show, you will be matting, framing, taping, typing, primping, scheming, researching, identifying, begging for identification, labeling and stamping postcards and opening box after box after box of supplies delivered to you via FedEx, UPS and the postman. Your multiple purchases will bolster the faltering economy and provide an endless stream of oversized boxes that will amuse and delight your cats (except for that one time when you tossed the two kittens into the box filled with water-soluble-eco-friendly packing peanuts and completely freaked them out). You will skip dinner because you lose track of time. Your cats will (almost) skip dinner because you lose track of time. You will actually go through the motions of framing in your sleep and be a tad disappointed when you realize that those weren’t really done when you awaken the next day. Your husband will help you haul 600 pounds of frames to and from the car and try not to fall asleep when you recite your plans out loud. He will also feed you when you’re too preoccupied to do it yourself (thank you, sweetie). Your lovely long-time friend, Cam, will offer to fly up from Florida to help you hang the show and you will be floored by her generosity and sentiment and will anxiously await her arrival, input, feedback, honesty and company. Your redheaded friend Karen will not sigh or roll her eyes when you prattle incessantly about your show preparations over IHOP breakfast-for-dinner on girl’s night out. Your other friend Karen (she of the not-red-head) will help you with pricing your offerings and tablescaping the reception. Special thanks to one cheerleader in particular, Barbara Kelley (shown above). The Sneeze Guard Heiress will be catering my reception on April 15. Check out her latest culinary creation on her hospitality blog here.

21) It really does help to have a strong graphic design background when you prepare for something like this. All of your marketing materials will look polished and you won’t have to pay someone else to design them. This will be the only place where you and your money will not be parted.

When you log online just to order the postcards to promote your exhibit, you will begin to imagine your photos on mousepads, key chains, hoodies, lawn signs, bumper stickers, tote bags, greeting cards, magnetic car signs, luggage tags, banners and posters. The online company will even suggest every single one of these items all the way up to checking out. You will be tempted. Step away from vistaprint.com, sistah. Thank you to my college roommate and fellow graphic designer (shown at left), Sonya Mendeke, for designing my beautiful Garden Muse website dedicated solely to this show.

22) Remind me again why I’m doing this?

Ah, yes, to free these images from the confines of my blog and my external hard drives:





FAVE: Bruce Munro’s “Field of Light” projects

28 01 2012

I just discovered Bruce Munro‘s lighting art through French gardener Delphine’s blog here. While all of his work is amazing, his outdoor and garden installations are breathtaking! Learn more about Field of Light® here and see more photos of installations here.





Repost: Photographs? Well, not technically.

18 01 2012

Originally posted 1.28.2010 and 1.28.2011

A few years ago I dabbled in scanning flowers on my Epson flatbed scanner and got some pretty good results. The technique works best if you can cover the flower arrangement with a dark piece of fabric or black cardboard. While the original images were nice “record” shots of my flowers, I wanted to do something more with them. I ran the scanned images through some artsy Photoshop filters to give them a romantic, soft-focus glowy look. So there you have it…photographs without a camera!

Not long after I toyed with the process, I saw an exhibit of photographer Robert Creamer’s images at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. These large-scale works were amazing! He scanned all sorts of things—dead birds, flowers, fruit, bones, and more. You can read more about his Smithsonian exhibit here and see more of his work on his website here. Watch the video here for a demonstration of his setup.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Chinese Maple leaf canopy

13 01 2012

While preparing for my March/April 2012 solo photography exhibit at Green Spring Gardens, I stumbled across this image I captured at Garvan Woodland Gardens a few years ago. I was on a road trip with my friend, Sue, and we visited her Aunt Gaye in Little Rock, AR. I’m considering this image for a 12×12 print for the show.

Mark your calendars for March-April 2012 for my exhibit!
This will be my first art exhibit since college days (way back when!), so I’m very excited. The exhibit will be in the Horticulture Center in the park. The reception isn’t until Sunday, April 15, from 1-3 p.m., but the show runs all of March and April, so if you’re in the area, that’s ample time to stop by and see the show if you live nearby or plan to be in the Washington, D.C. / Northern Virginia area during that time!

Green Spring Gardens is conveniently located off of 395, at 4603 Green Spring Road in Alexandria, VA 22312. The Horticulture Center is open weekdays from  9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. and Sundays from 12 – 4:30 p.m. Parking is free and the park closes at dusk.

All works will be for sale, with a portion of proceeds going to Green Spring Gardens. I also plan to have unframed and matted images available for sale during the reception. The show consists of 12×12 images, 12×18 images and 8×12 images, all matted and framed for the show. I’ll also have more than a dozen gallery wrap canvas transfer images (a very contemporary look with no framing needed!), ranging in size from 12×18 to 20×30.

The show includes a great deal of images I’ve shot at Green Spring Gardens, as well as images from Butchart Gardens in Victoria, B.C., Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Virginia, Brookside Gardens in Maryland, Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens in Washington, D.C., McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area in Maryland, Garvan Woodland Gardens, Atlanta Botanical Garden, and in my own front and backyard gardens.

Stay tuned to this blog for an announcement of my show website with more details and a sneak preview of some of the images that will be featured. The website will also include ordering information if you’d like to purchase an image (whether matted/framed or matted/ready to frame) but can’t come see the show in person.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





The Painting Years: A little paint, a little paneling

31 12 2011

This family quote, “a little paint, a little paneling,” originated with my dad. He probably learned it from his mother, perhaps. I just did a Google search on that quote and believe it or not, the only two entries that reference it are on this blog!

On family vacations, when we would invariably pass by a dilapidated house or barn, held up with just a few boards and rusty nails, and showing sky through the roof, my dad would point at the structure and quip, “a little paint, a little paneling,” as if that was all it would take to make the hovel presentable. I still use that quote today and since we can safely assume my dad invented the phrase, I will give you permission to use it as needed. Just remember who invented it and give credit where credit is due. Or, you could make a donation through PayPal to the King of Texas each time you use it. The King says a quarter per use (he acknowledges it is a tough economy for his subjects) would be greatly appreciated. Donations would help with the upkeep of the castle (he is retired and on a fixed income, you know).

It would certainly be appropriate with this sketchy painting done in thinned-out oil paints on an 11×16 canvas. I’m not sure what I was referencing when I painted it—it could have been an exact copy of a painting or even sketched from a photograph in a magazine. I’ve always liked loosely painted subjects and that’s the style I tend to lean toward now when I do paint.





The Painting Years: Texas Bluebonnets

31 12 2011

This tiny painting measures just 4×6″ and is an original oil painting that I did when I was about 17 years old.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





The Painting Years: Landscape with deer

30 12 2011

This was a 24×36 oil painting that I copied from a small postcard in Lila’s “morgue file.” I don’t remember the original artist’s name. I was immediately drawn to it because of all the blues and greens. It was a monumental undertaking because of all the details and all the color mixing. I most certainly didn’t complete this one in two Saturday sessions! I was so tired of it at the end that my father tried to bribe me with money to finish the deer in the background with more details. I had completed the one on the far right and was so exhausted that I just painted brown amorphous shapes in for the others! (Maybe one day I’ll surprise him and finish it. Hmph.) He just told me that this was yet another painting that Lila advised me against attempting. Well, except for not finishing the deer, I showed her, huh?





The Painting Years: Apple harvest

30 12 2011

Here’s one of my favorite oil paintings. I don’t recall the artist who did the original. I was probably 15 or 16 when I painted it. This is an 18×24 canvas.





The Painting Years: Birds in flight

30 12 2011

Here’s another painting I copied while studying with Lila Prater in Weslaco, Texas. I was about 15 when I painted this 18×24 canvas.





The Painting Years: First florals

29 12 2011

Yesterday I organized my father’s “framing shed” workshop and found some of my old oil paintings that I painted from about ages 12-17. The two paintings below are framed and hanging in the house. Discovering the unframed paintings instigated this trip down memory lane and I thought I would share some of my first paintings with you.

My parents took me to the Lila Prater Studio in Weslaco, Texas, for an interview with Lila when I was just 12 years old. I had already been drawing since elementary school and they wanted to further encourage my interest in art. Lila had a strict rule—no students under 15 years old. Classes ran from 9:00 a.m. to noon every Saturday and she discovered that most younger students don’t have the attention span nor inclination to give up a Saturday morning to paint. My dad showed her my portfolio of drawings and I remember him saying, “she’s not like other kids.” (She’s still not!)

Lila decided to make an exception and give me a spot in her Saturday morning oil painting class. I remember there were about five or six students at the time. I was the youngest at 12, the next was a young man who was about 17 or 18, and the others were in their 40s and older. I don’t remember all their names, but I remember some details of my fellow painters. One dark-haired woman, possibly in her late 40s, always dressed up for class and never spilled one drop of paint on her white-colored clothing. She wore a simple white smock/apron and never got paint on it either. I, on the other hand, occasionally used my clothing as a wipe rag (much to my mother’s chagrin).

Another woman, probably in her 50s or 60s at the time, was a retiree named Violet Treasure, who wore her silver hair in a bun perched on top of head. Hers was such an unusual name that I thought it couldn’t possibly be her real name. I did an online search but can’t find anything about her, unfortunately, but I never forgot her name. She painted on really large canvases and almost always painted female nudes. She was a supremely talented painter. I marveled at her use of color—where I tended to see skin as one tone of beige, her brush strokes infused purple, lilac, pink, green and every other hue into the figure. I would learn just how difficult this was when I attempted to copy a painting of a young Native American girl. Initially, my subject was just one shade of brown (think coloring book style) and it was just so flat and uninspiring. Under Lila’s patient guidance, my subject’s skin began to reflect all those colors that Violet used in her paintings. I never did master skin tones but I had an instant respect for Violet’s painting skills.

The young man’s last name was Somerville (or Summerville), but I don’t recall his first name. My dad, who was in Customs at the time, worked with his father, Red Somerville, who was an immigration officer at the port near Nuevo Progreso (which was a mere eight miles from where we lived in Donna, Texas). I remember how slowly he painted and how meticulous he was. He hardly uttered a word while he was in class—he was too intent on replicating works of the masters. (He would have done incredibly well as a forger!) One painting I remember him copying was The Gleaners, an oil painting by Jean-Francois Millet. I always aimed to finish a painting in one or two weekends (impatient even at that young age, I was). He, on the other hand, spent three hours painting just the hands of the wheat gleaners! I marveled at his patience and expertise. When I moved on to a new painting instructor in a different studio, he was still working on his copy of The Gleaners!

There was a pass-through from Lila’s studio to her dining and living room, where her husband, Neil Giles Prater, was bedridden with a long-term illness. I just did a search online and learned that he died at age 83 on June 10, 1977 of pneumonia.

I actually spoke with Lila sometime in the 90s and she was about 92 years old then. She was in an assisted living home and had lost her eyesight. She remembered me and some of the images I painted. I just did a search and found that one of her two daughters passed away in 2010 and the obituary indicated she was preceded in death by her parents, Lila and Neil. Further research revealed that there was a Lila V. Prater, from Weslaco, Texas, who lived to 107 and died in 2003, and I’m pretty certain she’s one and the same Lila Prater. 107 years old—amazing, isn’t it?

Lila had a huge filing cabinet that she called “the morgue,” where we could sort through and find an image to paint. As a rookie, I invariably chose images to copy that were well out of my scope, and Lila would encourage me to pick another. Sometimes she won, sometimes I did.

My first painting was a landscape, and the very next painting was the first floral piece below, done on an 11×14 canvas. When I picked the painting I wanted to copy, she said it was too soon for me to do such a detailed work. I pleaded with her, stating it was to be a gift for Mother’s Day. She relented and I faithfully replicated the work. When I was 15, I painted the second floral, a 24×36 canvas, as a present for my mother.

By copying the work of other artists, I learned myriad painting techniques and color combinations. Lila also taught me how to use the grid method to enlarge or transfer an image to a canvas. Learn more about the grid method here. For this posting, I’ve made both images the same size, although there is a huge difference between them in reality—11×14 vs. 24×36.

I studied under Lila’s direction for about five years and rarely missed a painting session. She was a wonderful teacher and gave me a great foundation in painting. When I was about 17, I began taking lessons with another instructor, Richard (last name escapes me) in Donna, Texas. His teaching method was vastly different from Lila’s—he didn’t allow us to copy anything and we had interesting exercises like using limited palettes of black and white paint only. We did a lot of still life set-ups with fruit, bowls, vases and figurines.

Re: framing—my dad would buy really beautiful but very inexpensive frames in Mexico to showcase my paintings. I remember that we would swap them out whenever I painted something new that matched the color of a particular frame!





2011: A Visual Recap

28 12 2011

I’ve picked one photo from each month of 2011 as a way to recap the year. Now here’s to 2012—hoping it is a year of immense creativity, preparing for my first solo photography show in umpteen years, partnering with two friends in publishing ventures, staying connected to family, nurturing friendships both near and far and old and new, growing my graphic design and photography business in fresh and challenging directions, hosting soirees, communing with nature, updating my garden with quirky and photogenic new plants, hitting the road in search of adventure (and fresh photographs), getting back to my painting (fine art, not walls), shooting more photos (and not just botanical), honing my writing craft, acquiring new skills and learning something new every day.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Garden Club Craft Night, 1.8.2007

17 12 2011

I’ve been a bit of a slacker as the Head Weed of my garden club for the past couple of years, for which I apologize profusely to my Weedettes. I came across this fun project where everyone painted garden signs on little strips of wood that Michael prepared for us. I printed out phrases that the Weedettes transferred with carbon paper and then painted with regular acrylic craft paint. Michael had pre-drilled holes at the top and bottom of each plank so that we could string them together with rusty craft wire. We enjoyed the wintertime craft nights so much that Karen suggested we switch it to a craft club instead. Other crafts we did included cement leaf casting, making topiaries, garden photography, sculpey clay jewelry, mosaic mirrors, floral acrylic painting on canvas and floral pins made from felted wool sweaters. Come to think of it, I do miss hosting these creative get-togethers. I’ll make a concerted effort to organize some events in 2012.

I prepared this collage and sent it out later that night as a recap of the event. Looks like a bunch of happy crafters, don’t they?

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Eye candy

10 12 2011

I’ve been going through my garden photography archives from the past six years, searching for images that I might use for my first exhibit since college (the covered wagon days). I’m scheduled for a solo photographic exhibit at Green Spring Gardens in Alexandria, VA from March through April 2012. The reception will be held Sunday, April 15, from 1–3 p.m. (Yeah, I’m well aware that it also happens to be dreaded tax day—take a break, come see me, eat some appetizers, and buy something so I can recoup my investment in this show!) So mark your calendars and get your taxes done so you can come see me! Even if you can’t make the reception, remember that the show runs through all of March and April. The horticulture center is open seven days a week, 9-4:30 on weekdays/Saturday and 12-4:30 on Sunday.

There will be more details to come, but I must say that I’m really jazzed about it. Thanks to Jeff Evans for prodding me until I presented a portfolio to the show coordinator. Jeff has had a solo photography exhibit and joint exhibits with the Springfield Art Guild there. The horticulture center is really a lovely place to exhibit art and I’m honored that I’ll be having my work showcased in one of my favorite gardens. Thanks to Katie Delgado for introducing me to Green Spring Gardens more than five years ago. I had no idea such a lovely little park existed in our area. Many of my favorite botanical images were created there. And finally, thanks (in advance) for all the professional matting and framing work my father will be doing for me next month!

I’ll have matted/framed images, gallery wrap canvas images, and unframed/matted images available for purchase. A percentage of sales goes to Green Spring Gardens. My dear friend and Hearing Loss Magazine editor, Barbara Kelley, will be catering the event in her capacity as Kelley Hospitality, and I’m very excited about having her assistance with my first show since my college days. Check out Barbara’s hospitality blog here.

Below is a collage of just some of the images I’ve pulled out that are under consideration. It’s been raining for a few days here in my neck of the woods and I needed to see a good dose of color to lift my mood. Enjoy!

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Vertical beauties

2 11 2011

When my friend Senthil was visiting in September (to be photographed for the cover of the upcoming November/December 2011 Hearing Loss Magazine), Michael and I dropped him off at the U.S. Capitol building so he could get some photographs. I went over to check out the sprawling vertical garden display outside the U.S. Botanic Garden, which is in view of the Capitol.

Apparently the exhibit has been in place for a couple of years and I just got to see the very end of the exhibit. I can’t find anything on the web regarding who designed it or any details on the types of plants, how-to’s, etc., but I do have some photographs to share. It was really a sight to see—and had I the room to build something like this in my own backyard garden, it would happen in a nanosecond. I shot some closeups so you can see the details. The wood frames have coco fiber “shelf baskets” held into place with wire screen. The plants are tucked either directly into the liner baskets or through holes made in the side of the baskets.

There were a lot of plants that I recognized immediately, including vegetables and ornamental plants, plus herbs such as oregano, sage and basil; various coleus plants, licorice plants, flowering annuals, sweet potato vine, ferns, ivies, catmint and catnip, just to name a few. Read more about vertical gardening here.

Michael and I saw these Woolly Pocket living planters in the gift shop at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden last week. They’re made from recycled plastic bottles and come in unlined (for outdoor use) and lined (for indoor use) versions, along with wall anchors. You can line an entire wall with these pockets (which come in a multitude of sizes and colors), fill them with a variety of plants, and achieve impressive results!

But the type of vertical gardening that makes me swoon are the “succulent gardens” shown on Flora Grubb Garden’s blog here and their main website here. Jaw-dropping beautiful pieces of living art—they remind me of landscapes as seen from the air. Flora Grubb sells the tray components to achieve these looks in your own home or on a garden wall.

Authors and gardeners Susan Morrison and Rebecca Sweet recently published Garden Up! Smart Vertical Gardening for Small and Large Spaces, available here. Author and garden photographer Derek Fell has written Vertical Gardening: Grow Up, Not Out, for More Vegetables and Flowers in Much Less Space, available here. And on my list of books to add to my gardening library is green thumb artist and French botanist Patrick Blanc’s tome The Vertical Garden: From Nature to the City, available here. Want to see some spectacular living walls? Visit Blanc’s website here.





When I’m not photographing gardens…

7 09 2011

…I’m up to other stuff. Head on over to my main blog and see what’s new!

http://www.cindydyer.wordpress.com





Come, sit, stay

23 08 2011

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Whimsy in the garden

22 08 2011

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Leaf casting

5 08 2011

Updated 8.04.2011. Originally posted July 2008. This is one of my top visited posts of all time with 10,259 visits to date on my main blog and 1,272 visits on this blog!

My friend Debbi and I have been making these concrete leaf castings for several years now, and my Garden Club members have also tried their hand at it. We have used Portland cement type 1 for our earlier creations, but then started making them with Quikrete instead. Several artists recommend using vinyl patch instead because it’s stronger, lighter in weight and picks up more detail from the leaf texture and veining. It’s also more resistant to flaking and cracking associated with traditional cement mixtures. The next batch I make will be with the vinyl patch product!

This site here has step-by-step instructions (plus a youtube video). The steps are the same no matter which product you’re using.

Click here for Craig Cramer’s blog posting, “The Secret to Great Leaf Casts.” He recommends using Quikrete. Click here for another site with an extensive gallery for inspiration. David, the artist, recommends waiting 30 days before painting your creations. (I’ve never waited that long—don’t know if I would have the patience!) He mixes Quikrete with his concrete mixture, but I’m not sure what the ratio is. At the very least, his photo gallery will endlessly inspire you!

Since most of the leaves we create are smaller, we don’t often do the chicken wire reinforcement. Larger elephant ears do require a bit of reinforcement, though, and we have made some of those (the larger the leaf is, the more likely you’ll need two people to move it when it’s dry!). Most of the ones we have done are made with leaves from hostas, pokeweed, grape leaves, caladium leaves, and smaller elephant ears. Leaves that have nice, deep veins work best. If you want to hang your leaf on a fence or wall, insert a curved piece of clothes hanger or thick wire (formed into a loop) into the back before the leaf is cured.

Artists Little and Lewis  suggest using powdered pigments to color your concrete before creating the leaves. Read more about their approach with hosta leaves here. They have created some really beautiful (and large!) ones using Gunnera leaves, which grow well in the Pacific Northwest.

We haven’t tried the “color-in-the-concrete” approach yet. We do ours in the natural color and then paint after curing is done. Our favorite style is to paint the front and back with black acrylic paint, then rub on powdered metallic powdered pigments (the type often used in Sculpey jewelry projects). We used the Pearl Ex powdered pigment series, and we find silver, gold, bronze, blues, greens, and purples work much better than the pastel colors. We only apply the additional coloring and metallic powder to the front. The back remains black only. Check out Pearl Ex pigments on the Jacquard Products website.

I buy my Pearl Ex pigments from Michael’s or A.C. Moore. They sell them in sets of 12 different colors, or you can buy a larger bottle of one color. It doesn’t take much to cover the leaf. We use a soft cloth (and end up using our fingers) to rub in the pigments, which are very concentrated and go a long way. We find it best to paint the leaf with black acrylic craft paint in order for the metallic pigments to be intense in color when they are applied.

The metallic pigments are stunning and you can get a variegated look using various colors! If you try this style, you’ll need to seal the front of your leaf with an outdoor spray sealant to keep the pigment from rubbing off. I seal the front of the leaves with Krylon’s Make It Last!® Sealer, which has a satin finish and dries (for handling) within two hours.

Don’t expect the colors to hold up 100% in direct sunlight over a few years, though. The paint will chip a little but you can always paint over it and do it again to freshen it up. They still look good chipped and faded, though…sort of a shabby chic, relic-look! And you can try a new color scheme the next time around. Remember to seal after every repainting. Even if you hang or display yours indoors, you’ll still need to seal the pieces so they can be handled. And they certainly won’t fade as soon if they’re used as indoor art.

If you want a solid colored metallic leaf, you can use inexpensive acrylic craft paint instead of the powdered pigments. First, paint the front and back of the leaf solid black (the leaf is porous so it will soak in the black) and then paint the entire front with your colored metallic acrylic paint. After everything is thoroughly dry, seal the front of the leaf with the Krylon Sealer.

The good news: supplies for this project are CHEAP, CHEAP, CHEAP and the results are incredible! The downside? Those bags of quickrete, etc. are HEAVY!

Whichever method you decide to try (Portland cement type 1, Quikrete, Quikrete + vinyl patch, vinyl patch only), I’d love to see your results and will share them on this blog!

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





A Vibrant Morning Wake by Daniel Scott, Jr.

28 07 2011

A few months ago, Daniel (who is a graphic designer in Ft. Worth) contacted me and asked for permission to use a photo I shot of a cluster of Spiderworts blooming at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in March. My college roommate, graphic designer/artist/Austinite and dear friend Sonya (see her whimsical paper clay “Bugs with Attitude” here) took me there for an afternoon of shooting (it was my first visit there).

Daniel gave me a link to his mosaic work and I was duly impressed, so I gave him permission and anxiously awaited the final result. It is nothing short of gorgeous! I’ll be interviewing Daniel for this blog in the not-too-distant future, but wanted to share his inspirational piece now.

From Daniel’s blog, Recycled Consumer Mosaics:
I create artwork entirely from candy wrappers, drink labels, gum wrappers, sugar packets, tea packaging, etc. to utilize marketing brand awareness and color recognition from the marketplace. My swatch palette takes shape as marketing strategies change their client’s image. As each mosaic is made, more layers and techniques are worked through for the best results. That’s what makes this process fresh and unique with each blank slate, ready to be transformed into a work of art.

Below is Daniel’s beautiful mosaic along with the photo that inspired him. Stay tuned for my interview with him!





Humor in the garden

29 06 2011

Photographed on a rainy day at the Huntsville Botanical Gardens in Huntsville, Alabama

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Re-post: Concrete leaf casting

7 05 2011

Originally posted July 2008. This is one of my top visited posts of all time with 8,717 visits to date!

Debbi and I have been making these concrete leaf castings for several years now, and my Garden Club members have also tried their hand at it. There are many sites that show how to make them. This one has step by step instructions with photos.

Since most of the leaves we create are smaller, we don’t often do the chicken wire reinforcement. Larger elephant ears do require a bit of reinforcement, though, and we have made some of those (the larger they are, the more likely you’ll need two people to move it when it’s dry!). Most of the ones we have done are made with leaves from hostas, pokeweed, grape leaves, caladium leaves, and smaller elephant ears. Leaves that have nice, deep veins work best. If you want to hang your leaf on a fence or wall, insert a curved piece of clothes hanger or thick wire (formed into a loop) into the back before the leaf is cured.

Artists Little and Lewis (http://www.littleandlewis.com/) suggest using powdered pigments to color your concrete before creating the leaves. Read more about their approach by going to www.marthastewart.com . Do a search for “concrete leaf casting” to find the segment where Little & Lewis discuss leaf casting and list supplies.

We haven’t tried the “color-in-the-concrete” approach yet. We do ours in the natural color and then paint after curing is done. Our favorite style is to paint the front and back with black acrylic paint, then rub on powdered metallic powdered pigments (the type often used in Sculpey jewelry projects). We used the Pearl Ex powdered pigment series, and we find silver, gold, bronze, blues, greens, and purples work much better than the pastel colors. We only apply the additional coloring and metallic powder to the front. The back remains black only.

Check out Pearl Ex pigments on the Jacquard Products website.

I buy my pigments from Michael’s or A.C. Moore Craft Store. They sell them in sets of 12 different colors, or you can buy a larger bottle of one color. It doesn’t take much to cover the leaf. We use a soft cloth to rub in the pigments, which are very concentrated and go a long way. It is necessary to paint the leaf black (or a dark brown) in order for the metallic pigments to be intense in color.

If you try this style, you’ll need to seal your leaf with an outdoor spray sealant to keep the pigment from rubbing off. The metallic pigments are stunning! Don’t expect them to hold up 100% in direct sunlight over a few years, though. The paint will chip a little but you can always paint over it and do it again to freshen it up. They still look good chipped and faded, though…sort of a shabby chic, relic-look! And you can try a new color scheme the next time around. If you hang or display yours indoors, you’ll still need to seal the pieces so they can be handled. And they certainly won’t fade as soon if they’re used as indoor art.

Here’s another posting I found that lists supplies, steps, and shows leaves painted with acrylic or latex paint.

http://www.garden.org/regional/report/arch/inmygarden/2527

The good news: supplies for this project are CHEAP, CHEAP, CHEAP and the results are incredible! The downside? Those bags of cement/quickrete, etc. are HEAVY!

UPDATE: Thanks to Kim, a fellow garden blogger, for this link to Craig Cramer’s blog, “Ellis Hollow.” Check out his advicehere.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Repost: Photographs? Well, not technically.

28 01 2011

Originally posted 1.28.2010

A few years ago I dabbled in scanning flowers on my Epson flatbed scanner and got some pretty good results. The technique works best if you can cover the flower arrangement with a dark piece of fabric or black cardboard. While the original images were nice “record” shots of my flowers, I wanted to do something more with them. I ran the scanned images through some artsy Photoshop filters to give them a romantic, soft-focus glowy look. So there you have it…photographs without a camera!

Not long after I toyed with the process, I saw an exhibit of photographer Robert Creamer’s images at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. These large-scale works were amazing! He scanned all sorts of things—dead birds, flowers, fruit, bones, and more. You can read more about his Smithsonian exhibit here and see more of his work on his website here. Watch the video here for a demonstration of his setup.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





And the entries just keep a’comin’…

13 06 2010

Below are three entrants (and the only entrants thus far, bless them) of my Polaroid Notecards Essay Contest. Thanks to Alex, Bo and CheyAnne for submitting their wonderful essays. Read more about the contest (you, too, could win!) here. Contest rules and regulations can be found here. And remember, just like the Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes—if you don’t enter, you can’t win!

CONTESTANT #1
First up is Alex Solla, of Cold Springs Studio Pottery and Photography, in Trumansburg, NY. (Be sure to check out his website below—he and his wife, Nancy, create beautiful pottery in truly yummy colors!) To preface his essay, Alex wrote: “Alright Cindy, you win. I held out because I figured you would be inundated with stories and after the umpteenth,the last thing you would want is to hear yet another gardening story. Having held a few contests over at my pottery blog, I know that a lot of times, folks just don’t anty up. No clue as to why. So here’s your story:

Ten years ago this August, I bought the house we live in. A month later I met my wife Nancy. One of our first goals was to clean up the yard and prepare a veggie garden. For the most part this yard was as flat as a pancake. The only distinguishing features were tall white pines lining the driveway, a huge blue spruce next to a very old outhouse and between both…was this enormous pile of blackberry brambles and grapevine. Fifty feet on all sides—it was HUGE! We tried at first to mow it. Broke a very expensive old riding mower. Ripped the transmission completely out of the machine. Then we tried the age old jungle solution: the machete. After a few near misses with my shins, we called that experiment done. That night, as my wife and I sat soaked in sweat, trying to imagine the dirt under all that overgrowth, our neighbor arrived. Most folks have neighbors who go to work at a normal hour and mow the yard on the weekend. Not mine. He’s an excavator, so he is up before 5 a.m. revving engines of his dozers and backhoes and such. Well, he took one look at our project and zipped back over to his house. The next thing we know, he is driving a monster backhoe through our yard. He spent the next hour as the sun set, ripping out roots of grapevines that were huge stumps! He took all of this green and by the time he went home, we could see DIRT! With all the plant material staring us in the face, we took some of the other move-in detritus and made the most beautiful burn pile. A week later, we had cleared, fenced, rich soil.

Because of all that sweat and toil, the first plants to grow into this garden held a special place in my heart. I had never photographed flowers or plants before, but as soon as we had color that spring, I was out in the garden shooting every flower I could catch. This started my love affair with plant photography. Your blog has been a huge inspiration. Your color saturation is just amazing. If you ever have time, would you consider writing a tutorial about how you capture such fantastic images?

Alex Solla
Cold Springs Studio Pottery and Photography
Trumansburg, NY

Website: www.coldspringsstudio.com

Blog: http://oohmyheck.blogspot.com 

HEAD JUDGE’S NOTE: Alex wins extra points (and possibly extra notecards!) by shamelessly flattering the head judge at the end of his essay! And to answer your question about writing a garden photography tutorial—it’s in the works, so please stay tuned.

_________________________________________________

CONTESTANT #2
Next up is Bo Mackison, of Seeded Earth Studio, LLC, in Madison, Wisconsin. Bo is a frequent contributor to WisconsinNative.com, writing and photographing for both the Wandering Wisconsin and Travel Green. Her photography has been featured in regional and national architectural magazines, national travel guides and in a book on Functional Architecture published in 2009.

I have only a fairly small garden, maybe four or five dozen perennials. And each spring and summer, these eagerly awaited for blooms are half eaten by the rabbits in my yard who are attracted by my gourmet floral dinners. They are particularly fond of my coral bells, sweet williams, and balloon flowers. I have taken to spraying the garden with a foul smelling concoction—organic and putrid. It reminds me of a spoiled milk, rotten egg combination, plus a few other horrible odors thrown in for good measure. It successfully keeps the rabbits away, so I can still enjoy looking at my flowers, but it totally prevents me from photographing my flowers.

Perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad if I could shoot and run. Grab my camera, hold my breath, run up, and take a quick snapshot. Unfortunately, that is not my photographic style. I like to get close when photographing my flowers. Really close. I like to study the angles and natural lighting, brush off specks of dirt and remove wandering insects. More often than not, I find myself lying on the earth, looking straight up the stem of a flowering plant, trying to capture an unusual perspective. I can do none of this when the plants are saturated in “Stinky-Rabbit-Keep-Away.”

I have solved my problem with a compromise. I spray my garden so I can at least enjoy the beauty of the flowers. And then I travel a few miles down the road to a wonderful garden planted by the University of Wisconsin’s Department of Horticulture. In a garden less than 2.5 acres, there are literally thousands of plants, many of them experimental, so there are many opportunities for me to look for that special blossom. 

I truly have a feast of flowers to photograph, and without any assault to my nose. The garden’s tall fences do a great job of protecting the flowers and plants from hungry critters. And I can take my photographs at my leisure, sometimes spending several hours in the garden, often flat on my back, three or four days a week. 

Yes, my idea of heaven on earth! Literally.

Bo Mackison
Seeded Earth Studio LLC
Madison, WI  

Blog: http://seededearth.com

Website: http://historicplacesphotography.com

_________________________________________________

CONTESTANT #2
And last, but not least, is CheyAnne Sexton, a talented watercolor artist and photographer from New Mexico.

Let’s see, where to start. Quite a few years ago, while I was raising our babies in a little mobile home park in the mountains west of Durango, Colorado, I started to garden. I loved this space we had been living in just because of the water available to use in the garden. The area was a canyon that ran north and south, so in the summer when it was blazing hot in the Colorado sun, my yard was in cool, wonderful shade. I loved this yard, but it was sadly very bare. Too many people had lived and moved away without caring about the earth around them.

An older woman in the neighborhood asked me to come and help in her yard and my husband agreed to watch the little ones. Her yard was overtaken with these beautiful little yellow flowers. I found out later that they were buttercups. I fell in love immediately. They had deep green leaves and bright, bright yellow cups about the size of my thumb. They spread by runners and grew short in the sunshine but longer and more leggy in the shade. Well, this woman wanted me to pull them all and throw them away. I couldn’t bare the thought of throwing these beauties out so I asked if it was alright to keep them myself. She assured me I really didn’t want to, but please help myself and please try to get them all. I had learned the hard way that it’s a lot easier to pull “weeds” if the ground is wet, so I soaked and pulled, and pulled and pulled them all. Her yard look so bare, I felt guilty, but I was so happy because I had soda cardboard flats full of these wonderful little creatures to take back to my own bare yard. Another lesson I learned quickly—It’s a lot easier to pull than plant! But plant I did, for quite a few days and still I had more left. I started giving them away to other neighbors and finally I left the couple of remaining flats lying by the strawberry bed, determined to not care if just these 40 or so remaining plants died, because I had already saved sooooo many. Even these grew from the little bit of guilty watering I did when I watered the strawberries.

These little buttercups grew everywhere I planted them and even beyond there to places out of reach. It was wonderful to watch. In fact, a few years later I dug up invading ones and sold them to a local nursery in town. Fun, fun, fun! Buttercups are still one of my favorite flowers to see. I don’t have any here in northern New Mexico and I’m not sure I will. They do like lots of water, and since we haul all our water for plantings, that amount is just not feasible right now. In fact, I have seen a similar variety growing by the acequias here. I have yet to investigate—I’m a little afraid that I would fall in love all over again with their sweet little yellow faces. I have been known to get out my trusty little foldable garden shovel for just such inspirations!

Blog: http://newmexicomtngirl.com/

Paintings and photography for sale:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/newmexicomtngirl/
http://www.redbubble.com/people/nmexicomtngirl
http://www.etsy.com/shop/cheyannesexton





Interview: John Black, landscape designer

12 05 2010

I discovered John Black and Verdance Fine Garden Design when his blog link appeared in my Referrer column on my WordPress stats page earlier this year. I visited his blog, A Verdant Life, and learned that John was featured on HGTV’s Landscape Smart and Landscapers’ Challenge series. Be sure to visit his blog—he’s an engaging writer and a great resource for tips on design, landscaping and all things garden.

Since I began gardening about eight years ago, I’ve fantasized about a career in garden design. Utter curiosity compelled me to ask him if I could interview him to learn about what a career in landscape design entails. I sent him the following questions and he responded with witty and insightful answers to all of them. Thanks, John, for being a source of inspiration to me and for taking the time to be part of my blog. All photos and illlustrations © John Black/Verdance Fine Garden Design.

From John’s blog: As principal of Verdance Fine Garden Design, John gives homeowners the big picture that reveals their property’s full potential and inspires a delight-full landscape. His imaginative yet practical designs come to life through detailed plans, with architectural elements and plant combinations that are not only interesting and beautiful but also appropriate to the owner and the environment. John is a member of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers (APLD), the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), and the California Landscape Contractors Association (CLCA). His work has been featured on HGTV’s Landscape Smart and Landscapers’ Challenge series.

What does a landscape designer do?
In broadest terms, I would say a “landscape designer” is anyone who makes plans to improve the outdoor environment. But it’s a vast and debated title, and “improvement” is subjective. Is the mow-and-blow gardener who also plants petunias in his clients’ yards a landscape designer? What about the commercial architect who fronts her buildings with über-thirsty lawns? They both create landscapes, for better and for worse. Personally, I would hope anyone who calls themselves a landscape designer is fairly knowledgeable about design, horticulture, outdoor materials, and ecology, and applies that knowledge in site-specific and artful ways.

What skills are required to be a landscape designer?
Landscape design is a lot like other “design” fields, governed by principles such as form, contrast, hierarchy, rhythm, line, color and so on. These are important in both the planning of our ideas and the visual communication of them—the plans we present to our clients. Landscape designers need comprehensive knowledge of a broad palette of materials, from plants to paving materials, finishes, textiles, lighting and furnishings. We should have some sense of designs that precede us, either to emulate them or evolve them. Obviously, we need to understand our clients’ wishes, and local environmental conditions. But the best landscape designers I know evoke rich emotional responses with very simple and subtle gestures. And to achieve that, we must understand human nature—what people respond to, what brings us pleasure, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and so on. The spaces we create can have a profound influence on our fellow humans, and we really ought to know what we’re doing.

How did you initially decide to study landscape design? Where did you study? Your blog mentions you worked for an ad agency “in a previous life.” Tell me about your profession before embarking on a landscape design career.
I graduated from Stanford University with a bachelor’s degree in Communication and a master’s degree in Sociology, intent on becoming a hotshot advertising copywriter. One thing I forgot, though, was to get any real copywriting experience. So I spent the next five years managing accounts at one of San Francisco’s premier agencies, basically running interference between our hotshot copywriters and our clientele. It was fantastic preparation for what I’m doing now, for both teaching me how the creative process works and how to represent a creative product and manage its production. I ultimately did go on to be a copywriter, but would never have been very successful at either that career or this one without first being an agency “suit.” It’s really striking to me how similar the two businesses are: they may deal in different media, but ultimately they both develop creatively strategic responses to human needs. I had been gardening a lot since moving to a new house, and after advertising lost its allure for me, I found that landscape design scratched that same itch, but with a kinder and gentler… uh… scratchy thing.

Tell me about Verdance Fine Garden Design.
Verdance Fine Garden Design was started in 2003, in the back bedroom of my house in Palo Alto. Since then I’ve moved out to an office within seventeen paces of three coffee shops, which has been great for my productivity (but not so great for any papers, keyboards, carpeting, etc. within spilling distance). The focus of my work is residential gardens throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, from San José up to San Francisco and over to Berkeley and Oakland. When I began my practice, a lot of my designs were the rumpled, English cottage garden style that I really enjoy. Since then, I’ve become a lot more proficient in contemporary, efficient designs that use fewer species to greater effect. I tend to focus a lot on the structure of the spaces I design, not just the plants. I also use a lot of plants whose foliage, rather than flowers, is the main attraction. And, because we’ve been through three years of drought and counting, I tend to select water-thrifty plants instead of gratuitous lawns.

What area of the field do you specialize in? How is your specialty different from other areas of the field?
A few ways to organize the different areas of this broad field are along lines of small-scale (e.g. residential) versus large (commercial or public); renovation (garden makeovers) vs. restoration (of natural lands); and native (or adapted) vegetation versus exotic. Another way to think about the work is, who is the ultimate client? For instance, a front-yard garden might be designed for the owner’s pleasure, or might actually be to invite the admiration of passers-by; a wetland habitat might be restored to encourage native shorebirds to nest; a detention basin or stream might be designed to purify the stormwater that passes through it. My work is limited to residential gardens, but I’m always conscious of all of a garden’s clients: the humans who live there, the others who pass by, the local ecology. It’s not enough for a space I create to be “pretty”—it has to be smart, functional and improve the world as well.

Do you work initially from sketches and then translate them to the computer with software? Could you explain the process of a garden’s design—from meeting with the client to conceptualization to sketching to presentation to implementation?
The first step is to define the nature of the work: what are we trying to achieve? What are the problems to solve, needs to meet, preferences to fulfill? What’s the budget? The timeline? I have a questionnaire I use to help guide my clients and clarify their wishes. Once we understand our qualitative goals, it’s time to define the quantitative aspects of the work: documenting the site’s measurements, sun exposure, soil type, existing vegetation and hardscape, structures, and so on.

This provides the basis for the development of design concepts. I begin with some quick functional diagrams: what spaces are we looking to create, and how should they relate with the site and with each other? Should the dining patio be next to the kids’ play area, or removed from it? What happens if we put the vegetable beds up close to the house, versus tucked away in a corner? The goal here is to quickly sketch out as many variations as possible, to fully explore what works, and doesn’t, and why. As these relationships become better defined, I move on to the design concept phase, putting forms to function: how large should that dining patio be? Should the veggie beds be arranged formally?

I’m still sketching at this point, but the lines are getting tighter and dimensions are becoming relatively accurate. I’ll review a few concepts with my client to get their feedback; once we have a solid direction to go in, I’ll refine the concept into the schematic (or preliminary, or illustrative) design, which is to scale with accurate dimensions and representative color, maybe some perspective views, and key features or specimen plants called out (even if we don’t know all the plants or materials/finishes just yet). This gives my client a sense of the look and feel of the new space; and with their approval, I’ll develop the implementation plans, including a detailed planting plan as well as conceptual diagrams for hardscape, lighting, materials and finishes, etc. This is what the homeowner gives their contractor to install from, and I also show up during installation to answer questions and make sure the plan is being implemented consistently with our vision. I’ll also purchase plants, pots, furnishings and accessories for my clients. And, I follow up after installation is complete to make sure everything is growing and wearing the way we expect.

What are some common myths about the profession?
The single biggest misconception I hear is that landscape designers spend all our time working with plants, buying them at the nursery and/or setting them in place. The reality is that most of my time is spent in my studio, either at the drafting table or at the computer, not only drafting but also taking care of all the administrative details that any business requires: bookkeeping, researching products, marketing, writing proposals, returning emails and phone calls, and plenty of other behind-the-scenes work that has nothing to do with plants.

Another common confusion is that landscape designers are the ones installing the landscape. Although some designers are also licensed as contractors, for the most part our work ends with the installation plans; if there’s any confusion, the soft hands and clean fingernails should give us away. I think it’s also a myth that landscape designers are de facto gardeners: even though I enjoy gardening, I’m not a “gardener” or a “plant geek” by any stretch, and my own yard is horribly out of shape.

Finally, it absolutely is a myth that kissing a landscape designer makes you go blind.

Who (or what) are the biggest inspirations for your career?
For my career, I’m inspired by any entrepreneur who can balance doing the creative work they love with the mind-numbing administrative necessities like bookkeeping. For plans and presentation graphics, I’m inspired by the usual garden design and landscape architecture magazines like, yes, Garden Design and Landscape Architecture, as well as journals like I.D. Magazine and Communication Arts, and Edward Tufte’s work on visual displays of information. When I was beginning my education, I watched HGTV religiously, although I don’t find their shows quite as inspiring today. For plant combinations, there are countless landscape designers and architects, both contemporary and historic, whose work I would be honored to emulate; but on any given day, I’m more inspired by just walking around the neighborhood and seeing what nature is doing all on her own.

Describe a typical week of work for you. What exactly do you do? What are your key responsibilities?
Usually my week is divided among administrative work like bookkeeping; marketing work like emails or blogging; developing or refining design ideas; visiting nurseries or other vendors; and meeting with new or current clientele. Right now I’m also teaching a continuing-education short course on personalized garden design. In school one of my instructors encouraged us to think about what times of day we were best at what tasks: I tend to be most creative in the morning, so that’s when I’ll sketch out ideas. My meetings and phone calls are often scheduled for late morning or early afternoon, when I’m still thinking pretty clearly. By afternoon I’m best at researching and organizing information; I spend a lot of time online, where I can quickly research plants and landscape materials. And most of my email communication and administrative stuff tends to happen in the evening (although I’ll often let it sit overnight and review it in the morning with fresh eyes). I do subcontract some aspects of the planning to other designers, but ultimately I am responsible for the overall design concept and key features. I also make sure that conceptual drawings or plans meet my standards for graphics and “look and feel,” and sometimes coloring or rendering plans makes for a nice way to end the day.

What are the most challenging aspects of your job? Most rewarding?
The most challenging aspect of my job probably is the same challenge most entrepreneurs and sole proprietors face: having to wear so many hats other than the one we enjoy most. I’m not a bookkeeper, so it’s often an afterthought to send out invoices—usually prompted by realizing my bank account is almost empty. Project management is a necessary evil for me; I would rather spend all my time designing, but the two go hand in hand because the design continues to evolve throughout installation. It’s also challenging to keep a design within budget, since there are so many variables that impact project costs: types of materials, quantities and sizes of plants, even the time of year. I depend on the contractors who install my work to give me a heads-up if they see anything in the design they feel could be achieved more economically. Finally, it can be challenging to make every design unique and not recycle “formulas” for plants, materials or features that have worked in the past.

The most rewarding aspect of my job is stepping back once an installation is complete and seeing my design actualized. Sometimes there’s a wave of relief if it’s been a particularly complicated job that turns out well; sometimes there’s just the satisfaction of seeing something that has existed on paper or in my imagination literally come to life. At the risk of sounding immodest, often I pat myself on the back when a plant combination I’m trying for the first time, or a unique new feature I’ve dreamed up, works and looks like a million bucks. It’s also hard to beat the feeling when a client tells me how delighted she is with the new garden, or when we see the first hummingbird checking out the new flowers. That’s when I feel I’ve really created something and made a lasting contribution.

What do you consider your greatest success? Biggest setback?
It always feels like a setback when a project doesn’t come to fruition for one reason or another. Usually it’s a matter of limited budget delaying a plan’s implementation, but there have been times when my clients and I parted ways before the design was complete. I put so much of my heart and my imagination into a project that it’s difficult to not feel these setbacks as personal failures. However, each of them is a priceless opportunity to learn how I can improve my process. I’ve been very lucky to have had no setback worse than a little lost work.

Conversely, any time a design makes it into reality, it feels like a success. But I would say my greatest success was getting a call from HGTV’s Landscapers’ Challenge show, inviting me to participate in an upcoming segment. From my earliest days studying landscape design, I had watched that show and analyzed the designs, their presentation and their installation. However, because the show was set in Southern California and I’m in Northern California, I figured I would never have the chance to be part of it. Little did I know they were branching out, and taping segments up in my area! I made sure my design was as good as any I had seen on the show before; and I was thrilled to win the challenge and have my work featured on national television.

What projects rank among your favorites? Why do they stand out?
The Landscapers’ Challenge project was one, simply for sheer marquee value. Another was the first project I did with HGTV’s Landscape Smart, which was a lesson in doing good, inexpensive work quickly; my design was very ambitious, and at the end of the first day I was sure we’d never finish. (We did, beautifully.) The big jobs that are impressive to behold are favorites because they look great in my portfolio. But sometimes the little projects, like a tiny townhouse patio, are favorites for the innovation and attention to detail they demand. My projects are kind of like children: each one is different, but I’m hard-pressed to say I like one better than another. Usually.

What are the tools of the trade that you use the most? Favorite gadget?
I never visit a site without my 300-foot measuring tape. A roll of tracing paper is invaluable both in the office and in the field. My Moleskine sketchbook and Pilot Precise V5 pen are almost always with me. I run most of my business from my MacBook Pro, and I have a love/hate relationship with VectorWorks CAD software. I love my Copic color markers, especially the #0 colorless blender. One of my favorite gadgets is Google SketchUp, which I use to explore design ideas between the functional diagram and schematic design phases. The two images (left) illustrate how SketchUp lets me quickly evolve and reality-test ideas, and I can still add a layer of manual illustration if necessary for look and feel. Actually, my favorite gadget may be one I don’t own—a laser level for measuring slopes.

What are some of your professional goals for the future?
Here in California, landscape designers are not licensed as landscape architects and contractors are. As a result, the scope of services we’re allowed to provide is limited, mostly to design concepts and planting plans for single-family residences. I’m working toward licensure as a landscape architect so that I’ll be able to develop my designs in fuller detail, as well as serve a broader range of clientele. I’d also like to continue expanding my practice, bringing on additional designers not only for the extra hands, but also for fresh input and cross-pollination of ideas. And, I’ve often thought it would be fun to create a display garden at an exhibition like the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show—although that would be an extraordinary commitment of time and resources.

What’s the most important advice you could give to someone interested in becoming a landscape designer?
For better or for worse, it’s extremely easy to call yourself a landscape designer. There’s no aptitude test, no license, no oversight. As a result, there’s a lot of room to run your business your own way; but also a lot of room for error. Especially just starting out and likely self-employed, it can be difficult to develop discipline and pursue landscape design as a business, not just a glorified hobby. The most important advice I could offer probably would be to join an organization like the APLD, get to know other designers in your area, and learn as much as you can from them about how to develop your skills and build a robust practice. You don’t have to do things exactly as they do, but they’ll be good and bad examples from which to learn.

What is the average salary for your field? What are people at the top of the profession paid?
Compensation is incredibly difficult to estimate, because the profession is so loosely defined and diverse. The self-employed landscape designer might charge $50 per hour, or three times that. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2008 put the median annual salary for landscape architects at about $59,000 (although I have no idea what level of experience that reflects). In general, I think most of us recognize that this is not a business which will make us rich, at least not financially. The rewards tend to be much more intrinsic, such as the satisfaction of seeing a concept built or doing right by the environment.

What is your impression of online landscape design programs geared to someone who isn’t able to attend school full-time?
Because there’s no national accreditation of landscape designers or landscape design schools, there are a lot of programs out there from which to choose, and none is necessarily any better or worse than another. Different programs will fit different interests and situations, whether that means going to school full-time, part-time, at night, on weekends or online. Obviously, it’s important to research what a program entails—what’s the full curriculum, what are the instructor(s)’s credentials, what sort of a portfolio will the student develop? For that matter, is a formal program even necessary? There are plenty of books that the self-directed individual could follow to get a decent education in landscape design. For me, one of the most important criteria was the opportunity to get detailed, personal critiques from an experienced designer. This helps ensure that the students learn to communicate their vision effectively, both in concepts and in detailed plans. And, I would want to see that a program teaches students to draft by hand, which is a vital precursor to any design work including digital drafting.

Are there any particular landscape design schools you would recommend for someone wishing to become a landscape designer?
While there are schools that are known for their landscape architecture programs, these are distinct from landscape design, usually embracing a more theoretical and abstract study of land planning and open space development. For landscape design, again because there are no national or state standards, the student might look into the expertise of the faculty; what types of careers program graduates go on to have; whether the program emphasizes design, construction, horticulture, golf course management, etc.; and what sort of portfolios are coming out of the program. The local chapter of APLD might be able to provide more information about a particular school as well. Remember, it’s possible to become a garden designer with no formal training. On-the-job education—particularly learning how landscapes are installed—is as important as anything you could learn in a classroom.

Finally, do you have favorite plants that you frequently work into your landscape designs? What are they and why are they a “must” in  your designs?
I am forever making notes about new favorite plants, and forever making new notes with new new favorites! In general, I am attracted to plants with interesting foliage, since they’ll look good regardless of whether the plant is in bloom or not. Some of my favorites include Coleonema ‘Sunset Gold’, Spirea ‘Goldflame’, Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’ and Salvia chamaedryoides. I’m also a sucker for native or climate-adapted plants which perform well in ordinary garden settings without demanding too much water or care. At the top of this list are Carpenteria californica, Salvia spathacea and almost any Phormium variety. When there’s room, I enjoy planting great drifts of grasses and grass-like plants, such Carex tumulicola, Panicum virgatum and Muhlenbergia capillaris. I love using shrubs and trees that have colorful foliage in the fall, such as Parrotia persica, Acer circinatum, Quercus coccinea and Nyssa sylvatica. For all of these favorites, though, every design is unique to the place and the people who live there; so there are hundreds more plants that I consider “favorites” for any given circumstance. Ask me again tomorrow!

© Cindy Dyer/Dyer Design and John Black/Verdance Fine Garden Design