Kelly's large scale Garden watercolor in process
My personal project lately has been learning more about plants and shedding my general fear of not being an expert. Not long ago, I was the lady that lurked around the nursery, afraid to ask questions. But I've now embraced the wonderful unknown, experimenting more with new plant and flower varieties in my backyard and home—and I am having a really good time of it too!
I recently got to thinking about how fun it would be to chat with a fellow plant lover (and plant painter) about her background with botanicals and how she came to be so comfortable with this beautiful element of nature. So, I'll stop my rambling and let my friend Kelly Ventura take over this plant show.
A finished Garden mural
Nature plays such a profound role in your designs. Can you tell us a little bit about your history with plants? Are you an avid gardener or do you consider yourself more of an observer of nature?
I am definitely an observer and admirer of nature. I am so intrigued by the color, texture and quirky little details we are surrounded by outdoors. The way a fiddlehead fern unfurls, how those tiny specks of color appear inside of a foxglove blossom to the whimsical whispy leaves of cosmos. It's like this magical little world right in front of us. I loved both science and art growing up and tried to merge the two when attending college, thinking that Scientific Illustration was the perfect path for me. It turns out that drawing bones, plants, insects and organs in that realistic fashion was not for me.....I was longing for a more gestural and expressive approach. Watercolor was that perfect medium for me and I love that science and nature has continued to be such a strong focus all these years later.
I love the following quotes....they sum up how I feel about the tiny discoveries in nature that feel really big and delightful. Those tiny, unexpected things that grow into something incredible and meaningful.
You are currently living in Michigan with your husband and three boys. Do you have any favorite family outdoor adventures or parks you like to visit that bring you inspiration or function as a recharge for you?
Michigan is such a beautiful state, with exception to the extra long and dreary winters. We are fortunate to have family in northern Michigan, where we visit often during all four of the seasons. We love escaping to Elk Rapids as often as possible. It's always refreshing for our entire family to step into the charm of this little town; where we are surrounded by its natural beauty, crystal clear lakes, plenty of hiking trails and tons of rock hunting on the beach. I am always collecting little piles of stones, driftwood, beach grass and snapping photos to use as inspiration back in the studio.
An overhead shot of Elk River in Elk Rapids, MI
I've seen some gorgeous house plants on your Instagram feed. About 10 years ago, I was that person who only brought plants like Christmas trees into my home (because their destiny was preset and I didn't have to feel so bad about my greyish thumb). But over time, I have stopped being so hard on myself and just dived right into the world of plants in my living space. Happy to report my thumb is leaning more towards a ripe shade of green these days too. Do you have any plants that you like to keep in your home for beauty and maybe others you have around to influence overall health and wellness in your spaces?
I love a good house plant and love the hunt for one in need of rescue even more! My studio has really high ceilings and gorgeous natural light, so we knew we needed to fill our space with plenty of plants and trees when we moved in a few years ago. I'm happy to report that we have eight thriving trees and they bring us such joy everyday. Checking in on any new growth has been a weekly practice for Jen and I, we still get so excited when the fiddle leaf sprouts a new leaf or the rubber tree gets a new node. Most of my trees have come from Facebook marketplace, but our best find is our 16' fiddle leaf fig, Margot. We spotted it on an estate sale listing, dried up and needing some serious TLC. Jen and I rented a uhaul, picked up this 50+ year old tree, carried it up to our third floor studio and nearly two years later, it is absolutely thriving up here!
Left: Margot when she first came to live in Kelly's studio; Right: Margot, thriving thanks to the care of Kelly and Jen
Any favorite books/films/online sources that you suggest in relation to nature?
I have a small collection of vintage botanical books that I love to reference when beginning new work. Most of my florals and botanical paintings end up with made up and imagined stems and leaves, but having a strong point of reference to spark an idea is always a nice foundation. Edith S. Clements has the most lovely series of flower books; Flowers of Mountains and Plain & Flowers of Coast and Sierra are a couple of my favorites. I also love referencing The Art of Botanical Illustration by Martyn Rix. Connecting with local floral farms has been a huge source of inspiration for my work over the past few years as well. Seeing and learning about the process involved in getting that perfect little blossom is such an art in itself.
Flowers of Mountain and Plain by Edith S Clements
Do you have any nature focused dream trips you'd like to take?
I'm not sure if there is any specific location that I'm interested in, but I would absolutely love to spend a full week anywhere with a sketchbook and watercolors to work from what's around me. Being fully immersed and taking in my surroundings as color, texture and specimen inspiration would be such a dream.
Eden in process
Last question, could you tell us a bit more about one of your wallpaper or fabric designs and the specific inspiration behind it in relation to plants and/or flowers?
Eden is one of our favorite patterns of the recently launched textile collection (which may be coming as a wallpaper really soon ;) Full of color and playful shapes. I imagine someone walking through a mossy, thick forest and coming to a clearing of these tiny pops of color pushing up through the shadowy forest floor. A joyful little resting spot.