A riot of spring windows

Spring has sprung in Montana: yellowbells bloom on the stark crown of Waterworks Hill, western meadowlarks trill from every country fencepost. Baby lupine leaves and baby bluebell buds unfurl toward the sun.

To go along with this, here’s a crop of new art, made much kinder to paint by the longer days. Somehow every window I’ve painted in the past month has been botanical in one way or another. I think Montanans are thirsting for life after the winter…

cloth_crown_bothCloth & Crown is an upscale, downtown clothing boutique. The staff is 100% lithe, long-limbed and glossy-haired, to which I am an amusing contrast, blundering around with dropcloths and step ladders, bundled in four layers of baggy, spattered clothing. The owner adores succulents – there are clever pots of them all about the store, and a window box hanging outside – so I had real models for these borders.

(As a glimpse into the process, here are the sketches I gave her for this job:

Please ignore the inkblot. Darn leaky Rapidograph...
Please ignore the inkblot.

Four possibilities, each depicted in half a window. I always give options, even if the client has something very specific in mind. At least half the time, they end up going with something slightly different, or upgrading to a more whimsical or elaborate design. The client can pick one option, or combine favorite elements from multiple panels– in this case, she chose the inner contour of design #1, but with the dense coverage of design #2. Sketching isn’t public or glamorous, but I enjoy the brainstorming and detail work it involves.)

Then Rich at R. P. Ellis Fine Jewelry asked me to springify his displays. It began snowing half an hour in, and intensified to the point of soaking by the end. Brrr! But these glacier lilies, violets, bunchberries and trillium can’t possibly freeze:

That’s a trick I learned from Jo Knox: always paint in particular. No generic forms. Though it requires more research and time, three joys result. One, those who know biology will appreciate the references, little inside jokes, wink wink! Two, even those who don’t recognize the forms will still perceive greater quality and variety. And three, it is a chance for me as an amateur naturalist to study and remember each kind. Bingo.

Next, it was time for my winter painting on the following window, a snowlady with a bluebird on her branch, to come down. Janae at Très Chic wanted something floral but not green, as her interiors are already extremely limey. So: stylized poppies, outlined in metallic silver.

Poppies... poppies will make her chic!
Poppies… poppies will make her chic!

And finally, a couple Grand Opening windows for the new store Copperopolis, which is an interior decorating store bursting with elaborate, ever-blooming (that is to say, faux) floral arrangements. So I painted a few more faux flora to add to the deception: arrowleaf balsamroot, which will perhaps be blooming somewhere by April 15-16.


For my own pleasure, I’ve been painting little watercolors of flowers from that thrilling read, the Alfred A. Knopf National Audubon Society Field Guide to Wildflowers, Western Region:

Desert poppy
Desert poppy
Shooting star, sierra primrose
Shooting star, sierra primrose

Having done six of them, I decided that much more field research is in order. Meaning… get out there and hike around, breathe it in, stare at the sky, and the dirt, and everything in between! Olé!

P.S. One more spring exuberance, though the painting is not new… here’s the ZWAP! logo put to good use as a backdrop for a crop of freshly trained Zero Waste Ambassadors. They all get to sign the wall after the class.

Also, goofballs.

9 Replies to “A riot of spring windows”

  1. Wow! What beautiful and varied work! I love hearing about your approach to making things non-generic, and the succinct phrase, “three joys result.” Also, the poppy pun is terrible. 😉

  2. I’ve just begun doing some hand-painted lettering work for my sister’s business. Your posts make me wish I had trained with you and Jo! Any chance you’d be willing to take on an apprentice? If only I lived closer. I’m in awe of your skill.

  3. Wow!!! Another amazing description of your totally amazing art work and gifts to the rest of us! Thanks so much for the beauty you add on the windows and in these posts!

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