The Next Best Thing

February in upstate New York is typically cold and cloudy. With two months of winter already past and another two on the horizon before spring arrives, it’s time to head to the tropics or the desert for a midwinter getaway. Except when you can’t. Then, we have to settle for the next best thing: a trip to a greenhouse. I spent yesterday afternoon at the Lyman Conservatory at Smith College in Massachusetts and it felt like paradise. Warmth. Light. Rooms full of greenery. Art supplies in hand. What could be better?

Tips and Techniques– Based on my experience at the conservatory, my tip this week is: don’t give up too soon on half-baked sketches. Painting conditions at the greenhouse were difficult—tight aisles, lots of people, and no way to spread out or relax while painting. I painted both of these pages standing up, and believe me, they were very rough watercolors when it was time to leave. Nevertheless, I had the concept and basic colors down, which enabled me to add details and text when I got home. How many times have you found yourself in the field without enough time to finish? I say: at least get started. Take some notes or a photo and finish later.

20 Comments on “The Next Best Thing

  1. Both exquisite, Jean. Really drawn to your Green Fix. The colors of spring! As Mother Nature’s latest gift of snow and sleet have come down today, I’ve been working on sketches of a snow encrusted fence with the touches of green provided by the hemlocks and white pines amid the oaks and several kinds of birches, all from the semi warmth of my porch. So glad to have pen and ink, and watercolor to alleviate this long winter.

    • I agree Sherry. The winter always seems long, and after awhile, I need that Green Fix to get me through. And yes, thank goodness for pens and paint to help us see the beauty of snow and gray skies.

  2. I like both of these watercolors very much. I’m an Upstate NY’er, too, currently living in Milwaukee (even colder!) and they have the huge Mitchell Domes here, one tropical, one desert – – great places to bask when it’s subzero outside.

      • I’ve wandered around the Lamberton Conservatory in Rochester many times, and the much grander one in Buffalo, those are c. 1900 I think, but the comparable one on Milwaukee was taken down in the ‘50’s and replaced with these big domes, shaped a bit like an old straw bee skep. The one in Buffalo is a lot like NYC’s, I think.

  3. As always, really beautiful. I have to laugh, though. I have been painting snow scenes because where I live the birds-of-paradise and cacti are about 50 feet away . . . .

  4. Oh! How gorgeous! I crave green this time of year too I have no such place to resort but the plant tables of Home Depot! Thank you for transporting us where color exists this time of year! Well done!

  5. Pure pleasure,a glass house in winter. I’m not sure how far Smith is from you, but it’s not right around the corner is it? But well wroth it! I have a choice of Vancouver (2 hr) or Seattle (1.75 hr) at this point. And lots of traffic, and trouble parking….so maybe I will live it vicariously. Thank you!

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