I was passing by our local art gallery the other day, feeling rushed and worried. Then I noticed these gorgeous paintings. They’re a collaboration by Cindra Avery and Melissa Newell who are both local Northwest artists. I couldn’t stop gazing at these magnificent paintings of leaves. They locked me into a trance of admiration. I felt my breath slow, my vision calm. After a few moments, I walked away, reminded of how much a few plant paintings can lower stress and soothe the soul.
Collaborative by Nature
The pieces together are called “Collaborative by Nature.” As the artists say, “It represents a six-year creative collaboration focused on the natural world. The impetus for this work was based on our shared interests in gardening, birds, collage and mixed media design.”
The artists describe how the theme emerged organically: “We passed pieces back and forth until both of us felt we had fully explored the material, the surfaces, and finally, the meaning. When we first started this experiment in creative collaboration, we were often surprised and a bit unnerved by the work we received and briefly left with ‘What am I supposed to do?’ … Over time our pieces and work evolved, with each of us responding to the marks, color use and forms as we pushed each other in new directions.”
They’re Just Leaves But…
What is it about an artistic manifestation of plants that’s so alluring? After all, the actual subjects are just leaves. But something in my brain locked onto those recognizable images and then studied their unique curvatures, textures, and color. It was as if I’d seen those plants and yet hadn’t seen them. Avery and Newell had rendered their essence in the plant paintings but via an elevated interpretation that offered something wholly new to the world.
If you’d like to learn more about these wonderful artists, check out Melissa’s website here.
In my house, I have books in multiple rooms but my most favorite reading space is in a sitting room off the kitchen. It’s a simple area, a couple of bookcases and a chair. It’s not the one pictured above but if you subscribe to my newsletter, you’ve probably seen it. In winter, it’s cozy with a view of the garden and a lot of light. Lately, I’ve been thinking about how important a space like this is to the psyche.
What It Offers
It’s actually a snug area, about five by twelve feet, but the effect it has on me is enormous. This is because my favorite things are on the shelves. And first off, those are books. The fiction is handy to read for fun or inspiration or to learn the writing craft better. The poetry has sentimental value. There are travel books to remind me where I’ve been and gardening books to lose myself inside of.
Second, the physical newspapers and magazines in which I’ve been published are in a decorative box. Even though I don’t look at them often, I liked having a tiny reminder of small accomplishments. Third, I have a few small paintings on and near the shelves, always within sight. They remind me of my dear old dog and Paris and flowers. Lastly, a fake plant sits atop the case. It’s pretty impossible to grow anything up there so I’ve put a fake plant on display to remind me of the outside. And, if we’re getting technical, I have a live plant beside the window. Seeing green things makes me happy.
Why It Matters
For any book lover, this kind of space offers a refuge from real life. I create in the chair, I escape in my books. Seeing it reassures me. Just the view of it calms me down. It reminds me that I can always go there if I need to.
My reading space used to be a special place because it was an adult’s place that didn’t involve kids. There were no crayons or games or toys or craft supplies. It was solely for me and my interests.
But nowadays I think what feeds my soul the most is the idea of hundreds of other people on that shelf. Great or productive or creative minds created those books. And if you have a book, you’ll never be lonely. That they are my favorite books means, in a sense, my favorite minds are in the bookcase. The minds I prefer, the minds similar to mine. And thus, all of the authors are, in a sense, my friends.
Where to Sit
Beside the bookshelves is a comfy chair. Not particularly expensive, it’s a chair I got from a discount furniture store. I loved the color of it, green, and I liked its traditional but hip look. Also, it has a wide seat. I can sit crosslegged in it, which means I can balance a book or laptop easily on my legs.
My reading space is special. It’s different from the TV area, which is fun and empty-minded. It’s different from the living room, which is where our family visits and talks. Different of course from the kitchen or dining room or office. This is a space I created, decorated, made mine. It reflects me and my interests and offers a cozy respite from the hectic, complex world.
Photo by Michael Nunes
One Sunday afternoon, I was browsing a nearby second-hand shop when I came across two enchanting paintings of Paris. One was of a bookstore, the other, a wine shop. They were snippets of that city’s life. The focus was solely on one store rather than an entire street or overview of the city, which you often see in paintings and photos. Their colors were muted and dark, deep greens and maroons dominated. They were painted in rough strokes. And they weren’t particularly valuable, perhaps even recreations of more famous paintings I don’t know, but they spoke to me so I bought them and took them home.
Two Portraits of Paris
The first portrait is simple. It’s a corner book shop, advertising both ancient and contemporary books, with a nearby planting of flowering shrubs on a sun-dappled day. There are iron posts lining the sidewalk. The upstairs balcony is curtained, hinting that a person lives above the shop but who that is is up to our imaginations. And the street lamp reminds me of fancy French style. It all reflects my favorite things: books, Paris, and plants.
The second portrait is even simpler. It shows a wine shop, Les Coteaux du 9ème, a wine distributor that seems to be alive and well today in the 9th arrondissement of Paris. We see the store’s awning, its flowers, and a glimpse of the street sign, rue Notre-Dame de Lorette. The colors soothe in forest green and muted gold. Whenever I look at it, I think of sharing a bottle of wine with my husband or close friends. And thinking about that makes me happy.
A Dining Room’s Sparse Decor
I hung them in the dining room. It took me a long time to find the right art for that space, a broad swath of wall on either side of an antique cabinet. Because we eat dinner there on most nights in fall and winter, I wanted art that was moody and warm, and something small enough to be the spotlight of the wall’s show. I wanted reassurance. That the actual pictures belonged to another person at one time makes me happy. The frames are lovely but not overly ornate. They gently glow in a chunky, brushed light gold. The surfaces are crackled though I doubt they’re originals. They’re signed and marked “Paris,” but I can’t make out the artist’s name. Unless I rip off the brown paper on the back and explore further, I’ll never know if they’re mass-produced reproductions.
But I don’t much care one way or the other. Their purpose isn’t to impress or behave as part of a collection, it’s to remind me of the things I love as I eat dinner with my family. For that, they function perfectly.
What do you have in your home that reflects what you love? Tell me in the comments below!
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