COVID and Life Update Feb. 2021

Creativity, family, friendship, personal essay

After being in intensive care for ten days, my mom was discharged from the hospital after COVID-caused pneumonia caused her to become very, very ill. My dad and my sister came down with less-severe-but-still-really-unpleasant COVID at the same time and I was quarantining with my brother and sister-in-law. And you know what? It was hard.

It was so hard not being able to GO to her or visit her in the hospital. It was hard to not understand all the medical terminology. It was hard to not know what to do.

She is still recovering, and will likely be on oxygen for at least two more months. The COVID cases that are serious are really serious. Dad and Claire took about three weeks to really start to feel better. I came down with it a couple weeks ago and I’m still feeling a little under the weather.

Around the same time, a high school friend of my mom’s became quite sick with COVID as well, and was hospitalized. Her stats looked a lot like my mom’s stats and I was so saddened to hear that she passed away a little more than a week ago. I wanted to take a moment and remember my own experience with Mary. She had the kindest heart and she was one of my earliest supporters when I turned to painting. She was actually one of the first people to commission a painting from me, and it is one that you have certainly seen before! The Scottish Thistle painting she had me paint was special to her because her dad was from Scotland and she thought it would be a beautiful way to remember him. Each year, I’d hear from her as she ordered an ornament from me, and she was a constant presence of encouragement and kind words on so many Facebook posts. My heart and prayers are with her family as they grieve.

Mary picking up her commissioned painting.

The hard times and the really good times seem to both do the same thing–they concentrate the important things. The people and places that really matter to you suddenly come into focus and you can let everything else slide for a little while. In the midst of this last six weeks that have been so hard in so many ways, there are moments that shine so brightly for the light and love that I saw.

We heard from so many of my mom’s friends, from people she had only met once to people who have known her since she was a little girl, from people in her hometown to co-workers scattered across the globe. To see the impact that she has had, and the love that so many people have for her made me tear up again and again. If you are lucky enough to know my mom, you know that she has an exuberance and a silly streak and a super-extroverted way of making friends with just about everyone.

People around the world lifted my mom up in prayer, and I’m so thankful. I’m thankful that in the hardest moments I know that God is with us and we are not alone. I’m thankful for the people who reached out to show us the Lord’s love in such a real way and I’m thankful that when I bring suffering and heartache before God, I know that He has already suffered immeasurably more and cares so deeply.

Thank you for recording voice memos for Mom to listen to. Thank you for sending songs and Bible verses and encouraging words. Thank you, thank you. Thank you for sending food, making drives, mailing notes, and giving hugs. Thanks to the very good nurses who took care of my mom in the hospital when none of us could be there, and for the doctors that acted fast and the EMTs who came quickly and gave her life-saving oxygen and took her to the hospital. A HUGE thank you to Megan, Ashley, Phil, and Kelly who translated medical terminology for us, for constantly checking in and making sure we were taking care of ourselves. To all our friends and family, thank you.

For me, COVID has been a fatigue-inducing, achy, taste-and-smell-stealing, exhausting few weeks, but I’m coming out of it and am really looking forward to getting back to painting and teaching and showing up for the people in my life. It is a fact that sometimes the hard things take a while to work through, and I know from experience that having a creative outlet to turn to can really help with healing and processing. If you or any friends or loved ones need something creative to help you with that process, please reach out to me at hello@alexsgardenstudio.com because I want to help. If there is anything you need prayer for, let me know.

For now, I’ll leave you with this beautiful song with words that will be familiar to so many of you.

Commissioning a Painting of your Wedding Bouquet: BTS of the Artistic Process

Creativity, Original Paintings, Products, watercolor, Wedding Art

You invest time, thought, money, attention, and an incredible amount of significance in the flowers that surround you on your wedding day. If only they could last forever! Commissioning a painting of your bouquet is a meaningful way to honor the work and beauty that went you’re your wedding-day florals, after all, a painting doesn’t fade or crumble as time goes on, and is a lasting and thoughtful memento of one of the most important days of your life.

This week, I’m sharing a few posts about what goes into creating a personalized wedding bouquet, and if you didn’t have a chance to read the earlier Q&A with client Laura, hop over to this post to read her take on the commission process.

In today’s post, I’m going to walk you through the actual artistic and creative process that goes into creating a painting of a wedding bouquet using Laura’s bouquet as an example of the step-by-step process.

The finished painting. Let me show you how we get to this point 🙂

The first thing is to communicate quite a bit up front–it’s so important for me to understand what you’re looking for, the style you’re interested in, and what you hope the end product will look like so that I can have those goals in mind while I draw and paint.

I always start by asking for lots of good, clear images of the bouquet. These can be from your photographer or from your own camera, but the more pictures the better!

One of the reference photos I used to create Laura’s painting. This was taken by Bradley Moss, who you can find here.

I don’t ever want to just copy directly from a photograph–the photographer is an artist, too, and no one likes to have their work copied–but I do need lots of reference pictures to get a clear idea of what the bouquet looked like. This is especially true because a bouquet is a 3D object, and a painting is a 2D object, so to translate it beautifully and accurately it’s important for me to see the bouquet as close to realistically as possible.

Once I have an idea of what I’m working with (I know your vision for the piece and I have good reference material–I start to sketch out composition ideas. These are usually big, messy shapes on drawing paper so that I can get an idea of the scale that I’ll be working with.

The very first sketches I do are usually just roughly done big shapes.

Next up? I start to pencil in the details. This can be a bit time-consuming, but it is critical to get this stage right before moving on to adding ink or watercolor. Angles, ruffles, petals and more come under scrutiny as I try to translate their shapes and movement to the page.

The drawing on top is the initial pencil sketch, the one on the bottom is the final sketch transferred to watercolor paper.

I offer two styles of art for the wedding bouquets. One features tightly-detailed ink lines and watercolor washes (like the banner of hellebores here:

Ink and watercolor.

And the other style is a looser more free-handed interpretation consisting of only watercolor, like this:

Depending on which style you’re interested in, I’ll either start inking or I start painting. Here’s what it looks like when the inking starts–lots of tiny lines and details, and the shapes really start to pop off the page. (If your bouquet has lots of white flowers, I typically recommend inking just to give the painting more definition.)

Adding inky detail stroke by stroke and line by line.

And then the best part! Watercolor! Lots of beautiful layers add up to gorgeous watercolor paintings. The layers start with watery, pale washes and build up into vivid and deep swathes of color. This is my favorite part as I watch the bouquet transform into a finished and fully realized piece of art.

Layer by layer, the painting starts to take shape.

And the first layers of a looser piece.

Once I’m finished with the painting, I take a break from looking at the piece so that I can come back to it with fresh eyes and add any last-minute details in. I sign it, take a lot of pictures, let you know that the bouquet is done, package it, ship it, and wait to see how you frame and display your finished painting.

Watch a timelapse of the first layers of watercolor on Laura’s bouquet.

Aaand…that’s it! The whole process typically takes between 1-2 months depending on how many other commissions I’m working on. I really enjoy creating these and would love to hear from you if you have any questions about the process or if you’re interested in commissioning your own painting. You can write to me at hello [at] alexsgardenstudio [dot] com or you can go straight to my website and order your own beautiful painting. Stay tuned for the next post in this series–my top tips for brides looking to commission a wedding bouquet painting.