City Paintings and Country Life – Making the Artist Life Work

During January, February and March 2016 I painted very highly detailed NYC street scenes in watercolor, immobilizing my body to sit still in a chair for long hours.

Here is the result of my painting efforts:

“A Sleeping Giant Awakes” – 22×30 watercolor by Elise – January 2016

 

“Banana in the Sun” 26×22 watercolor by Elise – February 2016

 

“Waiting Expectantly” 22×30 watercolor by Elise – March 2016

Then, with my eyesight very strained and my pocket nearly empty, I moved yet again (now the tenth move in the last 6-1/2 years), to take a gardening job. I’ve always said I could “pull my gardening skills out of my back pocket if needed” to survive. This time came. It’s not been easy but it was necessary.

Since moving, I have not had time to write, so am finally posting a photo journal of the first half of 2016 and some analogies the plants have taught me. I hope you enjoy it.

These are some of the results of my gardening efforts thus far. I grew up gardening each summer, in order to stay at home and learn to paint, so planting is not new to me:

 

The very beginning – starting seed flats. We started 28 total flats and planted around 26 of them. That’s a lot of plants!

 

The greenhouse before planting seeds
Tiny shoots looking for the light!

Plants WANT to grow and live SO badly! Even if damaged, they’ll often sprout new leaves, or if uprooted, they will grow again if replanted and watered well. Do we want to live and grow, to live out our potential and design for our Creator, too?

And so the little plants began to grow, bigger and bigger each day…

It’s been amazing to see the seeds grow from tiny shoots to large, lush plants…

Grow lights and me, this is before the hard labor really started…and everything SEEMED easier than painting at this point =)

First to ripen is usually the radishes, always an encouragement

The lettuce inside the greenhouse LOVES water. Watering twice-a-day in the heat is better than once-a-day. How much better would we grow, and cleanse, if we took in the Water of Life found in God’s Holy Word more than once per day? How much we need this water, to grow tender and sweet!

The greenhouse looks greener now…eventually we would harvest and sell lettuce to fine restaurants…

 

Baby Romaine, Black Seeeded Simpson Lettuce, and Nasturtium

What was once very small began to take on a larger size

Peas need pea fence for support – same as people needing support in order to stay upright, too

While weeding the Winter Squash in the manure pile one day, we came upon some young plants, overcome by tall weeds. The plants were mightily stretching upward through the weeds, to reach the light, so they could receive nutrients and bear a harvest. Overcoming adversity is a part of each plant’s life.

Garlic Scapes come before you harvest the Bulb in late July or early August. Garlic takes nine months to mature, same as people do.

The garden speaks to me each day I enter it, telling me what it needs, where and when. Peas hang from their vines, waiting to be picked. Garlic scapes show they are ready by curling. If observant, God’s Garden of people speak of their spiritual needs, too.

And my beautiful cabbages and marigolds, starting to get bigger

Our onions are doing very well this year. Flat Dutch Late Cabbage takes 110 days from germination to harvest. These plants are headed for sauerkraut.

A few of the many beds that need constant attention and weeding!

While weeding Swiss Chard one day, I noticed how the young plants – only one inch high – were easily overgrown by faster growing weeds all around them. But Swiss Chard is programmed to eventually become over one foot tall! Each plant has a purpose, a goal to reach. People, too, may look diminutive to start with…but watch and wait, you might be surprised.

My Sorrel also began to grow very slowly, looking very scrawny, with bugs loving the lemon-flavored little leaves. Now these plants are flourishing, tall and lush, healthy and beautiful!

This same thing happened with my green and wax beans. They were over-watered and yellowish in color, looking sickly. Now they are doing very well.

This reminds me of the GREAT must-see documentary, “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” and how this three-star Michelin restaurant owner grew up getting into trouble in school…but he then became extremely successful!!

Lettuce, borage, buttercup, zinnia and Asian greens

Flowers are my favorite part of the garden!

Peas, happily growing

It’s easy to ruin something beautiful with ONE bad decision, as I did by watering/ spraying leaves at the wrong time of day, during the heat of the sun.

Sometimes you plant seeds and it seems like NOTHING is happening. Only weeds seem to come up. But, if you wait and then look closely, you’ll see change IS happening. Sprouts ARE appearing! Carrots and Swiss Chard are like that…

You cannot be a good gardener if you PROCRASTINATE. Weeding and thinning is VERY time-dependent. Otherwise, no fruit will be able to grow. My turnip crop failed because I left the bed too long, without weeding or thinning it. Timing is everything. Give help to others in the right TIME.

Baby carrots which seem to take FOREVER to germinate and appear. They need thinning and careful weeding to grow into an edible carrot.

 

Early Savoy Cabbage, which the bugs and I enjoy eating

 

Calendula flowers and Kale

Weeds must be followed back to their ROOT – otherwise they will return very quickly!

Yarrow, the pink flowers, are a perennial. The yellow and orange Nasturtiums are edible, leaf and flower.

 

Zinnia, started from seed, capture my heart and take my breath away when they shine in the sun!

For those who don’t already know, a large vegetable garden requires a tremendous amount of physical effort to plant and weed.

I remember hearing people talk in NYC, when I was a street-artist, who didn’t garden. They romanticized about “having a garden someday” or “living off the grid in the country”…well, it’s mostly a lot of W O R K, doing daily repetitive little details and focusing on what you can do at the time.

A gardener can’t generally control the weather or the outcome of planting anything. He or she must patiently wait for things to change and grow. Sometimes the ever-present and oft-returning weeds just get out-of-control. Other times the bugs eat your crops up or you fail to harvest in time and the plant bolts, going to seed. Failures are evident when proper care is not taken. Timing is of the essence for all stages of plant growth, harvest and consumption.

And the best part of the job is I don’t have to go to a gym and I have gained a great tan!

If you have some soil, plant a garden and watch it grow. This is the best way to learn life lessons from Nature. There is good reason Adam and Eve were given a garden to keep and tend. Responsibility is gained in caring for plants who all clamour for attention, like small children do, too.

Well, that’s my scoop for today. More lessons as the summer progresses.

Warmly, your artist and garden friend,

Elise

And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. ~ Genesis 2:8

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