In the Studio: Spring Flowers and Vibrant Pastels

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

"Cascading Tulips", 9 x 12-

Hello and Happy New Year! I hope you all had a lovely holiday and that you are now enjoying the beautiful quiet days of winter. For me this season provides a break from the many tasks that pile up in the garden and I find myself in the studio more often exploring the process of painting.

One of the highlights of creating art is choosing a palette of color and these fresh and spirited tones of pink, blue, green and yellow are bringing the essence of spring into the studio on these cold winter days.

"Cascading Tulips", 9 x 12-

The first painting of 2017 was this watercolor tulip study.

"Cascading Tulips", #wip-

Here you can see its beginning as a watercolor sketch.  The finished work below is highlighted with iridescent paint to catch the light.   The colors in this piece remind me of the vibrant pastels that often tint tulips as they bloom.

"Cascading Tulips"-

You can follow my progress as I create more paintings for the new collection on Instagram @gildedbloomstudio or visit the studio website at

Floral Styling for the Holidays

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Floral Styling for the Holidays-

Creating a festive floral arrangement can be a fun and easy way to welcome guests to your home during the holidays.  This piece was designed using fresh market flowers and a few decorative embellishments packed away in a Christmas box.

To create your own version of this design you will need a pedestal vase, greenery clippings, two fresh bouquets of seasonal flowers, something sparkly, floral wire, several branches and a few Christmas ornaments.  

Floral Styling for the Holidays-

This pedestal vase is one I keep filled with faux greenery throughout the year.  When styling in fresh flowers, I line the vase with a plastic bag and then insert a watertight jar inside the bag to hold the fresh stems.  This prevents the urn from getting rusted and ruined.

For this design, after preparing the vase I added the greenery to provide structure in the arrangement.  The seeded eucalyptus brings a unique texture to the piece.

Seeded Eucalyptus-  Floral Styling for the Holidays-

Next I put in fresh seasonal flowers.  Our living room is decorated in soft greens, grey blues and ivory for the holidays,  so I chose white alstroemeria, mums, and roses with a mixed bouquet of dried lotus pods and flowering kale.

Lotus Pod- Floral Styling for the Holidays-

After inserting the fresh flowers into the vase I selected some glittering poinsettias from our Christmas decorations and integrated them to add a touch of sparkle to the arrangement.

Glittered Poinsettia- Floral Styling for the Holidays-

Lastly, I included a few faux ranunculus blooms and curly willow branches for height and hung glass ornaments from the branches.  Floral wire was used to attach the smaller ornaments.

Ornaments- Floral Styling for the Holidays-

I hope this arrangement inspires you to make fresh flowers a part of your holiday tradition.  It really doesn't take much to create a festive display using just a few blooms and whatever decorations you have collected.

Happy Holidays!

 Floral Styling for the Holidays-

Creating a Mix-and-Match Thanksgiving Table

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Thanksgiving Table Setting- Creating a Mix-and-Match Thanksgiving Table-

The holidays are coming fast and designing a seasonal table for Thanksgiving is always one of my favorite traditions.  This year I created a harvest table to use throughout the fall as well as on Thanksgiving.  
Choosing mix-and-match dishes and linens is an easy way to entertain without having to restyle the table for every dinner.  In order to accomplish this, it is best to commit to a color scheme at the beginning of the season and design a worthy centerpiece that will last. 

Pumpkin & Hydrangea Centerpiece- Creating a Mix-and-Match Thanksgiving Table-

The dried hydrangea wreath made from summer blooms and a small pumpkin surrounded by acorns and olive branches is displayed on a small cake plate covered with a glass cloche for the centerpiece.  To see how the wreath was made visit this post.

Pumpkins and Olive Branches- Creating a Mix-and-Match Thanksgiving Table-

I was inspired by our recent journey to the wine country, where olive trees abound, and used olive branches with baby white pumpkins throughout the table.  A cozy throw blanket that usually lives on our reading chair became the tablecloth for the season.

Pewter Bird Salt and Pepper Shakers- Creating a Mix-and-Match Thanksgiving Table-

These pewter bird salt and pepper shakers are nestled into the vines and always prove to be a conversation piece.

Pumpkin in Pedestal Dish- Creating a Mix-and-Match Thanksgiving Table-

The amethyst dessert dishes I often use for fruit salads are the perfect size and shape to hold a miniature pumpkin at each place setting.  They are set on vineyard toile linen napkins, which are layered with an amber glass salad plate and a white embossed dinner plate.  For Thanksgiving, I'll replace the pedestal dishes with the festive turkey salad plates below instead of restyling the entire table.

Turkey Table Setting- Creating a Mix-and-Match Thanksgiving Table-

Furniture polish works wonders on acorns to bring out their natural color and make them more decorative.  We found those used in the centerpiece while walking under oak trees. They also make beautiful autumn vase fillers and are strewn throughout the table for accent.

Pumpkin & Hydrangea Centerpiece- Creating a Mix-and-Match Thanksgiving Table-


Fall in the Wine Country...

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Oh, what a busy season it has been so far!  We spent time in Napa Valley which is a magical place to take pictures now as the vineyards are washed with glowing autumn sunlight.

The view from our room in St Helena was spectacular in the mornings.  I loved waking up in this peaceful place.

Vibrant cabernet grapes were still on the vines at Clos Pegase Winery in Calistoga and caught my eye with their stunning color.   

We also visited Castello di Amorosa in Calistoga. The castle has a expansive view of the surrounding vineyards and opulent paintings that imitate the style of medieval Italian art.  Below is a picture of the dining hall with its colorful wall paintings.

Our time in the wine country was so inspiring and such a relaxing break from routine.  Now that we are home, I am busy catching up in the garden and decorating for Thanksgiving.  I hope you are all having a beautiful and enjoyable autumn! 

Styling an Autumn Garden Floral

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Styling an Autumn Garden Floral-

The colors of fall infuse the garden with a sense of the moment.  Orange mums, burnt red dahlias and soft sage green hydrangeas reflect the hues of falling leaves and are simple to style and bring inside.

This easy arrangement was created using a small decorative pot and a few colorful fall flowers.  It is is less than a foot tall and the petite size is perfect to bring a bit of seasonal charm to an end table or nightstand.

Styling an Autumn Garden Floral-

Creating a petite arrangement like this one is very simple and requires just a few blooms.   After cutting and conditioning all the flowers, I first placed a large hydrangea blossom in the pot for a support.  Then the dahlias were added at different heights and angles.  Finally, orange mums were inserted as filler flowers in the empty spaces.  

Styling an Autumn Garden Floral-

A petite arrangement of seasonal flowers is a lovely way to bring the beauty of the autumn garden indoors.  I hope you will try creating your own! 

In the Studio: Dahlia Botanical Portrait

Thursday, September 29, 2016

It has been busy period in the studio as I am now creating a new collection of paintings and mixed media collages.  Recently, this robust pink dahlia became the subject of a botanical portrait to be painted in acrylic on canvas.  The flower was placed in a white embossed vase to enhance the clarity and contrast I wished to achieve within the background I envisioned.  It is shown in front of a new and inspirational mood board I created which has some similar colors and values.

A myriad of petals catching the light made this bloom particularly interesting to paint.  Also its large size was quite spectacular, nearly matching the width of a dinner plate.

I challenged myself to paint this image spontaneously and directly on the canvas rather than relying on a preliminary drawing.  It was fun to intuitively layer the petals with strokes of vibrant paint as shown in the unfinished image above. The resulting effect was a much looser and more painterly style in the final artwork.

The dramatic mood of this work pleased me.  Perhaps the painting of an object of such beauty could be seen to evoke a sense of hope and joy which can be discovered even in the presence of darkness.

I hope you enjoy this piece!

On My Bookshelf: The Natural World of Winnie the Pooh

Friday, September 16, 2016

For the legions of readers who were entranced by the playful pursuits of Christopher Robin and Winnie the Pooh as they frolicked through the magical world of A. A. Milne, this book provides a delightful experience.

The Natural World of Winnie the Pooh is a charming and informative volume that connects the memorable stories with the environment of Ashdown Forest in England, which inspired the Hundred Acre Wood where Pooh lived. Written by expatriate author, landscape designer and historian Kathryn Aalto, whom I had the pleasure of meeting recently when she returned home from England and spoke at our local garden club, this volume is an extensive interdisciplinary and well-researched study of both literature and landscape.

When the book appeared on the New York Times Bestseller list, as an enthusiastic gardener and admirer of the natural world, I knew it was one I must read. During my years in graduate school, I managed the children's department of an independent bookstore. There I spent many Saturdays sharing the endearing stories of Winnie the Pooh with a sea of happy little faces at storytime. The children all loved the yellow bear and his adorable animal friends, as I did during my own childhood.

After a thorough and enlightening introduction, the book begins with a discussion of the creative collaboration between author A. A. Milne and illustrator E.H. Shepherd. Rich in biographical detail, the childhoods of both are highlighted, as is Milne's experience with fatherhood while raising his son, Christopher Robin.

Next, an exploration of Ashdown Forest leads readers on an armchair tour of the places in Milne’s world where the stories originated. A lovely mapping of landscape to literature, this section has photos of the legendary Poohsticks Bridge and the original walnut tree where Milne’s son, the real Christopher Robin, once played with his stuffed animals. There are also many "nice places for picnics" represented, reminding wanderers to stop and enjoy the beauty.

In the last section, a very helpful visitor’s guide to the flora and fauna of Ashdown Forest is provided detailing its many unique and beautiful plants, birds, insects and animals. Photographs of specific flowers, butterflies and creatures of the habitat entice those who choose to wander the public footpaths.

This captivating volume transports readers back through childhood memories into the wonderful world of Winnie the Pooh and explores the relationship between setting and story, landscape and imagination.

For more information about this book, please visit the publisher, Timber Press or Kathryn Aalto's website.
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