Trees Close Up: Botanical Watercolors

Sugar maple and elm buds.

Sugar maple and elm buds.

By Barbara Rose, the artist

The art opening for “Trees Close Up” will take place from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 5, at the Oak Park Public Library Art Gallery, 834 Lake St., in Oak Park. The exhibition will remain on display through Oct. 30

These paintings pay homage to common native trees in our urban forest.  Most are larger than life studies of buds, blossoms and seeds -- miraculous moments in a process where sun, wind and water interact with the wisdom encoded in trees to perpetuate life.  

They grew from sketches and photographs made during regular visits to the Morton Arboretum in Lisle to observe individual trees over their growing seasons. The Arboretum is an ideal place to see what really happens when trees blush pink, yellow-green and golden in spring and later shower us with seeds. Their un-pruned limbs stretch close to the ground, placing buds conveniently eye-level.

Elm seeds.

Elm seeds.

I began to marvel at this process while taking classes at the Arboretum, where I earned a certificate in Botanical Art and Illustration in 2012. Botanical art aims to capture plants in intricate detail, combining scientific accuracy with a deep appreciation for the natural world’s beauty.

I was fortunate to be introduced to watercolor by artist Bobbie Brown, who shared with me the pleasure of looking at a speck-sized maple blossom through a magnifier.

The paintings were made over four years while I studied with artist Heeyoung Kim at Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods in Riverwoods. Her gifted eye informs them and continues to inspire me to look more deeply, as does the community of artists at Brushwood.

I’m also indebted to the artists and teachers at the Arboretum’s Nature Artists’ Guild, Reed-Turner Woodland Botanical Artists’ Circle in Long Grove and the American Society of Botanical Artists.

I hope the paintings might prompt people to look more closely at trees and to understand, appreciate and care for them as vital living beings who share our common home.

Paintings are transparent watercolor on Fabriano Artistico paper. Sales proceeds will be donated to the nonprofit West Cook Wild Ones with commissions to the library. Giclee reproductions on archival fine-art paper are available for $75 each.

For information or to comment, contact Barbara Rose, berose60@