Apr 262012

Illustration from "All the Garden's a Stage"

Water Hyacinth caricature from my book "All the Garden's a Stage"

Water plants love to spend their time sunbathing in landscaped water features. Here’s a caricature of the Water Hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) I drew for my book All the Garden’s a Stage: Choosing the Best Plants for a Sustainable Garden.

These plants are decorative in both leaf and flower. If you want to show them off lounging in your pond or water container garden, beware that they will multiply fast and extras should not be introduced to native waters outside of your water garden. In warm climates the Water Hyacinth has become a serious pest in the wild where it is choking the flow of streams and rivers. If you have too many and don’t have a friend with a pond who wants your extras, try giving them to your local pond supply shop or composting them. Water plants melt down quickly in the compost heap offering excellent material for mulching the rest of the garden.

Apr 252012

 Bird Sculpture by Jane Schwartz Gates

'Bird Sculpture': a textural painting by Jane Gates

One of the fun aspects of mixed media is to experiment with the textures formed when different oil and water based paints meet. In this painting ‘Bird Sculpture’ the effects created by contrasting the metallic oil-based paint with the more organic water based pigments offered wonderful opportunities to draw into and emphasize. I enjoyed using the textural effects to punch up the concept that this was a marriage of natural and artificial; hence the natural ‘bird’/artificial ‘sculpture’ title.

Apr 182012

Depending on where you live, chard is a nutritious vegetable that can be planted any time in the year so long as there is no hard frost. ‘Bright Lights’ is a cultivar that has such colorful stems, it not only makes a decorative planting for the garden, but it makes a perfect subject for painting or illustrating. Here’s a painting I’ve done of Swiss chard ‘Bright Lights’ that will be appearing as the cover of a seed packet next year.

Swiss chard illustration by Jane Gates

Chard 'Bright Lights' illustration by Jane Gates

Apr 162012

One of the fun parts of writing my book “All the Garden’s a Stage” was pulling out characters from different types of plants to draw. The exotic Bird of Paradise plant (Strelizia reginae) practically typifies the image of an exotic, tropical plant. Ironically, it is much more adaptable than it looks and will thoughtfully accept dry air, hungry soils and even some drought.
Plant sketch from 'All the Garden's a Stage'

The tropical Bird of Paradise sketch from “All the Garden’s a Stage




Apr 132012

'Cat Spirit' art print

'Cat Spirit'

If you feel an affinity to felines, you’ll likely understand what this painting is about. I love dogs and they, like cats, have an important role in my life. Dogs make fine pals and activity companions. When you come home, they always make you feel welcome. Most canines (and some felines) are great snugglers and offer a deep sense of comfort.

Cats, on the other hand live on another plane. Although my current cat also greets me along with my dogs whenever I come home, cats in general seem to live on a more ethereal dimension where reality is just a bit less grounded. (Note how cats are oh-so likely to deny they could possibly have tripped or fallen!) I find the presence of a cat is an honor. Evoking a purr is an accomplishment. And when a cat deigns to meet your eyes squarely, you feel your soul has been searched. I guess this is part of the reason I never think twice about disturbing a dog who might be sharing my bed, yet fear to move when a cat has taken up residency on that same bed. Perhaps this is just my response to the feline spirit, but I suspect other cat-lovers can relate.

Mar 272012

Schwarts-Gates painting and giclee print

Jane's 'Tree of Feminine Thought' painting and giclee print

Most artists are driven to paint. For me it is a need to express myself. I’m lucky that I also enjoy writing, performing and other forms of communication. There is, however no way to explain how comfortable it is to do what you were made to do. Sometimes it is frustrating to live in a society where there is little appreciation or value to fine arts. It would make life so much easier to be born with a skill and drive to do something other people are more willing to pay for. Artists, too, have to pay bills. We do live in a materialistic society and the arts seem to be losing priority as economic pressures increase. Yet when you are born an artist you find you need to keep drawing and painting even if there is little financial remuneration.

There was a time when I believed it would be “selling out” to do paid illustrations. As time goes on I am thankful to paint and draw for myself and for others.

Children's Illustration by Schwartz Gates

Children's fantasy seahorse illustration

Pepper illustration

Stylized pepper illustration

All my life I’ve been keenly aware of the connectedness of life and the magic of being a part of nature. We really are all part of the bigger picture – unique stitches in the grand tapestry of life. And we are all interdependent. My love of gardening is part of the same passion for life and I truly believe if all people gardened more and spent time  living directly as part of nature we would have a greater  respect for other lives and life in all its forms. That is what my paintings are about.

I’ve also discovered I can share the magic of connectedness in writing and illustration, in landscape design and story writing, and in simply making an effort to reach out to the lives I interact with each day, be they human, animal or plant.

dog sports drawing

Disk dog drawing

I paint because I love doing it and because I am on a mission. I want to express the joy that comes of filling life with the appreciation of this magnificent planet and the graceful, interdependent dance of life that populates this earth. I hope that joy will infect others through my work. All artists have their own personal reasons to paint. I think most of us hope our work will not only be appreciated, but have some helpful impact on those who view it.  Well, at least that’s why I paint.

Mar 262012

Cat painting by Schwartz Gates

“Feline Evolution” by Jane Schwartz Gates

It’s interesting that I love dogs and cats equally but differently. For some reason dogs are my companions and pals with whom I can share my everyday moods. Cats, on the other hand, are more like spiritual guides. They seem to have an existence above the mundane world and share only those deep, unvoiced secrets in life.

Although I couldn’t imagine life without my canine best friends, cats are the ones that often populate my fine art work. I enjoy doing dog – and even bird pet portraits, but when it comes to my fine art paintings, cats take the spotlight. Maybe it’s because there are so many kinds of wild cats that are not interbred like dogs, or maybe it’s because even the highly bred domestic catstill jealously seems to guard a powerful streak of natural independence in its character. Perhaps it’s the grace of movement that the feline body shows, or that I-know-something-you-don’t-know cats reflect back to you in their large, round eyes…. There’s just something unique in the cat that you just don’t find in other animals, despite the wide range of personalities felines have. It doesn’t mean they are better or worse than any other form of life, but it does make me delight in drawing and painting them.

Cat painting by Jane Schwartz Gates

‘Gray Cats’ painting and prints by Jane Schwartz Gates

I know I’m not the only one who suffers from feline fascination. Just look at how many people chose to share their lives with cats!

Jane Schwartz Gates painting

‘Cat Spirit’, painting and prints by Jane Schwartz Gates

Mar 252012


dog portrait

Each of our pets has a unique look and personality.

Different artists have different ways of working. To do a good pet portrait it is important that the artist gets a feel of the individual subject. Each pet is unique with not only character in looks, but also in personality. If an artist can get to meet your pet before doing a portrait, you are likely to get a more insightful piece of art. Whether the style of painting is realistic, impressionistic or stylistic, a successful portrait should reflect the individual personality of your little friend. If you are sending a photograph for reference make sure it is one that shows some character. Multiple photos are even better since they can be combined to capture the best of your pet’s personality.


Apr 112010
Placing blankets on the press of a limited print edition

Placing blankets on the press of a limited print edition

Limited edition prints are an ideal way to organize and create value for photographs, hand-pulled prints like etchings, lithographs and serigraphs. By creating quality multiples of fine art works you can earn better money for your efforts while reaching a larger audience of ownership for your work.  Keep in mind that the smaller number of prints done, the more valuable each print will be.

Decide how many copies you want to print in your limited edition. Certain media will break down with the physical pressure of pressing out duplicates. Incised plates printed with the pressure of a press, surfaces that will wear away with mechanical repetition or other printing methods that will fade images over time produce the best and clearest prints at the beginning of the print edition. In these limited edition prints, the pieces with the lowest edition numbers are usually valued highest.

Pull the first prints and label them as proofs. Often these first trial prints are given as gifts. They tend to be valued as one-of-a-kind prints.

The first prints that have the right color and look the way you want are labeled ‘bon a tirer’ or ‘Artist Proof’.

Numbering should start with number one and the total edition number is listed beneath or next to the number of the print number (often like a fraction is drawn). Each new print is numbered up higher as it is printed in order of printing.

Keep a record of each number sold or given away.