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 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.

Feb 022010

Tips on how to buy Giclee fine art prints and limited edition art

Hand engraving

Hand engraving

Limited edition prints are prints of creative work done by an artist. Some printing techniques have become a medium for the art itself. Whether used for art prints or as an artistic medium, fine art prints are high quality art forms. They are numbered in order of creation. Here is a little information on how to understand limited and open edition print numbering.

All fine art print editions are numbered, whether they are versions of original paintings and drawings, photographs or direct printing art like intaglio etchings or engravings. Open editions are not limited in number or size. There are more advantages to open editions for photographers as they can hone the printing technique over time and improve the quality of the image without being limited by how many images can be printed. They can also change the size of the photograph.

Most fine art editions, like giclee prints, for example, recreate the original art work in fine detail and will not deteriorate with quantity. (A giclee print is a very high-end form of digital ink jet printing used for reproducing quality art.) Since most fine art paintings and drawings are valued for their finite availability, limited editions that can run from just a few to thousands, are numbered and more valuable. The lower number of prints pulled in an edition will usually make each print more valuable. Mass produced prints, by the way, are simply considered reproductions with little or no value.

In hand-pulled printing, there is no real use for open editions as the plate, block or other medium on which the artwork is directly done will lose its quality as the surface is worn down over the printing process. As a result the first prints are likely to be the clearest and best. Hand-pulled prints are done manually and the art is part of the medium. Art can be manually done with silk screening, hand drawn on lithographic plates or stones, etched or carved into metal, linoleum or wood, or many other methods. The artist often does his or her printing one careful piece at a time. These are almost always limited editions and you will see the number on the print along with the artist’s signature. Larger editions may be printed by artistic printers who are experts in hand printing. The artist will work directly with the printer doing trial runs until the desired effect is retained and stabilized for the rest of the edition.

Numbered limited editions have a top number and a bottom number. The top number states the number in order of coming off the press of this particular print. The bottom number is the total number of the edition printed.

There are other letters traditionally established to describe the early prints tried out before the final colors and print settings are achieved. TP is often used for trial proofs. These are likely one-of-a-kind as the image is still being experimented with. Printer’s proofs (PP) are the first proofs used for printing reference. AP stands for artist’s proofs (also known in French as épreuve d’artiste, or E.A. or as bon à tirer, BAT). Any of these marks signify that these are the first approved prints on which the edition will be modeled. Some of these prints can end up highly valued as they are rarest of all.

Jan 222010

Mixing any two colors will create a third color

Whether you are painting or drawing in color, it helps to understand the basics of what happens when one color blends with another. There are three primary colors.  You can create just about any paint colors you want by mixing these primary colors.  Here are the basics:

Red and yellow mix to make orange.

Yellow and blue are mixed to make green.

Red and blue combine to make purple.

More red with blue makes a redder purple just like more blue with yellow will create a bluer green. Mixing in white will lighten your color or make it a soft pastel shade. Adding black will only make your color dark and muddy. These basic color mixtures hold true whether you are doing fine arts, crafts, painting a house or even mixing colors for cake icing!