Hudson Valley Seed Library and the Philadelphia Flower Show

You might have been aware of some hints that I have been dropping these past few months about a "secret" project. I hinted on Instagram here and here. I mentioned it on my blog here and here and you can catch a glimpse of the test paintings I was doing for it here.

On Halloween last year the Hudson Valley Seed Library put out a call for art to illustrate a commemorative seed packet for the Philadelphia Flower Show. The seeds would be a mix of 13 red flowers (the mix named Red Carpet) to go along with the show's Hollywood theme of "Lights, Cameras, Bloom." The art they were looking for would depict the flower varieties and "interpret the theme of 'Hollywood', the pack name 'Red Carpet', and/or the horticultural beauty of growing a red carpet of flowers". The finished art needed to be 8" by 8". The deadline was the beginning of December.

I had never created a painting with an assignment like that. Many of the flowers were not varieties I knew. Although I have painted from photographs, I prefer painting from life. This was a huge challenge for me, but one which I was very excited to tackle.

The theme of Hollywood did not appeal to me and I couldn't figure out how my art would work with that theme, so I decided to focus on the beauty of the flowers themselves. Also in my mind was the idea of flowers interwoven as a design for a rug or carpet.

I began by studying each of the varieties of flower. I printed out many photographs (and used up all the red ink in my printer) as reference and then I worked on sketches to get to know each flower. I studied the shapes and colors and growing habits. I made notes in my sketchbook, mixed color swatches and made quick test paintings of each flower.

My sketchbook pages looked like this:


It took me a while before I actually began the painting. After studying all the flowers I sketched out a few different arrangements using graph paper and arranged and rearranged color swatches until I was happy with an arrangement. And then I began to paint. Flower by flower.

watercolor painting by Anne Butera

After I submitted my painting I heard nothing from the seed library and figured that they had made their choice and my painting wasn't chosen. Although I was disappointed, I was glad that I had taken part in the competition. It was a wonderful learning experience.

Around the middle of January I got an email from the Hudson Valley Seed Library announcing the name of the artist whose work would illustrate the seed packet and the names of the 8 other artists whose pieces would be displayed in a special exhibit at the Philadelphia Flower Show. On the top of the list of those 8 other artists was my name!

When I was brainstorming business ideas with my brother one day (whose business couldn't be more different from mine -- he's a competitive sport fisherman and fishing guide), he suggested I create videos of my painting process using the photographs I take while painting. After overcoming more than a few technical difficulties, I finally created my first painting process video (slideshow).

I'm not going to be able to attend the show, but if you are I'd love to hear about it.

Want to learn more about the Hudson Valley Seed Library? The New York Times ran a great article about them. You can read it here.


  1. AMAZING! I am so impressed! Congratulations, Anne! :D

    1. Awww... thank you Laurie. You're so kind and encouraging!

  2. Hooray! I do love this painting, Anne. It's really one of your best yet. So glad it will be on display at the Philly Flower Show. Gretta gave me some veggie seeds from the HVSL last year for my birthday and they grew like crazy.

    1. Thanks, so much Karen. It's funny because I do want to purchase some of their seeds but am having a hard time deciding which ones. I find myself wanting to choose based on the art on the seed packets and not the varieties themselves. I'm glad to hear the seeds you got grew well!

  3. Congratulations Anne! You have put an amazing amount of thought and effort into this painting and it definitely shows! I am so pleased that your art is 'out there'. Great flower show - I mean slideshow too! :-)

  4. Congratulations Anne and I love your video too :)

  5. Well done, Anne. Huge and well deserved congratulations!!! fantastic video as well.


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