summer garden inspiration (and thoughts about creative ebbs and flows)

Ah, summer. Yes it has been hot. Yes it has been humid. Yes it has been buggy. But, flowers. Flowers are everywhere. And that means that inspiration is everywhere, too.

garden, roses, gardening, Above and Beyond, climbing roses, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Lately I've been thinking a lot about inspiration and creativity and the ebbs and flows of creative energy. My slump earlier this year was difficult for me. I know part of it was the weather and the season, but I don't always have such a hard time with winter. Creative ebbs and flows are natural for all artists and yet I'd like to be able to avoid slumping quite so far and so long.

Is there a solution? I don't know. But I keep coming back to this quote:

"Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working."
                              --Pablo Picasso

The more I worked on paintings this spring, the more inspired I felt.

It certainly helps that there's now always something happening in the garden. This rose is the same plant I shared last week, its flowers lightened with age. Glorious.

garden, roses, gardening, Above and Beyond, climbing roses, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Everywhere I look I see something I want to paint. Fleeting flowers I want to capture before they're gone.

Being able to eat from the garden each day is such a blessing, too.

spring, garden, herbs, kale, lettuce, peas, radishes, vegetables, harvest, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

The garden is filled with so much wonder. There's something new to discover each day.

One plant that surprised me this spring was the sage I planted last year. It survived the winter, a bit woody and strangely shaped, but alive.

sage, salvia, garden sage, culinary sage, gardening, herbs, herb garden, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

And now its filled with flowers. As are the chives 

gardens, herb garden, gardening, raised beds, dog fence, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

and last year's lupines.

lupines, lupine flowers, garden, garden flowers, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I had to put aside all that inspiration while I worked on a lavender commission last week.

lavender, watercolor painting, watercolor illustration, botanical illustration, botanical watercolor, custom paintings, commissions, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

The only lavender I have in my garden are tiny plants I put in this year. Ah well, that's the way it goes sometimes. I worked from dried flowers and my previous lavender painting (it's still available in my Etsy shop; my customer wanted a larger version).

The next painting I wanted to work on was inspired by iris flowers my mom brought over from her garden. Sadly the flower I based the painting on was shriveled before I even had a chance to do some sketching in my sketchbook. Iris are some of the most fleeting of flowers (and they don't like me. I never had much luck with them in Cleveland and the plant that was here in this garden when we moved in has looked worse and worse each year). 

watercolor, botanical watercolor, botanical illustration, watercolor illustration, watercolor, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Note to self: take better photos of the fleeting flowers you want to paint before they've shriveled to nothing.

I much prefer working from live flowers, but sometimes that's just not possible. Oh, and as I was putting the finishing touches on this painting, I set my hand down on wet paint, leaving a big, dark smear.

watercolor, botanical watercolor, botanical illustration, watercolor illustration, watercolor, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

My attempts to blot and wash out the stain (as I shared in this post) did not work and so I painted an extra flower bud to cover up the green blur left by the smear. Sometimes a cover up is the best option.

Now that I have other projects out of the way, I've been able to work from garden inspiration. I like to walk around the garden snipping little bits to bring up to my studio. A stem of sage came along. 

To finally paint from something from the garden was heavenly.

watercolor painting, botanical watercolor, botanical illustration, sage illustration, herbs, herbal watercolor, sage flowers, culinary sage, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

This painting came about so much more easily than the last painting I did with the same paper. Why? I don't know. Because I was on a roll? Maybe there isn't an answer, but I don't intend to stop.

Both the iris painting and the little sage painting are now available for purchase in my shops.

Along with my plans to revamp my website, I'm rethinking my shops, too. I want to clear out some of my older paintings to make room for new. Look for these little ones from last year to appear in my Etsy shop in the next week or so:

watercolor paintings, botanical watercolors, moss roses, chives, garden flowers, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

And if there's something you've been keeping an eye on, you might want to snag it now before I raise my prices.

One last thought (because you know how much I love fortune cookie fortunes)...

fortune cookies, painting studio, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

"Learn to enjoy every minute of your life" is good advice. Whether you're a painter or a teacher or an accountant or a chef. Our minutes are finite. Let's not waste them.


  1. Anne, you are botanical and watercolor goddess! Beautiful work!

    1. Hi, Aga! Nice to hear from you. You and your comments are so sweet. I hope you and your lovely little family are doing well. Thanks so much for your encouragement!

      Wishing you joy!


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