focusing on my indoor garden: painting sansevieria

I mentioned last week that my focus has shifted from outside to in.

sansevieria, snake plant, mother in law's tongue, houseplants, watercolor painting, art process, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

It happens every year as the weather gets colder and my outdoor garden begins its winter sleep. Despite the fact that I live in cold, snowy Wisconsin, I'm not a winter outdoorsy sort of girl. I don't ice skate or snowshoe or ski or ice fish. (Most of those sound a bit like torture to me). To be honest, on frigid days I don't even relish going for walks with the dogs. I prefer to watch winter through a window, snuggled beneath quilts and crocheted blankets with a steaming mug of tea by my side and a kitty on my lap. (Which is really more fantasy than reality).

cats, black and white cats, rescue cats,

Crowded around that window (whether I'm staring out it or not), are a party of potted plants. Everywhere I've lived -- from my childhood bedroom to my college dorm to my first apartment to today -- there have been plants in my windows. I can't live without them.

begonias, houseplants, potted plant, indoor garden, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

What about you? Do you share your home with plants?

To me it's so interesting how trendy houseplants are right now (just Google "crazy plant lady" to see what I'm talking about). This trend points to the fact that we all yearn for a connection to nature. A houseplant is an easily contained, easily cared for bit of nature. Not only that, plants are good for us. They're good for the air we breathe. They're good decoration. But more than that, they're good for our spirits. It feels good to nurture something and have it thrive (but on the flip side, I've learned not to take it to heart if a plant doesn't thrive -- it happens. Even to me and more than I'd like to admit*). There's nothing quite so exciting as spotting a bud on a flowering plant and watching it develop, grow and bloom.

lipstick plant, houseplants, flowering houseplants, indoor garden, Aeschynanthus, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

It's no wonder houseplants are so popular.

I'd have a house full of plants, popular or not. And for me, one of the things I love is the inspiration they bring my art. I've been painting houseplants almost since the very beginning of learning how to paint. They call to me. And I cannot resist their call. Even so, it had been ages since I last painted a plant in a pot.**

Maybe that's why the call was so strong this time.

This time it was my snake plants, or Sansevieria, calling to me.

Another common name is mother-in-law's tongue. Funny because my snake plants came from my father-in-law. Last winter Matthias rescued a huge, overgrown, floppy plant that his father wanted to get rid of. After letting it dominate my living room for months, I eventually hacked it apart, keeping only the most well-behaved parts, planting them in two smallish pots.

jade plant, snake plant, begonias, houseplants, indoor garden, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Stories, history, experiences with plants are one of the things I love about them. We all have these sorts of stories. I'm betting you might even have some about about snake plants. Maybe your aunt grew one that bloomed when she put out on her back porch every summer and you'll never forget the fragrance of the flowers. Or maybe you never liked snake plants after cutting your finger on the edge of a leaf from your mother's plant.

Whether or not you have a history with them, if you're looking for an easy to grow houseplant, the sansevieria is it (in fact, I recently came across a blog post advocating it for the perfect plant for a windowless bathroom -- though I wouldn't go quite that far).

The simple shape of their leaves make them fairly easy to paint, too.

sansevieria, snake plant, mother in law's tongue, houseplants, watercolor painting, art process, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I had fun with this one, especially once I started painting the patterns on the leaves. I took a little video just to share that painting details doesn't have to be a careful, meticulous process, it can be loose and fun, too.

I ended up painting two variations (there are so many variations of color and pattern and leaf shape -- something else that makes plants so compelling in the home and on paper).

sansevieria, snake plant, mother in law's tongue, houseplants, watercolor painting, houseplant paintings, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Both are available in my shop.

And now I'm on a houseplant painting roll.

christmas cactus, zygo cactus, schlumbergia, watercolor, paint palette, paint mixing, paint swatches, process, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

What ways have you been finding to connect with the magic of nature this week?

*I don't believe there's such a thing as a green thumb. There's certainly a spectrum of how interested people are in plants, but ability to make things grow? Anyone can do it if they pay attention. Know what your plant likes and doesn't like (have a plant that needs full sun? Don't put it in a north facing window where the blinds are always closed. Have a cactus that likes dry soil? Don't constantly water). Even so we all make mistakes. There are so many great resources on plants. Looking for a book to get you started? Try something by Tovah Martin (she's my absolute favorite!), Elvin McDonald or find a really cheap used copy of this oldie but goodie: Crocket's Indoor Garden. I'd love to know about any favorite resources you have, too).

**The last two houseplants I painted didn't have pots because I became obsessed with painting crazy-entwined orchid roots. You can see them here.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. I guess I've finally arrived. After over seven years of blogging, my first Internet Troll. I let the comment sit here overnight. This blog is open to everyone -- all are welcome here. I want to be able to have conversations with my readers and I am against censorship.

      I'm also against meanness. This little corner of the Internet is mine. Although I may not have control over meanness in the larger world, or other internet spaces like Facebook or Twitter, I do have control here. And that is why I deleted this comment.

      This blog is about beauty and joy and the magic of nature and art. Meanness has no place here.

      One of the beautiful things about creativity and art and expression, whatever form that expression may take, is its diversity and vastness. I believe that there is no right or wrong way to be creative. In fact, I encourage everyone to be creative, to find their own way of being creative. We all have our own tastes and preferences -- it's what makes the world so interesting.

      Another beautiful thing about creativity and this world we live in (and about being an adult in this world) is that we can choose what we look at and read and watch. No need to stick around if this isn't your cup of tea.

      Art and creativity exist within the heart and soul. What comes out on paper is less important. Dear Anonymous, and all my dear readers, I hope you can come to understand that.

      The natural world and my art are constant sources of joy for me. My intention with my blog, my website and my classes is to share that joy, to encourage you to see the beauty in this world and to focus not on darkness (of which there is plenty), but on light.

      From your comments here, Anonymous, it is clear that joy is eluding you. My hope for you, and, again, for all my readers, is that you find it.

  2. In these challenging times, speaking one's own truth and having healthy boundaries is powerful medicine. Bravo, Anne, for ditching the troll.

    1. Thank you, Karen. So glad, as always, to have you a part of this space.


  3. I didn't comment until now Anne as I was trying to find a House Plant book that I rediscovered last week. It came free with a pack of washing powder a few decades ago and it is called House Plants by Anthony Mason. It is really useful with an A-Z of common house plants. I only have one house plant at present which is a type of Maranta or prayer plant. I really want to collect more plants and have them displayed around the house! I can see why you were inspired to paint the snake plant. I love how the leaves curve upwards to a point and the interesting markings. You have skillfully captured the essence of the snake plant in your paintings Anne. :)

    1. How funny that your book came free with washing powder! And what a great freebie that must have been! I do hope you get some more plants. I am not quite sure how many I have total. I was trying to count them in my head without going room to room. It's something like 60 or so! And I'm always on the lookout for more!

      Your prayer plant would probably be beautiful to paint!

      Hope you have a lovely week.


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