Paint by Nature

Botanical artist Kay Kopper’s detailed watercolor paintings depict the life cycle of local flowers, trees and wildlife. The Pembroke resident recently received a grant from the American Society of Botanical Artists to fund a special collection of images dedicated to plant and animal species native to the New England Pine Barrens at Myles Standish State Forest in Plymouth and Carver.

By Maria Allen

What do you love most about botanical art?

My passion for botanical art is steeped in a deep respect and admiration for all things natural. My art is a means to portray through the medium of watercolor and/or pencil how even a dried, bent plant at the end of its day has strength, beauty and elegance that is worth noting.

What is your artistic background?

Art has been a significant part of my life. I received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting from the Massachusetts College of Art and have taken classes at the South Shore Art Center in Cohasset and the Wellesley College Botanic Gardens. I am a member of the American Society of Botanical Artists, the New England Society of Botanical Artists and the North River Arts Society.

When did you decide to specialize in botanicals?

I always had an interest in nature but it was in 1998 that I first took a class in botanicals at the South Shore Art Center in Cohasset. I really enjoyed the detail of the work. I have been creating botanical art ever since and more recently I’ve incorporated wildlife drawings.

Where do you find inspiration for your paintings?

I work on subjects that are very much in the moment. I observe plants that I encounter as part of my daily life, usually in a natural setting. I am interested in what grows naturally and focus primarily on native plants, fruits and vegetables.

Biking and running are a couple ways that I like to explore the environment around me.

Can you describe your creative process?

I start by finding a specimen that I think will compositionally work well. After observing the specimen in its natural setting, I gather a sample, either as a cutting or by digging up a plant and putting it in a pot (if it is allowed), and I bring it back to my studio to study, draw and paint. I return to the location to observe how the plant grows in nature and to obtain fresh cuttings as needed. I observe my subject from different angles to see how the stem, branches, leaves and petals are formed and how they all work together to form the plant. Wildlife art is created using photographs as a reference. I start each painting by doing a pencil line drawing on a piece of tissue paper and then I transfer the sketch onto the paper that I’ll be painting on.

What are you currently working on?
I’m currently working on a series focused on the Pine Barrens of Myles Standish State Forest. In October of 2015 I received a Julius I. Brown Award from the American Society of Botanical Artists and the funds from that grant help to pay for supplies and the scanning and framing of the images. I’ve been working closely with the Southeastern Massachusetts Pine Barrens Alliance and visit Myles Standish frequently. I will be exhibiting my completed works at the American Society of Botanical Artists conference in Pittsburgh in October 2016.

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