Draw Attention to Trees: Illustration and the Shapes of Things

I started the month of January in the studio drawing tree forms, branches, leaves, and studying books at the Sterling Library at the Morton Arboretum. I was looking at tree silhouettes, the gesture of branches, tree scars, and instructions on pruning. I made new drawings as part of my round sketchbook series and revisited a favorite text: Trees in winter landscape, by Alice Upham Smith.

In early March Eileen Barrett, the head of the Morton Arboretum’s graphic design department, invited me to meet with her team to discuss their upcoming Arbor Day event: Draw Attention to Trees. The Arboretum’s concept was to emphasizes the importance of trees in our daily lives in urban, suburban, rural and wild environments. The public would be invited to color the illustrations on oversized Arbor Day “coloring pages” installed at Daley Plaza and the Morton Arboretum. The installation at Daley Plaza was to be a four-sided structure measuring 16 by 8 feet on each side. The Arboretum installation was to be a single panel outside the visitor center at The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, Illinois.

The Arboretum needed illustrations of urban, suburban, rural and wild environments as well as numerous tree species, leaves, diagrams that explained proper mulching, watering, planting and photosynthesis, trees in flower and the fruits and seeds of trees. I based my illustrations on photographs and herbarium (museum) plant specimens. All of the drawings were made first with pencil and then with Perma-opaque markers on 8 ½ x 11” office paper. I scanned the images and vectorized them in Adobe Illustrator to make the files that the Arboretum’s Graphic Design department could lay out. They then designed and created the display, adding the text, choosing the color, font etc.

One of the great pleasures of art making is transforming your work from one context to another: from sketchbook, to tracing paper, to burned screen, to printed image on rip-stock rayon, to printed flags on the rooftop of the Lillstreet Art Center. I am often surprised by the formal change that happens in reproducing my own work in a new format. This project was remarkable in this regard: the transitions from drawing to scan, from scan to vectorized art, from vectorized illustrations to layout, and from layout to banner gave the work and entirely different feel.

If you are looking for fun and enjoy learning come on down to Daley Plaza, all day Friday, April, 28th and learn about trees while adding some color to the big coloring book page on display. If you haven’t visited the Arboretum in Lisle, it’s busting out with blossoms and buds in full spring glory. Bring the kids and explore the Children’s garden, it’s a special place. (www.mortonarb.org)

If you’re looking to make some art of your own come visit Lillstreet Art Center, 4401 N.Ravenswood, Chicago, IL. I live in the western suburbs (Downers Grove) and monitor the textile studio one day a week…this place is a gem and full of folks making outstanding pottery, jewelry, paintings, prints, and textiles. New spring session starts next week, check it out. 

— Rachel Davis, Monitor

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Don’t forget to follow the Lillstreet Textiles Department on Instagram!

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