Sherri Buck Baldwin’s studio, Heart in Hand Ltd., is located in Madison, Wisconsin. Here she finds inspiration in the beauty of the changing seasons.
Buck’s favorite subjects are her gardens and the birds that visit the feeders and houses. For the past twenty years, Buck’s artwork has appeared on many Christmas and greeting cards, calendars, and a wide variety of kitchen, decor, and giftware items. She is also a published illustrator of children’s books such as Special Friends and What’s Inside Miss Molly’s Locket?.
See all of Sherri Buck Baldwin’s 2013 calendars.
Please describe your art style and technique.
I have been an artist for most of my life and I enjoy creating artwork in a variety of mediums, which include primarily ink, watercolor, colored pencil, soft pastels, and most recently, relief printing. I have also just begun to experiment with combining digital art with my hand drawn imagery. I enjoy drawing more than painting because I like the control it allows so I usually prefer to combine watercolors with ink or pencil rather than painting with them alone. I majored in printmaking in college, specializing in etching and stone lithography due to my love of linework. Drawing with soft pastels gives me the opportunity to loosen up my highly rendered style.
The birds you include in your art are incredibly detailed and lifelike. What’s your inspiration for achieving such realistic depictions?
For several years now I have produced a calendar with birds and flowers as the theme. It started out as “Birds in the Garden”, but is currently titled “Birds and Blossoms”. I am an avid gardener, but no garden is complete until it is populated with all variety of birds. I put out feeders which entice several bird species to visit, and place birdhouses in several areas of my large yard to entice them to stay. I look forward to each spring when the wrens return and their song fills the summer days. I am fascinated with photographing birds and my camera is always on the tripod pointing out my studio window directly at my feeders. With a remote control shutter I can be quite successful at getting shots of birds coming and going from the feeders. My biggest challenge is capturing them in flight since I like to draw them with their wings outspread. It is often surprising to see how much they look like they are swimming through air. I have created extensive photo files of birds which I study when I work on my bird art. Two years ago I was rewarded with a visit for several days from a Varied Thrush which is native to the Northwest, but somehow found itself in Wisconsin one winter. It became a subject for my 2012 Birds and Blossoms calendar.
Your paintings have amazing depth and a rich pattern-upon-pattern effect. How do you accomplish that?
My bird calendar images are actually two layers of artwork. The top layer is drawn in colored pencil on frosted Mylar, while the layer underneath is a collage created from vintage paper ephemera I collect. I like the resulting transparent, layered artwork. The combination of printed materials, especially antique maps, underneath the bird’s bodies and wings is quite evocative. It’s hard to believe that a creature as small and fragile as a hummingbird can fly all the way from Wisconsin to Mexico, so I like to place a piece of map from both their summer and winter destinations underneath the body of the birds. Bits of lace, vintage writing, and words like ‘fragile’ have also been tucked underneath my bird drawings. It’s subtle, but an interesting added dimension to the artwork.
How do you come up with ideas for your art? Please describe your creative process.
My ideas come to me most often when I am outdoors, especially when walking my dogs or working in my gardens. Whenever I feel stuck, I grab their leashes or my garden gloves and head outside. I’m lucky to live in Wisconsin, with its beautiful lakes and rolling hillsides.
Please describe the environment where you work.
My studio is located in my home and the room was added onto our house by my husband. I have been able to work at home for the past 24 years while my children were growing up and that is something I have been extremely grateful for.
You’re also an avid gardener. Please tell us about your favorite plants and experiences in the garden and the role they play when you create your artwork.
Gardening is a passion of mine, one that I discovered after I married and moved to Wisconsin. I grew up with a gardening mother and realized I had absorbed much more about the subject than I thought I had when it came time to contend with a yard of my own. Now, most of my entire front yard is a garden, with only a small amount of lawn. Not confining my gardening efforts to the backyard is something I learned from going on several garden tours throughout England, one of my favorite destinations. I enjoy practicing the art of fruit tree espalier and have trained two pear trees into flat candelabra shapes against a wall of my house, with six additional dwarf apple tree espaliers trained in a cordon around two curved rock walls in front of my house. Espalier is a technique for training fruit trees against a wall in order to conserve space. I created a deep perennial border along the entire length of the lawn in my backyard. In addition to my home garden I tend a local park’s garden on the lake where I have created ‘drive-by’ garden borders in 3 medians in the road for a total of 150’. Each year I try to plant surprises for the village residents, like tall sunflowers mixed in with the perennials. My favorite flowers are the simpler shapes like tulips, sunflowers, poppies, and hollyhocks. The patio outside my studio is filled with containers of all sizes in the summer, which are planted with annuals that hummingbirds are attracted to, like lantana, abutilon, and salvias of all kinds. I also grow herbs in pots as well as a few vegetables.
Tell us what a typical day for you is like.
I’m an early-riser so my day begins soon after dawn. Once my pair of Border Terriers is walked I head into my studio for most of the day to put pen, brush, or pencil to paper. I also spend time emailing with my designer in Texas on projects we are working on for my own line of paper products. I am excited about finally realizing this dream after spending nearly 25 years in the world of art licensing.
How long does it generally take you to complete a painting for your calendars?
I try to complete a calendar drawing or painting in a week, but sometimes it takes a bit longer due to the detailed nature of my work.
Are you as good at cooking and preparing food as you are painting it?
I enjoy cooking with the herbs and vegetables I grow myself, as well as the produce I get each week at Farmer’s Markets in my area. My efforts are usually well-received by my family. My teenage son is the resident tomato-growing expert and a pretty good cook, too.
How did the ideas and paintings for your new Field to Market calendars come about?
Madison, Wisconsin, has a weekly Farmer’s Market with a national reputation for the quality of the produce for sale and I am fortunate to live only a few minutes away from this weekly event around the Capitol Square. I head there early on Saturday mornings with both my bag and camera in hand. The tables laden with vegetables, fruits, breads, jams, and flowers are stunning to behold and wonderful subjects to photograph. With the growing trend for buying local organic produce it seemed a good time to combine these colorful wholesome images into a calendar called Field to Market. I enjoy painting the rich colors of blue-black eggplants, red strawberries, orange carrots, all the various shades of green lettuces, and the sunlight shining through jars of jams, honey, and vinegars. It doesn’t get much better than that!