Art From the Garden

by Mary Lyle

Horizon Reporter

From royal blue, pale pink, and violet to red, and yellow are intricately sketched onto white paper giving a realistic illusion of pressed botanicals.  These works of art are currently on display outside of the Whatcom Community College library.  The artist behind the arrangement of etched flowers is Caryn Friedlander, an art teacher at Whatcom.

The floral etchings of red poppies, dogwood, Japanese and Chinese wisteria, and a variety of other botanicals are all an inventory of her 20-year-old garden that Friedlander said is a “deeply personal aspect of who I am and what I love on this earth.”  All the sketched images of her botanical series grew from the roots of her own garden, located outside her home and studio.

The botanical drawings were done in the traditional way of etching.  First a copper plate is covered with a wax before scratching on drawings with a needle. The plate is then covered in acid that eats away at the exposed, bare copper.  This leaves behind lines sunk into the plate creating an inverted stamp.  Then the plate is covered in ink and wiped off so only the sunken lines are filled with ink before putting it through a printing press.  Paper picks up the ink from the lines, leaving a print of the sketched flowers.

Aside from teaching art at Whatcom, Friedlander spends hours of time in her studio and home with her husband and three cats.  An elaborate garden with a small pond, ivy, and trellis woven with billowing leaves and vines separates her art studio from her home. 

Arrays of both bright and neutral colors mesh together on canvases of her abstract art, covering the walls of her studio and home.  Friedlander says the most exciting part of her work is “making marks that coalesce together to make a meaning, a feeling of rightness.” 

Friedlander is currently working on a series inspired by a trip she took to Louisiana to tour the bayou.  She said that most of her inspiration comes from “water and water’s reflection, but it changes a lot.” The bayou series is a lot different from the botanicals, with neutral shades of gray, brown, and black.  

“Art makes my life more meaningful,” Friedlander said.  “It’s a way that I can connect with the world around me.”  She says people assume that being an artist “must be so therapeutic and relaxing,” but in fact can be very frustrating a lot of the time.  “It can look easy, but one day I can look at something I’ve done and think ‘why did I do that?” she said.  “Art is like a surprise when you’re working on it, you don’t really know what the outcome will be.”

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