Botanical artist Wendy Hollender was busy readying giant copies of her amazingly detailed colored-pencil-and-watercolor renditions of plants to fill the gallery at the Lifebridge Sanctuary for its upcoming exhibit honoring the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Her massive printer can be loaded with rolls of canvas or watercolor paper to produce finished giclée fine art prints in three sizes: 8.5-by-11, 17-by-24 or 24-by-31 inches. They are lifelike and stunningly accurate botanically.
Drawing from nature has been her work for more than 20 years. Hollender says that she “fell in love with the practice of botanical drawing. When I study and draw from nature, I feel a presence of something that never fails to take my breath away. I ‘undress’ the plant to study the mystery within, exploring plants and flowers on a micro level, almost the way an insect does.”
This month marks the tenth anniversary of work in her studio in Accord. “Coming here has given me the ability to transform my work even more, because I have plants growing here or nearby. Because I have the space, I’ve been able to create these big prints from my work. I always work very small and detailed. It’s all about the close study of the plant and the intimate way I spend time with it.
“Each piece is very detailed and life-sized. But for public spaces I wanted to do something bigger and bolder. A couple of years ago the US Botanic Garden wanted to do a show of my work in big prints. They commissioned me to give them the artwork – a show on roots –then they blew it up really big and printed it. I was amazed at how great they came out. Now I experiment with that more, creating higher-resolution images. The standard is 300 ppi [pixels per inch]. I tried 600, 800 and 1200. There’s no pixelation when I do that.”
Hollender has exhibited locally at the Ashokan Center, at the New Paltz Farmers’ Market and at Hash in Stone Ridge. She collaborated with Dina Falconi on the award-winning book Foraging and Feasting. Her illustrations have been published in The New York Times, O: The Oprah Magazine, Real Simple and The Observer (UK). Her work was included in the 13th International Exhibition at the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation, exhibitions at the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew and the Smithsonian National Museum for Natural History. She is the author of Botanical Drawing in Color: A Basic Guide to Mastering Realistic Form and Naturalistic Color and Botanical Drawing: A Beginner’s Guide.
“I celebrate the plants in a way that people can enjoy. Now I teach in our pavilion in summer or here in my studio in the winter. I also teach online and in Hawaii twice a year for five weeks each. I just got the Hyatt Regency Hotel to take some for their shop and the National Tropical Botanical Garden, where I work there. I’ve taken botany classes, and I work with the botanist in Hawaii: We go on walks and find things, I learn the history of the plant, where it’s from. I’ve done illustrations for them; it gives me a great opportunity to learn about the plants.”
Her subject matter is just about anything that grows – tropical flowers, local flowers, fruits, fungi – whether it’s exotic or common. She shows me prints of avocados, Meyer lemons, tulips, waterlilies, sweet potatoes, heirloom tomatoes, sacred lotus, baobab flower pods, soursop, tulips, watermelon radish, torch ginger, breadseed poppy, carrot, garlic. “It’s fun to do all aspects of the plant and then enlarge it. After scanning, I can use Photoshop to pump up the color before printing. Sometimes I leave the notes on sketchbook pages in the prints that tell more information. With printing on canvas, I can do this simple framing with old refurbished fence wood that we have.”
Hollender’s upcoming exhibit is at the Lifebridge Sanctuary in a space large enough to show about 30 of her largest prints. An opening wine-and-cheese reception will be held on Sunday, June 2 from 3 to 5 p.m. Otherwise the show can be seen by appointment for the next two months: (845) 658-3439. The Lifebridge Sanctuary is located at 333 Mountain Road in Rosendale. See more of Hollender’s work at http://wendyhollender.com.