My straightforward folk art works are always drawn in pencil to give the precisely defined edges to flowers, leaves, birds and vases that characterize this style – there’s not a blurred line, dot or shadow anywhere. These drawings, including the ‘mirror-double’ ones like Three Pots with Heart Blooms & Azure Birds, are entirely created by eye and hand, with some use of a ruler, and many soft pencil lines are tried out then erased before the final motif is drawn in hard, sharp-point lead. I never use a computer for this work, or even a light table. The joy for me is creating a satisfying image using only eyes and pencil.
The impulse to make such tricky, time-consuming folk art drawings comes from my enjoyment of the naïve, folk art style and a wish to honor ancestors on my father’s side. In the 1870’s, after the Franco-Prussian war, my great-great grandfather, of Black Forest peasant-farmer stock, married a woman from Strasbourg. They emigrated to America, bought land in Pennsylvania, farmed and reared a passel of children there. The area of Pennsylvania where they settled is often called Pennsylvania Dutch Country, but the ‘Dutch’ is an Americanization of ‘Deutsch’ or German.
Pennsylvania Deutsch Country is well-known for its folk art motifs – old examples of this art form are highly valued as antiques, and even today charming, stylized people, animals, birds, trees, flowers and scenes can be discovered painted on barns and locally made furniture and tin ware, carved into decoys and doorstops, stitched on linens, and cut into metal weathervanes.