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Wildflowers & Watercolor

The process behind her masterpieces involves patience in its many steps, beginning with studying the subject through drawing with pencil. A highly-detailed line drawing is followed with a tonal study, when shading is added. This is transferred to watercolor paper, at which point the painting begins. Duarte’s personal craft incorporates painting with two brushes, one solely for paint and the other with only water. “It is a slow process because it is built upon transparent layers of paint. It is different from other kinds of watercolor painting. Things appear to emerge slowly, rather than all at once. It is very meticulous.” This artwork is truly a science, one that she learned from the Friends of Wellesley College Botanic Gardens, where she completed their Botanical Art and Illustration program in 2015, one of only six of its kind in the country. 

Her work’s initial inspiration is found in nature, and throughout this fifteen-year journey, Duarte has become more closely connected to the inner workings of wildlife. 

Making homemade jelly led to her affinity for wild berries, which are present in a multitude of paintings. More recently, foraging has caught her interest, a pastime involving exploring wild food resources. “I have learned so much about the disconnect between people and how little we know about what we can eat in nature. I have translated this into painting,” she notes, motioning to a pen and wash masterpiece depicting carrots, onions, and celery—the base ingredients in many soups. She continues to lean towards plants she loves in her art, like the “Black-eyed Susan,” of which she has done three paintings. “My best work is painting plants that I really like, and that is mostly wildflowers,” she adds.

Her current piece in the works came to life while walking her two beagles, when she picked a variety of wildflowers and combined them into one composition. “It is an act of making the natural look natural on paper, where I particularly arrange various components.” Her creative eye leads these decisions, positioning a cluster of wild flowers that appear to have simply fallen together in such a manner. 

Her passion is evident in the diverse collection of plants she studies and features in paintings, an act she describes as highlighting, “the plants you see, but never think about.” Aside from painting popular favorites, like the daffodil, Duarte brings our attention to those organisms that may not be admired, but play a role in our delicate ecosystem. Observing her own work, Duarte points out the inspiration behind her choices. For example, a watercolor featuring colorful plants she found in the winter highlights the subtle colors that persist through the grey season. With such a wide spectrum sparking her interest, she will often have multiple pieces in the works at once.

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