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Book Launch: Lorene Edwards Forkner's Color In and Out of the Garden

What started as a 100-day challenge for Lorene Edwards Forkner (West Seattle artist, gardener, author and long time friend-of-Click!) has become a daily practice that's still going over three years later.

Her exercise of translating the colors found in nature into watercolors has a soothing, meditative quality and her Instagram-ready images have transitioned beautifully to the printed page for her new book Seeing Color In and Out of the Garden. More than a picture book, nature lovers and artists of all levels can use this guide to complete their own color studies with Lorene's shared techniques in painting, gardening and observation.

We're hosting a book release and signing event Sunday May 1 from 10a – 2p. Stop in during the West Seattle Farmer's Market to pick up your copy and chat color and gardens with Lorene.

How would you describe your book?

Color In and Out of the Garden is a memoir in plants and color. It’s about looking out and looking in. My #seeingcolorinthegarden practice began in 2018, shortly after the death of my father when I wanted to participate in an online creativity challenge but I had precious little to give. As I write in the book:

“The garden is a relatively gentle proving ground for encountering love (and no small measure of lust) along with heartbreak, loss, death, and plenty of tedium—excellent training for navigating life and grief. …The practice was transformative. I learned that nature is a balm. Love and loss are inextricable. And nothing really ends.”

The book contains a collection of color studies and observations presented in a spectrum of colors exploring attention (red), energy (orange), memory (yellow), growth (green), vulnerability and tenderness (blue), and a call to always choose love (violet).

What drew you to this style of work?

Years ago I heard natural dye artist Sasha Duerr talk about extracting pigments from botanicals as a means of documenting time and place. Later I came across the work of landscape artist Mimi Robinson who creates color studies as a starting point for identifying a landscape. In both instances, I was inspired by place, season, even a particular moment being distilled down into simple color swatches.

Can you tell us about your favorite part of the book?

I loved creating the color studies, the making aspect. But at the end of the day, I’m a writer. Collecting observations and short essays to accompany each color study is what makes this work deeply personal.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Mary Oliver wrote:

“Instructions for living a life:

Pay attention

Be astonished

Tell about it.”

Where is your favorite place to write and do work?

The vast majority of my color studies are based on plants growing in my garden here in West Seattle. When forced to go indoors, my studio and my home office are where this practice plays out each day. #westsidebestside!

If you could collaborate with anyone (living or not), who would it be and why?

My work is pretty solitary, but I love introducing the practice to others and having them pick up a brush, a camera, or whatever medium, to document what they see. I’ve led hands-on workshops, talked to a class of landscape architecture students, or lectured to a group of flower farmers and floral designers. I’ve also painted alongside friends of all ages—children are natural at this. Watching someone successfully capture a color is thrilling, it never gets old.

Is there one thing you wish you could tell people when they read your book?

My hope is that readers will be inspired to look closely with great heart at the world around them. Befriending our attention introduces an expansive generosity.

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