Dorota: Mushrooms are my favorite subject to draw and to cook with. Also, mushroom hunting is a great way to be outdoors and observe nature. In the Pacific Northwest, I see some of the similar species that grew in Poland such as King Boletes and other Boletes, Amanitas, Chanterelles, Oyster Mushrooms and Milk Caps. Other species only found here and not in Poland are Lobster Mushroom, Chicken of the Woods, Coral Mushrooms and Cauliflower mushroom to name a few. My favorite mushrooms to cook with are Chanterelles (which I don’t have luck finding, so I buy them at the farmers’ market), Oyster mushrooms, Cauliflower mushrooms, and Bolete mushrooms, which I have luck finding on the coast. My favorite way to cook mushrooms is with butter, leeks, garlic, salt, and chopped parsley. You can make plain white mushrooms taste amazing with that combo as well.
OBA: You have illustrated many native plants of the Pacific Northwest, including a series for the Columbia Memorial Hospital in Seaside, Oregon. Have you illustrated native plants of Poland? If so, what were some of your favorites?
Dorota: I love illustrating plants from my parents’ garden when I visit Poland in the summer. Some of my favorite subjects are berries such as gooseberries, black and red currants and fruit such as peaches, pears, apples, etc. I have started several flower projects while being in Poland and finished painting them while back in Oregon. Some my favorite flowers from Poland are Lilac, Lilies, Daylillies and Poppies. Several years ago, while hiking in Tatra mountains, I discovered that there are over 40 varieties of native orchids growing in Poland, many of them endemic to the Tatra mountains. I did many sketches in my sketchbook that year, and one day my dream is to go back to Tatra mountains and spend more time creating more detailed illustrations of the native orchids. Poland is not very well known for its orchids, and I think that would be a great project for me and a way to showcase such unique plants from Poland. I also like portraying butterflies and moths, and my favorite butterfly from Poland that I love depicting is a Peacock butterfly.
OBA: In 2019, you completed the diploma for the Society of Botanical Artists in London, England. How was it taking a correspondence course as opposed to in-person learning? Do you have any tips for someone who wants to apply and take the UK diploma?
Dorota: Correspondence course was great for me. In Oregon, there are not a lot of in-person opportunities for this kind of learning or programs. You are definitely on your own and need tons of self-discipline as the course requires a huge time commitment. There aren’t any video tutorials associated with the course so a lot of learning happened by reading books, sketching, drawing, researching and hours of practice. You need a little bit of background in your media (colored pencils or watercolor) before you begin the course -- it’s definitely not for beginners. The course was challenging, and with its deadlines, a bit stressful. There was no time for personal projects, just barely enough time for the assignments. The varied scope of the assignments helps to stretch your skills and abilities, teaches you to work under pressure, forces you to tackle different plant subjects, provides an opportunity to learn basic botany, and a chance to build a comprehensive portfolio. It was totally worth the time commitment.
OBA: You have created beautiful botanical art in graphite, pen & ink, colored pencil, and watercolor. What is your favorite medium?
Dorota: I love all the media mentioned. I have completed my diploma in colored pencils. I also love watercolor and pen and ink. In my sketchbooks, I use predominantly pen and ink and add color with either colored pencils or watercolor. Drawing is more physical in a way, and I think my first love is drawing. Drawing is also more versatile on the go. When I have few minutes here and there (when traveling or on a break at work), it’s much easier to work in a sketchbook with a pen and colored pencils. Also when I have shorter amounts of time in my studio, colored pencils are my preferred media. There is no color mixing or waiting for washes to dry. The flow is very different while working in colored pencils or watercolor for me. I choose watercolors when I have bigger chunks of time available to paint.
OBA: How do you keep up your practice of daily sketching and botanical art during the fall and winter seasons when blossoms and pollinators are dormant?
Dorota: Actually, fall and winter are my favorite seasons as there is no shortage of fall leaves, mushrooms, seedpods, and cones. I never tire of these subjects, and since the weather keeps me indoors more, I tend to be more productive in the fall and winter. I work from seasonal subjects as much as possible, but fall and winter also offers time to finish some of the summer projects as well, and time to add pollinators to the drawings or paintings working from preserved specimens.
I also do more botanical teaching in the fall and winter. This coming fall I will be teaching an online, 8-week-long workshop through Oregon Society of Artists titled, "Fall Botanical Wonders," (Sept. 25- Nov.20). Also, I'm teaching an in-person, one-day workshop on September 11 at OSA.
Fall and winter are a great time to connect with other botanical artists. I draw or paint daily, and my preferred time to draw or paint is at night. Since daylight is not abundant at this time of the year, I am naturally drawn to my studio daily.
OBA: Do you have anything else you’d like to tell us about? What are you currently working on?
Dorota: I have several project started right now in the studio. I am painting Sweet Peas, finishing an heirloom tomato for OBA’s "Red-ibles" group project, starting a drawing of a Blanket Flower (Gaillardia) that will feature a Peacock butterfly, and continuing a drawing of a Japanese Corkscrew Larch from my parents' garden. The larch drawing is part of an ongoing project of illustrating various cones and branches of evergreen trees.
There is never a shortage of inspiration for me, and I find both the practice of botanical drawing and painting, as well as belonging to organizations such as OBA and the opportunity to share my love of plants with others, a life-changing experience.