Laura Smetana is not only a talented writer and illustrator, but also an avid gardener reflected in her latest book, MY LOVE FOR YOU IS LIKE A GARDEN. Scroll down for pictorial of the watercolor/collage process she used to illustrate her book...
June 20, 2021, found Laura outside enjoying a quiet summer afternoon overlooking her well-tended garden starting work on the watercolor washes for her book, MY LOVE FOR YOU IS LIKE A GARDEN. Little did she know that later that day her garden would be totally lost in the whirlwind of a tornado blowing through her Woodridge, IL neighborhood leaving her home severely damaged and others in her area uninhabitable.
“Because of all the trees in my backyard, I had planted a shade garden during the pandemic adding plants from my parents’ and grandparents’ homes,” Laura says. “They reminded me of shared times gardening together starting when I was very little. For me, it was filled with love and wonderful memories, but after the storm it was completely gone.”
That’s where the surrounding community stepped in. “So many strangers came to help clean up and meet so many of our needs,” she says. “Eventually they even brought garden plants to replace what was lost. When my neighbors across the street moved away, they offered me flowers and plants from their yard. Plants came from so many places that I was genuinely touched by the generosity. Even the Village of Woodridge arrived with a truckload of donated trees from the Morton Arboretum for replanting in our neighborhood.”
It took one full year, to the day of that devastating storm, for Laura’s house to be repaired and back to normal. Somehow during all this chaos, along with her busy household of a husband and young son, she still managed to write and illustrate a touching book brimming with watercolor and collage art that’s encouraging for all ages. The garden is her metaphor for the beauty and resilience of life despite tough times or challenging circumstances.
BELOW: Laura generously shares her photos and text explaining her watercolor/collage process used for her latest book...
The first step in Laura’s collage-making process involves creating watercolor washes in the colors needed for each element in an illustration—for example the marigold collage has orange, green, and brown—so she would paint an entire paper each of those colors. Once the watercolor washes are dry, she presses them under a large book to keep them flat. (Picture 1 below)
Next, she uses a pencil to sketch the full-size illustration onto scrap paper, typically her son’s old homework assignments so there is a clear front and back side. (Picture 2 below)
Then she carefully cuts each element out of the sketch according to color in the final collage. (Picture 3 below)
She traces each piece onto the back of the corresponding watercolor wash. For example, marigold blooms are traced onto the back of the orange watercolor wash (photographed below), each leaf is traced onto the green watercolor wash, and so on. (Picture 4 below)
Piece by piece, the elements are cut out of the sketch, traced onto the corresponding watercolor wash, and cut out of the watercolor wash until the field of marigolds begins to appear. (Picture 5 below).
Then, each element is arranged onto an 11 x 17 sheet of Bristol board, where they are glued down into place—sometimes over the course of a few days to months depending on how detailed the collage is and how many colors and elements are involved. (Picture 6 below)
Then, each individual collage is scanned. Text is added to the illustration and it's ready for publication. (Picture 7 below)
On Laura’s website, readers can get a behind-the-scenes, step-by-step look at how she created the monarch butterfly collage for My Love for You Is Like a Garden.
PURCHASE HERE: Amazon Link to Purchase My Love for You Is Like a Garden - https://www.amazon.com/dp/1737140977