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Eames-Sheavly's botanical art classes teach how to 'see'

Charlie's Garden
"Charlie’s Garden," Marcia Eames-Sheavly, watercolor, 2004.

As a student, Marcia Eames-Sheavly ’83 enjoyed spending time in a Department of Floriculture and Ornamental Horticulture studio above Mann Library, creating botanical paintings with watercolors. Now, as a senior lecturer and senior extension associate in the Horticulture Section, she is sharing her passion.

A prolific artist, with a personal show of her work that opened May 4 at the Cornell Plantations Nevin Welcome Center, Eames-Sheavly teaches the Art of Horticulture and Advanced Botanical Illustration on campus, and three online courses in botanical illustration through Cornell Cooperative Extension.

She believes that teaching these courses is “carrying on a tradition” of art in horticulture, she said.

In any age, but especially in the modern era of technological distractions, “any form of drawing connects you to your world,” she said. “People in my classes often say they are starting to observe their world again, or even, see for the first time.”

Eames-Sheavly says these students talk in their writing about personal changes, including increased confidence, a willingness to take more risks and slowing down to recognize the world around them.

Studies show that “dipping into creative processes more than creates a pretty picture – it provides important chances to practice tools that can lead to insight and innovation in any discipline,” she said.

Aside from her Advanced Botanical Illustration course, which teaches students to observe plants closely so their drawings are anatomically accurate and clear, “my primary interest is not technical virtuosity, but to develop a lifelong interest in seeing and tapping into creativity,” she said.

In her Art of Horticulture class, students have represented plants in quilts, paintings and in sculpture, and they have used plants to make shadowboxes, collages, botanical fashion and sod couches.

“Plants can be an avenue through which transformation takes place,” she said.

Eames-Sheavly’s art show at the Nevin Center includes watercolor, pastel and acrylic paintings and will run through June 30.

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Joe Schwartz