This special issue of Art Talk contains excerpts from an article, "Plant, Paint, Eat, Repeat," written by me, Eva Farley and Candy Matthews. We explain how our love of gardening and cooking influences our still life paintings. You'll find the full printed version in the Summer edition of Edible: Shasta-Butte Magazine.

Dolores Mitchell, "Backyard Lemons,"
Below is the link to our "On-Line Local Color Gallery" with paintings from"Plant, Paint, Eat and Repeat" plus others by Mitchell, Farley and Matthews. Look now or click on a duplicate link at the end of this article.
Dolores Mitchell, "In My Garden," detail, oil, 24x36"

All of my senses nourish my paintings of lemons that I’ve grown and used in recipes. As I paint, recalling the bumpy texture of a lemon I’ve picked, I will dab on thick highlights with a palette knife.  Inspired by a lemon’s tangy smell and taste, I’ll dip my brush into a Saffron-colored Indian Yellow glaze.. 
In kindergarten, I planted a petunia seed--a hard, black speck-- in soil within an eggshell.  Day after day I watered the soil with an eyedropper--watered and watched, watered and watched.  Nothing, nothing, nothing, something!   A sprout wearing its husk like a tam had miraculously materialized. 

The awe I experienced as a child upon witnessing germination has stayed with me.  Today, among the flowers I grow in my backyard, you'll find herbs, grapes, and lemons.  
Photograph of my Meyer Lemon tree

Despite rich Chico soil and ample water and sun, for nearly a decade my Myer Lemon was virtually barren. Then, last winter it produced over sixty lemons as large as oranges; I sent photos to friends as if they were birth announcements.


A lemon rivals the sun as a radiant painting subject. It gives me the strong compositional elements of a sphere and segments and lets me use all the yellows in my paint box--Naples Yellow; Yellow Ochre; Cadmium Yellow, Aureolin and Indian Yellow.
Above: Whole, Half and Quartered lemons on a metal tray.
Left: Compositional Sketch

As warmup exercises before painting on a canvas, I tried compositional sketches and painted whole and cut-up lemons on little panels (above and to the left).
D. Mitchell, Stage One: "In Praise of Lemons," 10x20 inches, Oil

After the "warmups," I decided to spread lemons across a panoramic canvas that was twice as wide as high. In Stage One, I placed lemons on a magenta porcelain saucer whose blue rim reinforced a circular motif. In subsequent stages, this center of interest remained while its surroundings changed.
Stage Two: "In Praise of Lemons," 10x20 inches, oil

As in gardening, in Stage Two I did some pruning and staking.  I painted out the platter of grapes in Stage One and repainted the orange wall and tablecloth in shades of purple, the complement of yellow.  Finally, I added three jars that act as cylindrical "stakes."
Mitchell, "In Praise of Lemons," Finished Version, 10x20 inches, oil, 2020

In this final version of “In Praise of Lemons,” I reduced three jars to two and added meandering paths of parsley around the jars, lemons and plate.

My “Lazy Lemon Salad Dressing” is super easy to make. Its base of oil and lemon uses the same principle of opposites enhancing each other as in “In Praise of Lemons” with its complementary yellows and purples. . 

In winter, I squeeze my lemons and freeze the juice in ice cube trays. As needed, I unthaw a few cubes and mix one part juice, two parts extra virgin olive oil, a dollop of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale Honey & Spice Mustard as an emulsifier, plus bits of this and that from my fridge such as smidgens of parmesan.
Rather than whisk in a bowl and transfer to a pitcher, I shake the mixture vigorously in a jar that doubles for serving and storage--next to no cleanup!



Gardening makes me happy. Even pulling weeds is so satisfying. I’m ‘in the moment’ as I do it.  I grow both vegetables and flowers for our table.  
Farley, "Scabiosa, "watercolor.....................Farley,"Zowie Bouquet," watercolor
Seed catalogues are my winter dreams. I’m like a kid in a candy store, but at some point I become realistic about limits in space and what will grow well here in Chico.
........................Eva Farley, "Seed Packets," watercolor...................................

In gardening, I plan carefully and follow basic rules methodically, such as watering consistently. and placing a plant where it will flourish—in Chico summers many plants need late afternoon shade.

Gardening requires optimism and a good deal of trust. Planting a small seed in the soil and then seeing--sometimes within a few days-- a tiny plant emerge, still feels like magic to me.
Eva Farley, "Garden Tomatoes, Garlic and Olive Oil," watercolor (above)


Planning is as important in watercolor painting as it is in gardening.  I imagine the finished painting before I am ready to start. To the left is my "Summer Soup" watercolor. Below, I'll explain its steps of development.

To begin “Summer Supper,” I chose a green bowl to complement the reds of the tomato soup and a little blue bowl for the green sauce. My grandmother’s faded blue tablecloth provided a subtle background.  I arranged the bowls in a pleasing composition and took photographs by the beautiful late afternoon light. 

In Stage One (right), using a #2 pencil, I lightly drew my composition and then painted in all the shadows.  Once they were dry, I tinted the tablecloth with a pale grayish-lavender wash to make it recede. When that had dried, I painted the pale blue of the cloth around the leaf pattern.

In Stage Two, (right), I tackled the tricky bit of painting the metal spoon and the viscous sauce

In Stage Three, (below), I took particular pleasure in painting the little blue bowl, having thrown it on a wheel and glazed it Cobalt Blue myself.  I cooled the shaded interior of the bowl by adding Ultramarine Blue and warmed its sunlit rim with Manganese Blue.  The white of the paper makes the rims of both bowls sparkle..  
In the Final Stage (below), I mixed warm Cadmium Red Light and cool Alizarin Crimson to produce a muted red and left little white specks of the paper unpainted to show the shimmer on the soup’s surface.  

Finally, onto the damp surface of the soup I dropped Gamboge, a safron-yellow.  I love the magic of a drop of richly saturated paint moving over a wet swath of paper. I have learned to trust in that magic, just as I have learned that from a small seed, with care, a plant will emerge.

(Below is the finished version of Eva Farley's watercolor "Summer Soup.")


I approach cooking in the creative ways of my grandmother and mother who lived through the Great Depression--they used what was on hand and in season.  In a similar way, I use my own bowls and linens in my still lives---they are all so familiar to me.
When I paint, I love how a color such as red will jump out at me, especially when next to something green, and when I pick garden flowers for our table (above), or when I cook, I look for similar contrasts, as when combining red peppers with basil.  We eat with our eyes as well as with our mouths, and a colorful meal is more appealing than a drab one,
.................Eva Farley, "Herbs from My Garden," watercolor...........................

Press this BUTTON for Farley’s Chilled fresh tomato soup with Chimichurri Recipe.


Candy Matthews says: “I garden in raised beds that my husband made in our back yard out of corrugated metal.  I cook with garlic and onions all the time and they are so simple to grow--just poke a hole in the soil and stick in a ‘start.'

Below: Candy Matthews' watercolor of a raised bed with garlic and onions
In this sketch I almost put a swear word under the squirrel instead of ‘yum!’ since squirrels are always digging up what we’ve planted. Our seven-year-old grandson loves to help ‘Pop Pop’ trap squirrels.  He checks the trap every day for squirrels to release in the park.
Gardening, like painting and cooking, is unpredictable and doesn’t always go as I’d like, but the successes keep me excited.


When I walk through the garden door into our kitchen the house seems to fold its arms around me and give me a hug.  It’s like being greeted by the spirits of all the animals we’ve had as pets.   For me, my kitchen brings together growing, painting and eating.
I paint in my kitchen by soft light that comes through the old metal casement windows.  The sink is nearby for water and when I’m painting I can get up and stir the pot if I’m cooking soup.
In still life paintings, I often use bowls and platters that I’ve had for years, such as this white bowl (right) that my daughter gave me.  It doesn’t bother me that it’s chipped in places.  I paint all its imperfections as part of life.  


I didn’t know how to cook when I got married, but my father was a good cook and I’d often call him for advice.  He’d tell me: "Just imagine what you want something to taste and look like, then give it a pinch of this or that until you’re satisfied." 
Candy Matthews, hand-written and illustrated recipe for "Herb Roasted Onions" (above). Click on the button below for a typed version of the recipe.

It’s fun for our grandkids to gather onions and garlic from our raised beds and they like to help with chopping and arranging when I make my ‘Herb-Roasted Onions’ recipe.  

I paint on my kitchen counter where I also prepare food.  My husband will see a tomato on the counter and ask “Can I eat it or do I have to wait until you’ve painted it?” 
My "Bouquet of Thyme" watercolor (above) represents a full circle of herbs I have grown, painted and eaten.  Now I’ve used the surplus leaves and flowers to make a table arrangement that adds a tangy odor to the house.  


Eva Farley concludes that…
A garden is never finished. There is always something that needs to be done, whether it’s amending the soil, planting, weeding, pruning or harvesting and then at the end of one season, it begins again! Just as in painting and cooking, the process of gardening is an investment of time. Finding enjoyment in the process is key to committing yourself to doing it. It can’t all be about the results. You learn as you go and (hopefully) get better with repetition.


A click below takes you to a LOCAL COLOR ON-LINE GALLERY  for Paintings by Mitchell, Matthews and Farley.

We had to cancel our second annual "Local Color" summer show in Candy Matthews's backyard because of the virus.  Longing to have an audience for our art, we’ve set up our first “on-line” gallery.  A click on this link will take you to 30 “Local Color” paintings in which we celebrate familiar flora, fauna, and North State settings.  You’ll have our contact information to send us comments and/or arrange for purchases and curbside pickup

EDIBLE SHASTA-BUTTE magazine tells stories about our local food scene and includes recipes from local chefs. It features local artists on its covers and interior pages. The Covid Crisis has cut its advertising revenues. Your $28 yearly subscription will put 4 issues a year in your mailbox and help this "voice" of our north state community flourish. A click below will take you to the subscription page on its website.

Mitchell, Cover
Farley, Cover
Matthews, Cover
CALL for SUBMISSIONS for the September ART TALK (I'm taking a creative break in August). Please send your thoughts on the creative path you have taken this summer. Send 50-100 words and 2 to 3 images to You can send a submission now or anytime before August 15. Thanks! Dolores Mitchell