Painting the purple flower

Come summertime, Sally Cays’ most recent piece of artwork will take over the peninsula, finding itself on posters, T-shirts and fliers all over town.

The piece, which is simple yet striking as bunches of bright lavender contrast with a stark green background, was commissioned by the Sequim Lavender Growers Association to be the official symbol of the 2008 Lavender Festival.

Cays said she thought it would take a month or so but she is just putting the finishing touches on the piece now, two months after she began.

“I’ve been working like crazy,” Cays laughed as she surveyed the piece just hours before presenting it to SLGA members. “I’ve put my life on hold and just been working on it.”

Lately, that means spending nearly a full workday focused solely on the painting.

“At the beginning, some days I didn’t do actual painting, I just did some staring and thinking, which is part of the process,” Cays said, sitting at her easel with her trademark fingerless painting gloves. “Lately I’ve been spending five or six hours painting.”

She explained that Lavender Festival executive director Scott Nagel approached her during the last few months of 2007.

“When Scott called me, I said, ‘Are you familiar with how I paint?’” Cays recalled. “I don’t really do landscapes, I do up-close and personal and detailed paintings. In the past, the posters have been vast fields … I wanted to make sure they knew what I did.”

Nagel explained that SLGA members were insisting on a Sally Cays’ painting — so Cays signed the contract and took out her brushes.

For the composition, Cays used a bouquet of dried lavender.

For the colors, textures and shapes, however, she said she used a variety of sources: images downloaded from the Internet and various lavender photographs she has taken during her 20 years residing in Sequim.

“The rest of it,” she said, “is imagination.”

Cays put down her brushes and stood several yards from the painting.

“When I get away from it, it looks better,” she said, laughing. “Up close I always think, ‘This needs to be done, that needs to be done.’”

Although the piece looks ready to go, Cays is not fully satisfied. She squints a little, still standing halfway across her studio from the painting.

“I just saw something else I need to fix,” she said.

After weeks of working on a project, she doesn’t feel like she can properly judge it.

“I get sick of a painting by the time I’m finished,” she said. “I let other people judge it.”

After presenting the painting to the members, Cays said she will scan it herself so she can do the proper color corrections and then hand the scans over to the SLGA members again.

“This is my first time doing the festival poster,” she said. “They have something different every year. It was pretty nice to be asked to do it for 2008.”

Although Sally Cays said she has put her other activities on hold for a couple months while finishing up the Lavender Festival poster, she will be back in business, holding a portrait workshop at the end of February. For more information, call 683-5387.

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