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The 2022 American Flowers Week artwork was created exclusively for Slow Flowers Society by Shelley Aldrich, a painter and illustrator based in Rancho Palos Verdes, California.

Like some of our past commissions, we discovered Shelley on Instagram, drawn to her whimsical and lyrical painting technique that depicts botanical patterns, flowers and gardens, wildlife, and people.
Shelley brainstormed several concepts for an original American Flowers Week illustration — and the final concept became an utterly charming USA map with red, white, and blue blooms. The flowers are intended to be playful and familiar, while not literally replicated.

Shelley Aldrich website

Shelley is a self-taught artist who began painting four years ago. She studied Business Administration at the University of Southern California and worked as a financial professional for two decades in the entertainment, technology and auto industries. In 2014, she quit the corporate world to spend more time at home with her two daughters.

Shelley Aldrich

Shelley says she has always enjoyed creative hobbies, but her decision to become self-employed allowed her to study and practice painting. She started with The 100 Day Project in 2018 and has not stopped. Her joyful and playful painting style is still evolving but is always inspired by the natural world. We recently caught up with Shelley for a conversation shared here:

Q. How do you describe yourself and your art?
A. I would say my art is playful, bright and imperfect.  Without formal training,  I paint and draw using my instinct vs learned techniques.  So I it think it has a childlike simplicity.

Q. How did you develop your unique style and aesthetic?
A. Initially, I wanted to illustrate children’s books. If you look at some of my earlier work, you’ll see I drew characters. Last November, I started drawing patterns, which felt more natural for me. It was a whole different way of thinking to switch from illustrating a children’s story to making surface patterns. It was almost a relief for me to just draw freely and not think about getting a character and environment just right.

Q. When you draw florals, do you work from your imagination?
A. I almost always work from a reference photograph when I draw landscapes and florals. When I was drawing children’s book illustrations, I often worked from my imagination, but flowers are a lot different. I like the way the illustrations come out when I draw what I see.

Q. What is your drawing process?
A. It has changed over time.  I used to always start with a tiny thumbnail sketch to test composition and color before a final painting.  But this year I discovered Procreate on the iPad Pro.  I never thought I would go digital but it’s immensely easier, especially when it comes to surface patterns.  It saves me from having to paint an image over and over when a client needs a change.  Although, when I paint for myself, I still start with a tiny sketch on Procreate and then paint traditionally.

Shelley Aldrich Collage_Plant Lady
“Plant Lady,” Painted Paper Collage and Gouache by Shelley Aldrich

Q. What other media do you use?
A. When I draw landscapes, I like to work with acrylic gouache. It has a beautiful opaque, matte finish to it and the layers dry quickly so I can paint colors on top of each other without having them blend together. It allows me to achieve landscapes with a graphic kind of feeling that I like. I also love the look of Caran d’ache Neocolor II crayons.

Q. What size are your paintings?
A. When painting, I work smaller, probably smaller than most artists — usually 5 by 7 inches. On the iPad Pro, I generally work on a 10×10 square.  It’s easier to work larger on the iPad Pro, because you can zoom in and zoom out and work with one little square area at a time. It doesn’t feel overwhelming that way.

2022 AFW branding illustration

Q. How did you approach the American Flowers Week illustration?
A. I began with a shape of the United States and did a watercolor wash over it. And then over that, I started adding the flowers, one at a time.

Q. How did art and drawing “sneak up” on you?
A. I always loved doodling and making crafts, but I took a more traditional route, studying business in college. I worked in finance for 22 years — from Paramount Studios, to startups to Toyota Financial Services. While I was working, I would find moments to be creative like teaching art at my daughters’ school, scrapbooking for magazines, and even starting a handmade party goods business called Pipsqueak & Bean.  I never fully committed to art most likely out of fear.  It wasn’t until 2018, almost exactly a year after losing my mom, that I finally decided I was going to learn to paint.  I guess you could say art has been slowly sneaking up on me for many years.

Q. When did you transition to doing illustration only?
A. At the beginning of this year I put away my sewing machine and closed down the Etsy shop. I cleared out all of my felts and tissue paper from the party goods business and replaced it all with my art supplies. I work in a little nook in my kitchen, which is probably where we should  eat breakfast. It’s a tiny space, but I have a table and all my art supplies around me.

Q. What kind of commissions are you receiving?
A. My illustrations are being used for journals, cards, phone cases, fabrics, scarves, some clothing.

Q. Are you surprised at the response to your illustrations?
A. It is crazy  because things are starting to take off for me. All of a sudden I’m hearing from clients and getting commissions from people who like my style. I always remind myself about Julia Child and Grandma Moses, women who started careers even when they were told it was too late for their age. Finally, it feels like the right time to start my art career, a new adventure.

IG: @shelleyaldrichminimuseum
Web: shelleyaldrich.com
Etsy: etsy.com/shop/ShelleyAldrichArt