Susan DiMarchi interviews Peggy Turchette
Peggy Turchette’s illustrations have graced the pages of many publications and products for the past fifteen years. Like many artists, every aspect of Peggy’s life exudes creativity.
S: How did you begin this journey?
P: I’m a late bloomer. I didn’t draw or paint at all until I took a beginning drawing class at the age of 42. But within minutes of standing at an easel in that classroom, and making my first few marks with a bulky piece of vine charcoal, I knew that this was what I would be doing for the rest of my life.
I took every evening class I could find, while continuing to work days at my job as a secretary, and within a couple of years I was getting my first illustration assignments. In 1998 I felt I had enough clients to quit my day job, and for the next ten years I worked seven days a week as a freelance illustrator.
In 2007 I enrolled in the Botanical Illustration Program at the Denver Botanic Gardens, and received my Certificate two years later. My first seed packet for Botanical Interests was the Howden Pumpkin, and it’s still one of my favorites.
P: My most inspiring job was a request to create a surface textile design for hospital johnnys for children, incorporating both Spanish and English. I came up with the idea of a tossed pattern of crayons, with the colors written on the labels in both languages. The client loved it, and I love to think that maybe I’ve brightened up the day of a sick child.
I guess the most unusual thing I’ve been asked to illustrate is a garbage truck. The assignment was to to create a Christmas Card for a Waste Management company to send to all its clients. Since this was in the days before digital cameras, I had to do sketches on location, so I stalked the alleys of my hometown in the early mornings, trying to do quick sketches of the trucks as they went about their business. In the end, I got an image that pleased both myself and the client.
S: As we all know, finding specimens for reference can be a challenge with the deadlines we have. Tell us about an experience you’ve had.
P: In the dead of winter, I was asked by Botanical Interests to do an illustration of Chidori Kale. Since there are so many varieties of kale, and they are quite often confused, I knew I had to get the right kind to use as reference. Calls to local supermarkets yielded no results, nor did the Internet provide any definitive images. In desperation, I called several nurseries in Naples, Florida, where my parents live, to find the elusive specimen. Luckily, in Florida, winter is the growing season for kale, and I found a garden center that had two healthy plants! But how to get them up to Boulder? I called my 92 year old father, to see if by any chance he could go get the plants and somehow ship them up to me.
Picking up the plants didn’t pose too many problems, but shipping was another story. Apparently, it is a violation of FTC rulings to ship dirt, so he had to go home, remove the plants from their pots, rinse off all the dirt, then carefully wrap them in wet paper towels, bring them to a Fed-Ex office, pack them up, and ship them overnight. When the box arrived the next day, it was with some trepidation that I opened it, but there were two perfectly healthy Chidori Kale plants with root systems intact. Quickly re-potting them, I set up my drawing board and got to work. I think of my wonderful Dad, schlepping plants and dirt all over Southwest Florida, whenever I look at that painting.
S: What new projects do you have on the drawing board?
I’ve just bought a wonderful little cottage, where for the first time I have a whole room dedicated to my studio. I wanted to mark this momentous occasion with some new creative endeavor. I’d read about artists who’d chosen a particular subject and worked on it for an entire year. On January 1st , I decided to create a bird a day for 365 days, and record this on my blog: http://peggyturchette.blogspot.com/. I’m having so much fun experimenting with other mediums and materials!