Thinking like an artist

Collect ideas and use them your way

Thinking like an artist

Concrete squares trimmed with rock are a classic patio treatment throughout southern Europe, says Calvo: "So this floor really reminds me of home." Rocks and marble chips were pressed into the wet concrete.

Claire Curran

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Gather ideas. In order to create beauty in your garden, says California artist Marie del Carmen Calvo, you need ideas. Gather images to draw from. "Visit museums, walk through gardens, take a hike," she says. "Beauty is everywhere." Also collect books, clippings, and photos of gardens and accessories you like.

Lose fear, learn trust. "Most people know what they like," says Calvo, "and they have good instincts. But they block them out of fear. Let the fear go. It's your worst enemy." Say, for instance, you always wanted to plant an all-red border, including foliage. What's stopping you? Try it. It could be the most exciting flower garden you ever planted. If not, refine it until it is.

"Enjoy the process." Artists accept that things never turn out the way they imagined them the very first time, says Calvo. They're willing to make second, third, and fourth attempts. The fountain she designed for the courtyard just outside her studio, shown at left, is a good example.  What Calvo originally pictured for this space was a weeping wall--a monolith with a constant trickle of water running down its face. During the construction process, however, she found her original idea too plain and kept embellishing the design until she reached the finished product shown here. "Don't invest so much in the outcome," she advises. "Enjoy the process."

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