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Painted Landscape : What Happens When an Artist Turns From Painting to Planting

July 20, 1986|ROBERT SMAUS | Robert Smaus is an associate editor of Los Angeles Times Magazine.

Gardens are often called living canvases upon which the gardener paints with plants. If that is so, most gardens are finger paintings--a few bold strokes of color against green--simple but satisfying, until one sees just what one can do. Here, for instance, is a garden sure to inspire greater flights of fancy. Begun eight years ago to furnish grist for the artist's mill, this is the Poway garden of professional illustrator Karen Kees, who spends ever-increasing amounts of time away from the palette as a garden designer. The artist shows through in the fearless combining of colors that one might not think make good company, such as pink with orange. Beyond that, there is attention to matters of composition not often considered, such as the importance of points of focus to which the eye immediately darts, and of a distinct background against which everything can be viewed. These plantings screen the garden from the surrounding housing tract; it's not as rural as it appears. If it seems large, consider that there is no lawn and that it was photographed with a wide-angle lens. Actually it occupies a space no bigger than the average backyard.

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