Often asked questions

Below are answers to some of the questions that people often ask. Feel free to ask your own questions by clicking the Contact link. I look forward to hearing from you. (For an overview of my background, click About.)

Q:  What are your favorite subjects, and how has your career evolved? 

Through the years I’ve painted portraits of people and animals, illustrated medical reports for a pathologist, drawn seashells for museums, books, and magazines, illustrated findings for archaeologists, developed an extensive line of note cards with nature themes (an effort that my loyal long-time mail carrier hopes will keep him in business), designed wedding invitations, business cards, and countless other creative projects.

Now, most subjects include flowers, with an emphasis on wildflowers, orchids, peonies, irises, and lilies. At the moment, my commissions include passion flowers, dahlias, mayflowers, lotus blossoms, and many wildflowers.

Q:  What were your early influences growing up? 

I was fortunate as a child to have studied art with a cousin who was known locally in North Carolina for her fine portraiture. Never had working so hard been so rewarding. She started me thinking about art as a career. In high school I illustrated my biology notebook, and realized my fascination with drawing scientific details.

The yard around my house was full of magnolias, forsythia, dozens of azalea bushes, cascading Lady Banks roses, camellia bushes, giant wisteria vines, crepe myrtles, flowering quince, gardenias, and many other gorgeous Southern flowers. How could I not evolve into a botanical artist? The neighbors enjoyed buying my handmade note cards with their favorite flowers. Even in college, I drew special note cards for my friends.

My two brothers were 14 and 16 years older than me. One sent me large packages of shells from all over the world when he was in the Navy, and the other kept me in tune with the finer aspects of nature through his Boy Scout work and love of the outdoors. He had a museum in his house with local artifacts and thousands of books about flowers, birds, shells, and every imaginable topic pertaining to nature.

Q:  Do you come from an artistic family?  

Yes, although my father, grandfather, gr-grandfather, and gr-gr-grandfather were all medical doctors. More than forty doctors in my family tree were descended from my gr-gr-grandfather. I grew up reading and preferring medical magazines more than comic books and loved the detailed illustrations. Even the covers of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) featured famous paintings that my father gave me to save in my art scrapbook. I almost pursued medical illustration as a career, and loved working with a pathologist for several years illustrating medical reports while learning many lab skills.

Those years influenced not only my art, but also my healthy eating habits. A pathology lab will definitely do that to you! Since I came from a long line of general practitioners, one could say that I’m the first “specialist” in the family with my focus on flowers and shells.

Dozens of professional artists flourish in my family tree. In each family, including mine, artistic expression was encouraged and nurtured. For this I will always be grateful! Of course, this was after my parents felt reassured that I’d never use their best wallpaper as my childhood art canvas.

Q:  Who are your favorites artists?

I have so many favorites, but here are some of the top choices:

  • Van Gogh, Monet, and Vermeer were my favorite artists in art school.
  • Georgia O’Keefe’s close-up paintings of flowers and shells fascinate me. We had similar childhoods, a mutual love of seashells, and a devotion to pure forms in nature.
  • Margaret Mee’s detailed Amazon diaries captivate me. She was an English botanical artist who painted orchids and bromeliads in the Brazilian rain forests for many years.
  • Polly Thayer (Starr)a prolific Boston artist, lived to age 102. Among my favorite paintings are her unusual flowers.
  • Dr. Frank H. Netter’s medical illustrations are among the very best. I used to study them for hours when I illustrated medical reports for a pathologist years ago.
  • Martin Johnson Heade’s 19th century tropical paintings with hummingbirds, orchids, and rain forest backgrounds take my breath away.
  • Gamini Ratnavira, a Sri Lankan artist now living in California, paints stunning rain forest scenes (visit  www.gaminiratnavira.com).
  • Carel Pieter Brest van Kempen is a master of intricacy in his nature paintings (visit www.cpbrestvankempen.com).

Keep visiting this section as I continue to respond to questions.


To buy a giclée print or COMMISSION a drawing, CONTACT Mathilde Duffy.

See ABOUT for her biography and art background.