"Painting flowers is my passion. It is my way to express life with a belief in goodness, life with hope." With that first line from her artist statement, Davenport resident Caroline England shows that she's articulate in addition to being a talented watercolorist. Her paintings are exquisitely rendered, with tremendous attention to detail and a professional finish. The 24 watercolors in this show range in price from $425 to $2,200, and the 18 silk scarves range in price from $30 to $95, bargains for their quality and craftsmanship.

If you like watercolors in the Chinese floral tradition, you'll love this show, which runs through January 27 at the MidCoast Fine Arts Gallery in LeClaire's Mississippi Valley Welcome Center. England's compositions feature black backgrounds that allow the flowers to stand out in stark contrast. She has two basic styles: The first style renders the flower as a pristine composition against the black background, while the second contains the floral subject matter with geometric lines intersecting the composition.

"Using a geometric sub-motif strongly accented with the dynamic effect of a curve enhances the vitality and motion and creates a sense of energy and motion," England writes of the second compositional technique. "The shallow space has been divided into uneven segments. Texture is shown with diaphanous use of color; thin transparent glazes of color offer opportunities for subtle texture suggesting delicate sensations."

Frankly, England paints with words even better than with watercolor, so I'd like to quote her describing her goals: "My intent is to capture a powerful composition to set a mood and create an emotional impact. Magnified images of flowers reveal an infinite source of detail. By designing all of the painting space, showing the pattern of a leaf, the roundness of a bloom, I hope to evince the sensitivity of a flower. I am inviting the viewer to see with me and to rejoice in my interpretation of nature's beauty."

Ostinato is a composition that has the geometric lines intersecting the flower-petal imagery. The effect is not a dramatic as the simple compositions, because the many images and rich colors create a texture rather than an image. The contrast becomes clear if you look at Fuchsias Flouncing. In this painting, the blooms are the image against the totally black background. The organic shapes of the leaves and blossoms are rendered with photo-realistic quality, and this is an interesting juxtaposition given the traditionally free-flowing nature of the watercolor medium.

In the composition Goddess of the Rainbow, England uses the primary image of the orchid's bloom in the foreground with geometric curves and rectangles as a background, as opposed to the stark black background found in many of the other compositions. Both types of composition are done professionally and well, but my personal taste runs to the paintings without the geometric intersections. On the silk scarves, though, the geometric additions work extremely well.

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