Nature and botanic gardens inspire Millsboro painter

Date Published: 
Nov. 2, 2017

Coastal Point • Laura Walter: Constance James Collock was inspired by the work being done to bring Delaware Botanic Gardens at Peppers Creek to Sussex County, and painted what she imagines a very specific spot in the complex will look like.Coastal Point • Laura Walter: Constance James Collock was inspired by the work being done to bring Delaware Botanic Gardens at Peppers Creek to Sussex County, and painted what she imagines a very specific spot in the complex will look like.One day, sunlight will shine through the trees, gold and green. A gently sculpted path will turn toward the creek, twinkling gently in the distance.

At least, that’s what local artist Constance “Connie” James Kollock imagines in her new painting, a study of the future Delaware Botanic Gardens at Pepper Creek.

After learning about the public garden coming to Dagsboro, she curiously hoped to see the land for herself, before the 37-acre plot was fenced in against deer and humans. For the past few years, the botanic gardens team have been quietly clearing brush, digging paths and planting thousands of young plants (with many more to come) on a site that was mostly soybean field and forest.

Walking through the woods, “I thought, ‘Oh, golly — I know what this is gonna look like,’” she said, and Kollock was inspired to photograph and sketch the woodland pathways. She finished the task just as the gardens’ staff announced that the property would soon be gated, as the gardens-in-progress are closed to the general public until the gardens officially open around 2019.

Kollock started her painting this spring, transforming acrylic paint into the bright landscape she sees coming in the next few years.

“This is a beautiful spot. … I think it’ll be a unique place, with all the flowers and the old paths and being on the creek like it is,” said Kollock. “I think they’ll be successful. I hope they are.”

At home in Millsboro, her own studio looks out over the picturesque Indian River.

Kollock been painting for at least 40 years, and her work has appeared in a number of galleries, including some in Michigan. Her uncle had a boutique there, which drew her to visit, then paint, then return every summer to keep painting Michigan.

“But I enjoy my Delaware,” said Kollock, whose family originally hails from Millsboro and Dagsboro.

Her artwork often returns to her favorite local subjects, such as the coastal World War II lookout towers or Warren’s Mill in Millsboro. Landscapes and seascapes appear in acrylic, oil and watercolor.

She said art is relaxing for her.

“I get into the painting. And it’s like reading a good book. … I can paint five, six, seven hours at a time and not realize the time has gone by,” Kollock said.

A homemaker for most of her life, she is now proud to share her artwork — both the paintings and some talent she’s passed along — with her grandchildren.

A member of Rehoboth Art League, she also sells artwork from her house.

“People know I’ve been painting a long time,” she said of the people who visit the house to pick artwork for themselves or a gift.

She’s confident in her work, her style and her love of bold colors, having painted for so long. But asked why she signs her artwork in a rectangular print, rather than a scratchy signature, she is unsure.

“I don’t know why,” Kollock said. “Just me, I guess.”