Poster has French-garden theme

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The Lilac Festival always provides a vigorous workout for the nose and feet.

But the lilacs themselves sit pretty in Elaine Verstraete’s poster for this year’s festival. The Yates County artist shows a jumbo-sized basket of lilacs on an old-fashioned white chair, glowing in sunlight that she hopes will shine every minute of the 10-day event.

“My theme was a French garden with distressed antique furniture and plants,” says Verstraete, who works in a Middlesex studio overlooking Canandaigua Lake. “I was shooting for an ethereal quality with the dappled light of spring.”

Posters with her watercolor design will sell for $20 at merchandise tents near the pansy bed at Goodman Street and Highland Avenue and at the Purple Crosswalk on Highland Avenue. In addition, they’ll be available weekends at the art shows on the corner of Highland and South avenues.

Verstraete also designed “Parisian-style” T-shirts depicting a saxophone that produces blossoms rather than notes. They will retail for $19.

Painting a distinctive Lilac Festival design is trickier than it may seem. Highland Park’s endless varieties of lilacs are fascinating right under your nose, but can be rather monotonous on a poster.

Some past Lilac Festival artists have sidestepped that problem with ingenious touches. In 2006, for instance, Webster artist James B. Williams Jr. painted three pails of lilacs on a 1942 pickup. Three years later, Chris Lyons of Pittsford stuck lilac branches in a vase with koi. (Actual koi swim in a pond a Lamberton Conservatory.)

Verstraete herself has made two previous posters for the event, in 2007 featuring Lamberton and in 1997 the gatehouse by Highland Park Reservoir.

A Rochester native, she has exhibited her work. She also has taught illustration at RIT and created drawings for numerous children’s books.

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