From Seed, To Plant, To Drawing, To Painting…
This month’s blog is all about process. Artists work in many different ways, but this blog is about my process and how one of my paintings has grown from it’s seed…
We moved to West Sussex 9 years ago to a garden that was a completely blank canvas. Since then we have grown most of it from seed and created 4 large perennial borders, inspired by Gertrude Jekyll, and a vegetable patch. The front garden has been turned into a wildlife sanctuary, filled with flowers and a pond (well, as I may have mentioned before a wildlife crammed puddle, is a better description). We also put in a path so we could navigate through the garden, although this is long overgrown, and when we attempt to struggle through, it tends to disturb the toads and frogs.
Each year I grow Sunflowers from seed, as their happy blooms brighten up the garden and their seeds feed several different species of birds throughout the Autumn and Winter.
Once these are fully grown and flowering I start to photograph my muse.
I have photographed Sunflowers at every stage of their lifespan from bud, through to flowering and finally to death. I draw and paint from the actual flower, but I always take a photographic record of what I’ve been drawing. I find that it relieves the pressure of capturing the flower at the time it looks its best as it curls and dies. There is often a very short period of time between a bloom in flower, to the petals curling and drooping, to it losing them completely. Often, I can’t touch these flowers in anyway as they are extremely fragile, and the slightest touch or breeze can make all the petals drop. Therefore, for me, the camera is invaluable part of my creative process. Since I was a child I have always found watching the lifespan of a plant fascinating. I have grown plants from seed since pre-school. It started with Mustard and Cress seeds on my parent’s shed windowsill, and I was thrilled that in 2 weeks I could eat it…
For me, drawing the flowers is a vital part of the research (see below), I really want to understand and capture the shapes of the forms. I like to accurately capture the flower, even though this may not translate exactly into the final painting. I want to truly understand the flower, from the botanical structure to the aesthetic value of the forms. The botanical form of plants and insects are very important to me and I will frequently study them under a microscope between 100x and 400x magnification. This reveals details to me that we don’t see through the naked eye or with macro photography. For example, the centre of both Daisies and Sunflowers are in fact minute flowers themselves that open and release the pollen. There are hundreds of tiny flowers within the larger flower head.
Once I have drawn the flowers, I start to experiment with the colours. I find shapes naturally draw themselves to specific colours, which generally are not the colours we see when we look at them. This tends to be very instinctive, and sometimes I see highlights or shades of the colour that I use in the actual plant. When I was studying Sunflowers, I was also reading an article and researching the colours that insects see. This tends to be in the ultra violet spectrum, which changes the yellows and greens in the Sunflower, and it is this what has inspired the colours in this painting.
The final painting below is of three Sunflowers in different stages of life; from bud, to bloom, to dying and has been inspired by several years of growing, studying and drawing these flowers, I have shown how the painting has developed,
This painting is currently on display and available to purchase at Ming Gallery, 27 Montefiore Road, Hove. The limited edition prints are available to buy here.