Expressing Flowers: Where Abstraction Meets Reality

Flowers are hope incarnate.  As a child I remember feeling the wonder as a single tulip forced itself from the hard ground into bloom. Those waxen cupped petals tightly folded on a crisp Colorado morning would open soon in the warmth of the day.  That easing opening triggered a similar life force blooming in me.  It was a miracle I somehow connected to my father as he led me into the backyard to show me a “surprise”.  There, tucked behind the lilac bush was a circle of of red tulips that had appeared without my notice in the chilly springtime. 

How do you paint hope? How do you express the childlike joy that flowers bring into the world?  So many natural forms of wonder to see, but flowers, oh my, are Nature’s crayon box, the sprinkles on top of an awakening landscape.  This variety of form found in flowers and the broad spectrum of their colors keeps me returning for inspiration. 

When learning to paint flowers, attention to shape and form was absolutely necessary for me.  Without form, created by light, flowers were simply dots or slashes of color.  I t was my desire to first learn how a flower became itself, how the light engaged that shapeliness before I could say what I wanted with my brushwork.

Flowers come shaped like teacups, drooping cones, cushions, spires, flutes, chalices, fireworks and more unfolding like origami.  Iris, foxgloves, poppies, daisies, roses, bee balm, crabapple blossoms tease light in many ways. The more intimate my experiences with flowers, the more readily I could explain them on my canvases.  Painting directly from life, outside and in the studio gave me a visual library of images and feelings that moved my earlier efforts towards the abstractions I now enjoy playing with in paint.

One sunny day in July while painting in Colorado, I became fascinated by the flowers at my feet.  I could not see a solid composition in the dusty ground shadowed by the multitude of wildflowers.  Instead that day, I chose to express color notes rather than capture a landscape.  The piece that emerged foreshadowed the expressive style that rumbled to get out. 

It took many more miles of canvas, to tap into those emotional rumblings.  I tend to lean into my intellect.  It’s easy and familiar.  Painting has unwound that tendency over many years so that my intuitive side can now be given its due.  For me, learning using my mind usually comes first.  It is unlearning then switching to my visual intelligence that delivers my more recent works via my heart, body and arms then ultimately my brushes. 

For fun recently I slapped a lot of paint around a large 48 x 48 canvas for a piece I never intended to show anyone.  There was little thinking involved.  It was pure fun.  No agenda except to make something I could hang in my new loft area.  This space carved out of attic, is my own private Idaho, where I can meditate, contemplate and refuel my creative bucket.  It has the high view from my home inspiring me to see big pictures in my little neighborhood.  Here is the result – “Reigning Happiness”.

I will be pushing the paint around soon, virtually for anyone who wants to watch.  It will be available for a couple weeks after the actually event if you can’t make the date to be there live or at least sort of live…sign up for the class and demo.

Soon we will all be able to meet together, vaccinated or herd immune in our creative spaces.  I have the tulip inside me of hope, its shiny petals waiting for that warmth of togetherness to open. 

Take special care these last weeks of pandemic.  Perhaps we are almost there. 


“Fresh Air Painting on the Mountain”

July 08 - July 12, 2024
Monteagle, Tennessee

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