I love flowers. All flowers. And in the springtime, some of my favorites are the colorful tulips. They are such happy looking flowers and always make me smile.
I was feeling a little envious of my son and his girlfriend who traveled to the Keukenhof tulip gardens in the Netherlands this month.
But today, I walked by my favorite garden in New York City, the Jefferson Market Garden in Greenwich Village; it was filled to the brim with blooming tulips and other bulbs. The garden is open to the public on Friday’s from 10am-5pm (donations accepted as it is a volunteer garden) and it is well worth the visit, especially in April. Here are a few snapshots of my favorite flowers there.
Jefferson Market Garden at 70 Greenwich Avenue, New York City
I was recently selected as one of 14 artists to submit work for one of four New York City subway stations. I submitted my proposal two weeks ago and I am waiting to hear back soon (fingers crossed everyone, and send good karma this way). The project is quite large requiring 140 horizontal feet of artwork! I can’t fit the whole work on this page, but here are a few “snippets”. My design illustrates a world where diverse individuals (the flowers) live together without prejudice or intolerance. In this world, every flower is unique and varied, and thrives in harmony with its neighboring blossoms.
To get my own feel for Astoria, I walked around the 30th Avenue neighborhood. This community is a true melting pot of humanity. Stand on a street corner for five minutes, and you’ll hear a half a dozen languages. Watch the pedestrians, and see headscarves, yarmulkes, turbans, and Mets caps that only hinted at the mélange of different cultures that live in the area. It seems that everyone here has found their place, and that place supports the tolerance of others.
Designs and Metaphor:
The fanciful design of my diversity garden represents the Astoria neighborhood. The wild assortment of flowers pose as the diversity of nationalities, religions, and cultural traditions existing in this community. These differences complement each other and it is the vast variety of the botanical species that make the garden so appealing. Metaphorically, my garden microcosm celebrates a post racial/bias world where differences and similarities are celebrated and supported by all members of a community. I believe Astoria is growing into such a community. The ribbons weaving through the flowers suggest the connectivity of the residents in this urban neighborhood and the many ways they touch each other’s lives.
I created the flowers similar in size to the subway commuters. As people walk by the blossoms, I hope they feel that they too are part of this colorful garden, just one more welcomed flower in the tolerant landscape of Astoria.
I’ve struggled to create some work for my licensing company, Wild Apple, that I think they will like. I have sketched out and discarded a number of ideas. Nothing seems creative enough or unique enough to stand out from the competition. I finally realized that I’m going about it the wrong way. Instead of trying to create something I think they will like, I should create something that I find enjoyment in making instead. Then if the paintings don’t meet their needs, at least I had fun creating something uniquely mine.
What art technique do I find fun to do? I’ve always loved scissor work. By that, I mean I can sit for hours cutting out intricate shapes out of paper. Many people might find this boring or tedious, but I think it is meditative and therapeutic. I just finished cutting out about 200 flowers and leaves and I’ve started painting them. I have no clear idea of where I’m going with them and how to incorporate them into my work. I’m going to take my advice and I just play around, enjoying myself and see where it leads.
I am beyond ready for spring to begin. This New York City winter has been long, cold, windy and just plain TOO LONG! I’m guessing I’m not the only one with the winter blues. I just sold this little painting to a friend who lives in the mountains of Colorado where I know her property is still under piles of snow. Hopefully hanging this in her home will make her spring come a little earlier.
I started with the idea to create a set of matching paintings with lots of 3D texture. I love the soft, white flowers of the dogwood tree but realized I would need a colored background to make the petals show in the paintings. I’ve documented my painting process below. I will flip-flop between the two paintings as I forgot to photograph them both at each stage, but you should get the general idea.
I start by painting a variety of stripes on watercolor paper (glued to cradled wooden panels) using acrylic paint.
Next I glue down strips of different Japanese papers. I love handmade Japanese papers (made with mulberry leaves, rice shaft, and other organic materials) because they add a unique, textural feel to my work. I also include some handprinted deli paper I made using my Gelli plate.
Now come the flowers. First I sketch in the compositions. Next, using Golden’s heavy molding gel, I spread on the petals with a palette knife. When the gel is dry, I sand off any sharp points.
I add in collage paper elements for the leaves and stems, painting some areas to give them more dimensionality. Finally, I add sheer cheesecloth for an unexpected touch and use colored pencils to create some delicate color in the white petals. The paintings are sealed using a clear acrylic medium, and then two layers of acrylic varnish to protect the paper.
Dogwood One, mixed media on cradled panel, 12″ x 12″
Dogwood Two, mixed media on cradled panel, 12″ x 12″
Here’s a side shot to better see the raised texture of the paintings.
I like to step back from time to time from creating my own paintings and learn something new from the exercise of copying another artist’s style. My paintings these days are very labor intensive with all the paper cutting and piecing I am doing. I’m looking for a method to help me speed things up by using larger, bold marks in my work. I recently came across the colorful paintings of Erin Fitzhugh Gregory and thought I would see what could be learned from painting in her loose, juicy style. Though I usually paint with acrylics, I switched to oil paints for these still lifes . It was fun trying to emulate her bold brushwork using thick, colorful paint. I struggled to capture Erin’s free, lively style where she represents a flower with just a handful of brushstrokes. Still, I did learn to focus on each brush stroke, getting it right the first time and then leaving it alone in its simplicity.
Of course these exercises aren’t for sale seeing as they are copies of another artist’s work. If you like them, you can buy your own Erin Fitzhugh Gregory original or canvas print at www.efgart.com.
A special thank you to Erin Fitzhugh Gregory for permission to post this blog topic.