Daily Painting Challenge, 30 paintings in 30 days. Day 9

Passion flower study, 8"x8", acrylic on canvas, © 2011 Donna Grandin
Passion flower study, 8″x8″, acrylic on canvas, © 2011 Donna Grandin. Sold

Today I got carried away working on the painting I started yesterday, and I prefer to photograph it in natural light tomorrow morning. So, I’m posting this little painting I did in June 2011. It is currently in St. Lucia, but can be shipped internationally. E-mail me if you have questions.

Recently, people have referred to me as a flower painter, or a floral painter and it doesn’t sit well with me. Sure, there are lots of flowers in my portfolio, certainly in the last five years, but the flower (or even the foliage, which I favour) itself isn’t the point of the painting. If it were, I would regularly go to the florist & buy the most beautiful version  of the flower I wanted to paint, and paint from life.

For me , painting – like writing down my thoughts – is a way of observing life, in the pursuit of insight. An important theme underlying most of my art is the search for identity through landscape painting. Some artists value imagination & innovation above all else … their aim is to create something that has never been seen or done before, others view art as a tool for persuasion … social commentary & opinion. Those are very important aspects of art, and why art is so important to cultures all over the world, through time.

My drive as an artist though, has more to do with the desire for discovery than anything else. This is evident through all stages of my creative process … the first tug comes when I see something that moves/excites me. In our world of excess, desensitization and stress, the moments of true joy are rare, so I pay attention to those moments. For me, they most often occur in nature, but I don’t have to be alone in a woods next to a babbling brook, or even in a garden, it could be under the skylight in the  floral department of my local grocery store, where the light is so magical that it highlights whatever potted plant they place on the little ledge and I always have to stop for a few moments & stare.

Those are the simple things that inspire me – shadows creating interesting patterns, back-lit leaves and petals, coming across a new plant or flower with unique shapes. I love exploring new locations with my camera. I wonder around, shutter happy as I make discoveries. It’s not that I’m a very good photographer – I have a lot to learn about how adjust my camera to get the shot I want in the available light – but I love composing through the lens. For me to capture the true colours though, I’d have to paint plein air.

Which bring me back to this painting, which I did from observation (flower in hand), on a canvas I’d previously textured. Passion flowers are so exotic to me. And I remember taking pictures in the greenhouse in the Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington, and coming across the vine near the koi pond. There were just a couple flowers, but the vines were so tantalizing, so Art Nouveau, discovering them was the highlight of my day. Every time I go back there I look to see if there are flowers on the vine so I can get a few more pictures. It’s like I said, it’s not about one perfect specimen that’s going to represent all other flowers of its type … it’s about the unique qualities of each individual flower. The combination of the flower itself & the leaves, or vines next to it, and whatever else is in the background. The environment tells the story of that flower, the same way it would in any traditional portrait painting.

For every painting I do in a year, there’s a thousand more digital photos waiting patiently on my computer.  When I’m about to start a painting/series of paintings, it can be a daunting task to look through and choose reference photos that are both appropriate and intriguing. I would never dream of painting from someone else’s photos (unless it was a commission, because work is work), because each photo has memories for me … each photo is a story waiting to be told with my paintbrush.

When you paint something, you find things about it that you never knew before … like when I spend 2 months on a croton painting and discovered for the first time that there were flowers! My whole life in St. Lucia I grew up with croton bushes in our garden, in our daily lives, and I had never noticed the tiny flowers before!

Finally, reference photo(s) in hand, when I stand before the blank canvas, my adventure is just beginning, and that’s the way I like it. The photos I paint from are usually not my best, because there is nothing left to be said about them. The ones I choose have something elusive about them, and often it’s the background where I get to invent, to use emotive colour, to push & pull forms & create rhythms. I teeter on the edge of needing to find control (the perimeters of reality form a nice, safe box), and needing to break free, be spontaneous and wild. Roots and wings, another theme.

Well this post, like today’s painting, has rambled on. And I’m going to pull a Mark Twain & say, sorry, I don’t have enough time to write the short version!







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