In 2010 I painted & exhibited a series of acrylic paintings I called Hibiscus ‘n Banana. Every now & then I return to paint another hibiscus. Instead of trying to paint the most perfect flower, I’m like a portrait painter striving to pull out what is unique in each subject. The beauty is in the variations.
Thanks to my cousin, Patrice Esper for letting me use her photo of a an orange hibiscus as reference for the painting. I very rarely paint from someone else’s photos, but the lighting on the hibiscus was so beautiful. I started to paint it in my head as soon as I saw it.
In the interim
There were many months between the start and finish of this painting, and between this post and my last. A variety of projects & distractions took me away, and the truth is, I’m not sure if it’s worth the time to blog anymore. I’ve been posting work-in-progress photos on Instagram, as well as other things that inspire me, and this “micro-blogging” is much more immediate, less time-consuming.
This summer I took the family to St. Lucia for a month, and it was an epic trip – first time my parents, my brother & his wife, my husband & our boys, and even my mother-in-law were in the same country at the same time. So we crammed as much into that trip as we could, and some of the highlights were climbing Gros Piton, Carnival, seeing an octopus while snorkeling, volcanic mud bath, and standing under a waterfall, hanging out with family & friends, having a pop-up art sale at The Inner Gallery. Then I did a 2 day side-trip to Barbados to deliver paintings to Gallery of Caribbean Art for CariFestArt, an exhibition of artists from 11 Caribbean islands, a fringe event of Carifesta.
I also took many wonderful reference photos, and I’m looking forward to painting some of them for a solo show (more on that another day).
In 2009 I started painting a series simply called Hibiscus & Banana, and it all started with a close-up of a red hibiscus flower.
The image came to mind immediately when I tried to select a flower that represented St. Lucia to me personally.
Technically, and culturally, the rose and the marguerite are the National flowers of St. Lucia. However, they were not as abundant, and did not have as much of a visual impact on me.
In fact, the association may persist for me because my family has always grown hibiscus bushes in the garden, so I saw them every day as a child. However, they also grew profusely around the island in those days.
Here is my artist statement from an exhibition a few years ago …
Hibiscus, Bananas ‘n More
Summer 2009, I went home to the Caribbean island of St. Lucia in search of reference material for my latest series of acrylic paintings. I wanted to focus on what I felt were two of the most iconic images of St. Lucian plant-life … the banana tree and the hibiscus flower. As a child, the banana industry drove the local economy, and although tourism has upstaged it, the island is still covered in banana trees – farmed, wild and decorative. Islanders take pride in being able to eat off of the land, and most properties boast a variety of fruit trees. On the other hand, the hibiscus flowers were harder to find. In recent years many plants, including the one at the end of my parents’ porch, were lost to the pink mealybug, and drought. The best specimens I found were on the grounds of hotels and restaurants. In 2010, I travelled to both St. Lucia and Trinidad, and have since expanded the series to include croton and flamboyant images.
I paint living plants interacting with their environment, sun shining through the leaves, wind blowing the petals, other plants in the background adding contrast. I try to express the atmosphere, a specific moment in time, and my feelings about the place. Although my paintings are representational, my actual focus is on the abstract rhythms of Nature. I play with the organic shapes and vibrant colours to create uplifting and engaging images. I paint because I love the creative process, however it is my hope that the finished paintings bring joy and beauty into our everyday lives.
Although I have gone on to paint other imagery, every now and then I find myself returning to this motif. I just took a look at my records and out of the last 100 paintings I’ve done (not including small daily paintings), about 1/5th of them feature hibiscus flowers!
The interesting thing about hibiscus flowers is that I encounter them here in Canada all the time too … they can be found year-round in green-houses, or as potted house-plants, and in the warmer weather they are available as large flowering plants from anywhere that sell plants (even grocery stores!). And that’s just the traditional hibiscus, not counting the hardier varieties that are now available in colder climates.
I think the allure of the hibiscus flower is partly due to the bright colour … certainly that cheerful red is why I have been painting hibiscuses lately, as a weapon to combat the winter blues!
Subconsciously, I think we are also drawn to hibiscus flowers, like so many birds and insects, because of the erotic design. The generous petals open wide like out-flung limbs promising an embrace, but really are just there to draw attention to the pistil, to play their part in the survival of the species.
For all their glorious beauty, hibiscus blooms only last a day or two, and are delicate, which is why they do not show up as often in tropical bouquets.
In fact, hibiscus flowers are a common choice for tattoos, especially in women, symbolizing delicate beauty, fragility, as well as love, passion, and a laid back life-style.
I mentioned in my statement earlier, finding hibiscus flowers growing mostly at hotels and restaurants. That is because even during the dry season when the general public will hold off on watering their flowering plants, these businesses have to try to keep them alive. They help create “atmosphere”, and it is not just that they are decorative and make the place more attractive to patrons.
It also has to do with the connotation of rest and relaxation, “fun in the sun”, and everything else positive the world thinks of when they think of a tropical vacation.
Images of pretty girls with hibiscus flowers in their hair (which is only ever done when posing for a photograph), or as part of a pool-side scene with umbrella-drinks and lounge chairs.
I have painted hibiscuses in a range of colours – pinks, yellows, oranges, reds, and white, and I think of them as portraits. I try to paint the individual flower, or grouping of flowers, with its unique environment, rather than a generic, formulaic version.
While there may be stylistic similarities tying all my hibiscus paintings together, there are so many different kinds of hibiscus plants, and so many ways to present them – varying the positions, backgrounds, lighting, stage in cycle of life, painting techniques and media etc. – that I am sure I will return to this motif time and time again, and I will find something new to explore each time.
You can find some more of my hibiscus paintings here.
Happy Valentine’s Day! Here is a little something I’ve been working on, to show my appreciation to those who support me in this love affair I have with painting.
Hot off the easel … ok, on the easel right now. This painting, and a few others that I’ve been working on since my last post, will go to the photographer soon, then I’ll post the official photographs when he gives them to me.
As you can see, I’ve continued exploring the blue patterning that started out in my fernscapes and peacock abstractions. I’m having fun trying out different ways to incorporate it in my painting. In this case I started out just placing random strokes of blue, but quickly saw the potential for a floral pattern and so took it in that direction.
This is the first time the background is so separate from the rest of the image, but I’m enjoying the boldness of this painting, it’s strong, cheerful and romantic.
If you have fallen in love with this painting, and want to bring it home to live with you, be the first to contact me about it at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To have your order Shipped to you, refer to the instructions at the end of this post.
In 2014 I had some blank 5″x7″ greeting cards made of 5 of my Original Acrylic Paintings for an event. I wanted fans of my art to be able to walk away from my exhibition with the feeling that they were taking a little piece of it home with them.
Then, I offered a percentage of card sales to my sons’ school as part of their recent fundraising BBQ.
I posted this photo on Facebook & a friend in New York ordered a set, then someone else from New York (maybe her friend) e-mailed me to order another set. After a few online orders, I also started sending them to St. Lucia, where they are sold through Island Mix, and a couple hotel boutiques.
As an artist though, and not a big card company, I have only printed the cards in small batches. My main focus with them is to share my art with more people, and to gain exposure to potential collectors for my original paintings.
Give a set of Donna Grandin Art Cards to your kids’ teachers and coaches. They make great hostess, or thank you gifts. Use the cards for birthdays, thank you’s, get well’s, Mother’s or Father’s Day, or just because – it’s always good to have a few blank ones on hand for emergencies.
Some people even like to put them in photo frames, and place them where they can brighten up their day, or tuck them into favourite books as inspiration!
Do you want to partner with me for your Fundraiser (a percentage of card sales goes to your charity)?
Or maybe you would like to become a Retailer for my art cards? If so, I’d love to hear from you!
One set of 5 blank greeting cards with white envelopes (no box), including shipping & handling, is $23. to anywhere in Canada, $24. to US, and $27. International. Prices in Canadian dollars.
Love is in the air this month. I’m stretching it out from one day to one month. Last year my son wanted to know why he had school on Valentine’s day, because what is more important than love?
This is not exactly what I had in mind when I started the painting… initially I was going to use the red hibiscus for the colour and then a black & white Zentangle heart behind. However, while I have decades of acrylic painting behind me, I have zero experience doing Zentangles. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, it’s a sort of doodle, take a look here. You just might fall in love.
If you have been following along, you may have noticed that last week I incorporated some doodling into my “Flights of fancy” painting. I am still at the stage where I can visualize something cool – using this new technique – but not quite manifest it. Right now I’m preoccupied with a couple of upcoming exhibitions (the St. Lucia Toronto Association Arts Showcase is in 2 days) and applications that are due soon, but hopefully by next week I’ll have some further progress to report.
There is also an idea for a more serious body of work brewing, or maybe stewing, in the back of my mind. It revolves around my experience as a Third Culture Kid, so it is very personal to me, however each year our numbers increase and I like the idea of using my art to connect with others. I’ve been in flux for some time now, and I’m curious to see the effect of taking my creative process public. I enjoy painting foliage, and I have no intention of abandoning it, but this onion has many more layers.
It is time to embrace the internet and push back at the old-fashioned “the butcher, the baker OR the candle-stick maker” mentality. It’s like I tell my kids, now you can be the butcher, the baker AND the candle-stick maker! In fact, we’re probably a generation behind the times, at this point it feels like you HAVE to be butcher, baker & candlestick maker (have you read or written a bio lately?). Artists have long had to wear several caps, but these days with the rise of Entrepreneurs, it is becoming the new “norm”.
Ok, back to the painting, I actually painted my way through several variations which were equally interesting. I might go back & do a few more later. Or it might just be a stepping stone to the next plateau. Time will tell.
Update: Someone bought this painting as a wedding gift, which I think is just perfect!
So, I’m feeling kind of rebellious lately. It might be the February blues – I don’t know how much more of this d$#% snow and bitterly cold wind I can stand. I’ve already started an informal petition on Facebook to move Canada to somewhere warmer …. but the winter sports enthusiasts & kids are jamming up the works!
Or it could be because this week I had to turn down an opportunity for my art to be included in a book of 50 Canadian painters who paint flowers, because it would cost as much as a non-discounted flight to St. Lucia! A little less than I made in art sales while painting my heart out last month during the 30 in 30 challenge.
It probably does have something to do with hitting a milestone birthday in a few months.
Anyway, the painting I was working on earlier this week turned out to be a very dark landscape, a gloomy reflection of my mood. Technically it has potential, but it just doesn’t feel like me. So last night I took it off the easel. Then at 11pm, when the last kid was asleep, I pulled out a fresh canvas.
While I was reading to my kids, several old themes had mingled with influences from the week, coming together as an image in my mind. Then the image permutated into a possible series. I felt more excitement than I’d felt in weeks, so instead of heading to bed, I returned to the easel. The last time I glanced at the clock it was 3am, and I woke up this morning in my clothes from yesterday – not for the first time this year.
From my bed, I could hear the reaction to the painting … “it’s a fish”, “Mom let her mind go wild last night”. Harrumph! Not what I was going for. Though, when I took another look, there was no denying it looked like a fish, underwater. I was about to make a slight change that would have made it less fish-like, when I realized I liked that added dimension to the painting – the multiplicity of meaning. In fact, for now at least, I’m not even going to go into my own interpretation. I think as I do a few more of these, it’ll become obvious.
Traditionally, an artist goes through the process of developing a series in the safety of their studio, occasionally seeking feedback from those whose opinions they trust. Then when the work is done, they edit out the dead-ends or out-right failures, select the best work to document and then promote through exhibitions or portfolio websites. A blog is a whole other beast.
There is a beauty, and a danger, to making this creative process visible to anyone who chances on to your blog. Ultimately though, I think the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.
This is the 3rd Hibiscus gem painting out of three.
I have to say my energy is flagging at this point. For those of you doing the 30 in 30 Challenge, how are you feeling now that we are almost 2/3 done? Has this been a good experience for you?
One of the interesting things that has happened to me is that a number of my artist friends have written to say that they are inspired by what I’m doing. Three of them have even started their own individual challenge!
Another positive is that a few people have said they’re glad to learn a little more about me as an artist, through my writing and through the new diversity in my subject matter this month.
One down side was some negativity from a couple of artists – which I realize stems from their own unhappiness & desire to be doing what I’m doing. Don’t be fooled, every artist can think of other artists who they admire for their skill/projects/sales/connections or life circumstances which allow them more time to pursue their art professionally etc. etc.
The key to getting out of this negative spiral is to change your attitude, accept that the other person has their own struggles, may even have had to make sacrifices that you wouldn’t even consider, and they are just on a different path. Life as an artist is a very individual path – it’s only when you make choices that are authentic to you that you are able to advance towards your own definition of success. So when you are having negative thoughts, before you lash out (even in a passive-aggressive way), look instead for the “take-away”, some insight that you can use to create positivity for yourself, and then take action.
Of course the overwhelming response has been positive. I’m hearing from people who I didn’t even realize were following my art career, and several people have commented that the work I’ve done so far with this challenge shows dedication, focus, commitment. The funny thing is that the only reason they’re saying that is because they’re seeing a new, SMALL painting every day. Usually I may take 2 weeks to do a large painting, or a week for a small one. And I put in nearly the SAME amount of time & effort!
Normally I take my time to build up the painting in layers, reworking problem areas as many times as necessary. And instead of blogging, I’d be reading arts business articles, looking at inspiring art on the internet etc. I’m not going to list the myriad of actual tasks that come along with being a professional artist, but let’s just say that this year I want to do less thinking, research & planning (worrying, seeking “expert” opinions & procrastinating), and more following my intuition and creating my own projects, saying no to the ones that are offered to me but don’t advance my goals.
This is the second of 3 hibiscus paintings, they’re three different views of the same flower … oriented to the left, center and right. They could hang as a series, but of course it’s not necessary, they can also each go to a separate collector. The 6″x6″ paintings also look really pretty on a simple picture stand on a table.
I like hibiscus because they’re open, bright and friendly, welcoming somehow. They do remind me of home, and a friend was just saying that they remind her of trips to Hawaii … I suppose they are reminiscent of any tropical location. Usually they bring back great memories for people … of relaxing vacations or exotic places, or just home.
Just in time … here’s my painting for day 17. (I photographed it again in the morning in natural light, this is a more accurate photo than the one I included with the post last night).
I was running late today for several reasons … so I did not start this painting till after dinner tonight. I hope to get back on track tomorrow.
I chose a subject I’m quite familiar with … I’ve painted many a hibiscus before, but they’re all different. There are so many varieties left to do … this is a subject I come back to often. If you take a look at my Available & Portfolio pages you’ll see some of the ones I’ve done already. Most of them were photographed on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, but they’re quite common here in Burlington too as houseplants, or outdoors in the summer.
Today I sent out my first newsletter with Mailchimp. There are a lot of things I’d like to change before next month’s newsletter, but I’ve been promising to do this for a long time, and it was one of my January goals, so yay me!
Also I had a lovely visit with a friend who I haven’t seen in years, but recently connected with on Facebook, when she came to pick up a painting – “Fast food”. It was perfect timing, the studio and surrounds really needed cleaning & I’ve been so focused on this challenge and juggling everything else in my life that I’d been putting it off for too long. I’ve always found that visitors are the best incentive for doing housework. Now I can probably make it through the second half of the challenge!
It’s an incredible feeling to get an e-mail from a gallery to say they’ve sold a painting WHILE you’re at the easel working on a new painting. I’ve been lucky enough to have that happen several times. However, the down side is that you don’t know who has bought the painting … though sometimes they’ll tell me which country it’s going to, or if it’s a couple, or a corporate gift etc. It feels good to know a little something, I’m not hugely sentimental, – as long as I have documentation of the work, I’m thrilled for someone else to take it home and pay for my supplies to work on the next painting – but it does give a little closure.
However, my point was … I love it when I get to meet the collectors myself, it’s usually such a positive experience. And I love studio visits from collectors, other artists, dealers, journalists … ok, ANYONE who will let me talk about my art. I suppose that’s because it’s my passion, but on the other hand, I’m not exactly anti-social. And usually I’m equally as interested in finding out more about the other person. I would not do well as a hermit. That’s why my studio is completely open to my family, steps away from the kitchen or front door. If I need to concentrate, I put on headphones, but they always know where to find me.
The following is a post that I’ve brought over from my original blog where I wrote about exhibitions, career highlights etc. in the 3rd person.
From the core, acrylics on canvas, 2009, 16×13 inch, Donna Grandin. Sold
This painting, and two others by Donna, will be part of “St. Lucian ART 2011: a selection of new and recent work by established, unknown and emerging artists from St. Lucia”. The group show opens Tues 25 January and runs till 5 February, 2011 at The Inner Gallery, Bois d’orange, St. Lucia.
BLUE ROOTS ART STUDIO – acrylic paintings of Caribbean & Canadian landscape, flowers & foliage. Burlington, ON, Canada. 905-639-3419