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).
Rose Mallow Hibiscus is another Spring Flower painting. It is nice to paint local Ontario flowers in season, even though my main interest is in Tropical foliage & flowers.
Before the Grand Opening, I made a couple trips to the new Rock Garden at the RBG in Burlington, to gather inspiration for the main event, where I painted live.
The first day I went, I paid for the guided tour, and then went around with my camera, trying to zero in on a subject for my painting. One plant I thought was interesting, was the Rose Mallow Hibiscus – mainly because from a distance (before reading the name) I thought the flowers looked like pink marshmallows on skewers!
Also, I’ve painted many hibiscus flowers before, but never would have guessed this was a hibiscus, though I do see the resemblance to Rose of Sharon flowers, and I know they are also in the hibiscus family.
Anyway, I started this painting some time ago, holding it as a back-up in case my painting for the big event didn’t work out. As it turned out, by the time I went to the Rock Garden for Luna, the flowers had dried up and most of them had faded away or fallen already. Thankfully, it did not matter, as I ended up doing a plein air painting for Luna.
I think this painting probably ended up quite whimsical because I was envisioning an magical evening in an enchanted garden. There is no underestimating the power of suggestion, in art – this is where we get to go beyond photography (or at least my level of photography), and just play with our own interpretations.
If you are interested in “Rose Mallow Hibiscus”, e-mail me, otherwise, I will exhibit it in Art in the Park Oakville, Aug 1st.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Also, Donna’s magnolia painting “Change is in the air”, acrylics on canvas, 13″x16″ is featured in this video clip promoting the event on CH Morning Live.
Donna attended the preview on Wed night and was proud to have been chosen as part of the group of 65 area artists, because it was a very strong show with quality work in a variety of media, styles & subjects. The show closes Sun evening.