It was April, 2020, and I needed flowers.
Usually when I feel the need for flowers, I simply pick up a small bouquet of something sweet at the grocery store, but it was April. April 2020. There were no flowers in the stores.
It was clear that the quarantine was going to be upheld for some time to come. As a teacher, I was stressed with having to create a whole new way of teaching and keep up with students and administrators demands. My own health issues make me vulnerable to the virus, and my elderly parents have difficult health challenges as well.
I needed flowers.
So one Saturday, hearing that the local nursery was open, I ventured out with a small budget. I knew that I would probably be buying some plants although my desire was just to get outside and see some natural beauty. I also knew that I would be dooming those poor plants to an awful death–I have the blackest thumb ever. I promised myself that I would truly try to keep them alive, as they had no choice in the matter of giving their life for the cause.
Many, many people had the same idea, go figure. I enjoyed just walking through the rows and rows of beautiful flowers and flourishing plants, and people watching. I enjoy that, too. The mood was both festive (YAY! We’re outdoors! We’re around other people! It’s a beautiful day!) and gravely cautious (oops, standing too close, don’t talk to strangers).
I couldn’t help but take pictures of the flowers and activity. It had to become a painting at some point.
Have I mentioned that I’m an awful photographer? No? No matter. I’m an artist. I don’t have to copy a photo, if I can capture the mood.
The life-changing circumstance surrounding my job and vulnerability to the virus have cause a slow-down in my art production. I wasn’t exactly blocked, but it was difficult to choose projects and subjects for painting while I was trying to make up for lost income.
Finally, I had enough. Studio time was going to be a required activity every day just as it had been before this turn of events, and by golly I was also going to devote not less, but MORE time to my art. I needed a boost, though, to kick me out of my slump.
Enter my strategy for unblocking myself. Oh, it’s nothing new: lots of artists know this trick. It’s how I learned it, after all. But there are many strategies, and this one works for me. I simply boil it down to answer the question: what do I love doing?
I love pastels. Not acrylic, not oil, not art journaling. I like those other things, but I don’t love them. I also love creating my own surfaces. Instead of using the conveniently purchased sanded surface paper I usually use, I sometimes love to mix up some pastel ground, spread it wildly on matboard, let it dry and then try to paint on that. It usually results in EXTREME texture…which somehow really gets my motor running.
I love the color purple. Grab a bunch of purple pastels of all shades and tints. Check.
I love starting with a composition armature and then creating a scene from that, instead of painting directly from a photo reference. One of my favorites is the radiating line armature. Check.
I wanted to convey the happy feeling I had while walking through the nursery that day back in April. I spent some time looking at the photos, but I knew I wouldn’t be using them…none of them were striking enough for a truly delightful work of art. I simply chose the things I knew I wanted: people shopping in the rows of beautiful red, yellow, purple and blue flowers.
My delight was palpable as this piece took shape. It still makes me grin from ear to ear when I look at it. I hope it has the same affect on you. We all need that kind of happiness right now.