I love the fierce dry heat of late summer which dries my paints in seconds and ripens the feijoas, grapes and cherry guavas growing in the garden. Drought tolerant plants thrive in this environment, flowering and producing seeds. But the heat causes trouble too, fire and destruction comes with it. I still remember vividly the Victorian Ash Wednesday fires of my childhood. Fire has come to New Zealand this year, threatening homes and bush in the Nelson region. Some plants in our garden did not survive this summer, succumbing to the heat. To compensate we planted our native Mountain Jade Christmas tree and a climbing Mandevilla (also known as a Rocktrumpet) with deep red flowers, a variety bred to cope with dry conditions.
Over the New Zealand summer I painted a series of postcard sized pictures, one of which I will send off shortly to be part of the annual Twitter Art Exhibit, an exhibition for charity held in a different country every year. These small postcard pictures give me a chance to experiment with new plants and colours in preparation for larger artworks.
Throughout the summer I also photographed interesting plants and flowers to use as a reference and inspiration when planning my art projects for the future. I was particularly intrigued by the tropical and arid garden plants at the Whangarei Quarry Gardens, which I visited in late January. These beautiful community gardens are maintained primarily by volunteers and have a wide selection of heat loving plants and trees.
High on my wish list for the future is an artwork incorporating some of the tropical plants at the Quarry gardens, in particular leaves and flowers from the magnificent Tiger flower, found in Mexico Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras (pictured below). A large Bodhi tree growing by the lake also captured my attention. A sacred fig with beautiful heart shaped leaves, it is a tree rich with meaning and significance within the Buddhist tradition.
I also drew upon my own garden for foliage and inspiration over summer, completing a soft green painting on the Summer Solstice using leaves from the apple tree and other garden finds. The lush backyard grapevine and a profusion of fennel and nasturtiums provided material for another small painting.
The Nasturtium and Grapevine painting (above) is available as a digital download from Patreon, payment by subscription starting at US$1 per month. Please note – this artwork is for personal use only, not for commercial use. ©2019 Celeste Sterling
Blue tones found in nature were the inspiration for a small work on paper using Wisteria and New Zealand broom. I’m continuing to explore this theme in small postcards with a view towards completing a larger work in strong blue tones.
I’m excited about my art projects this year and I’m looking forward to sharing the new paintings with you. If you’d like to see more updates on artwork between blogs then you can follow me on Instagram @celestesterling and if you are interested in a painting for your home or workplace please visit the Paintings for Sale section on this website.