I’ve been fortunate over the first half of this year to have learnt the basics in the art of floristry from experienced tutors. It has been an interesting journey into the world of cut flowers and hugely inspiring for me. Floral design has a long history stretching back to Ancient Egypt, Greece and other cultures. Some of the early styles of floristry from Ancient Greece are still with us – wreaths, garlands and flowers worn in the hair remain popular today. Throughout the ages flowers and plants have been used to mark significant occasions such birth, marriage and for remembrance. The floral traditions of the Pacific Islands are also a strong influence here in New Zealand.
This time spent learning floristry, in practical classes and online during the lockdown has prompted me to use more flowers in my nature printed artworks. The painting below is an example of this approach. It was was made with foliage including deep burgundy loropetalum, unusual begonia leaves from my tutor’s garden and includes nature prints from small orchids in pale yellow.
One of the consequences of the pandemic has been that flower imports stopped and we have been only using New Zealand grown plants in floral arrangements. It has been a preview of what a more sustainable flower industry might be like with international air travel still very limited. It was a pleasure to work with beautiful New Zealand grown roses, irises and orchids over the past few weeks.
The first artwork that I made after the lockdown ended was nature printed with plants from the small Sensory Garden in the Auckland Domain. It includes the unusual purple flowers of the lobster bush, some lovely warm yellow flowers of the Mexican Marigold and scented geraniums and lavender.
Nature printing flowers can often be difficult due to their fragile petals so I have been experimenting with ways to do this. My first attempt at nature printing with irises (detail below) was very challenging and I’m hoping to find ways to capture something of the vibrancy and beauty of these marvellous flowers in future paintings.
Here in New Zealand we have been very fortunate since the lockdown ended to have been able to return to school, work and to participate in some social activities. Huge challenges lie ahead but I am hopeful that we can continue to protect our elderly and frail from the worst impacts of the pandemic. The future feels uncertain but I am continuing to create with paint and plants, and it is very therapeutic to be doing this during this time. I hope to help in some small way to bring some of the beauty and joy in nature to people needing some respite.
Pictured below is a detail of a tall painting made with wisteria, fern and spearmint that I recently entered in a competition to do a collaboration with Australian clothing company Gorman. Although not successful this time, I think the idea of my artwork on clothing that is produced sustainably is worth investigating and it would be marvellous to see how this could work.
My Patreon artwork for June is now online and features leaves from the large Moreton Bay fig trees in St Heliers, a local suburb. A detail of the painting is pictured below. I offer Patreon subscribers a downloadable artwork each month and you can subscribe for as little as US$1 per month. It is a good way to support artists especially during difficult times. You can have a look at my Patreon page here.
Midwinter is a good time to pause and reflect. I made a small flower crown on the Winter Solstice with an assortment of garden finds. An ancient camellia in the bush gully is smothered in pink blooms this time of year and is visited daily by the tui and other birds. The promise of Spring is evident too, with jasmine starting to bud. There has been a prolonged drought here but some recent rain has finally brought some life back to the garden. There is more winter weather to come but already we are starting to see some magnolias flowering.
Aroha from Aotearoa
Celeste Sterling, Winter 2020