Spring is an inspiring time of year for anyone who works with plants, and the emergence of the first fragile and beautiful spring flowers is a welcome sight. The combination of early blooms and new growth signals a time of renewal, change and regrowth in nature. I have been making artworks with spring flowers and learning more about the Japanese tradition of Hanami – flower viewing, which occurs when the cherry (sakura) and plum (ume) trees are in the first flush of bloom for approximately two weeks in early spring.
Brightly coloured yellow daffodils, jonquils and creamy erlicheer are among the spring flowers that I’ve been nature printing over the past two months. I’ve been reading florist Shane Connolly’s book “Discovering the Meaning of Flowers,” and he has this to say about jonquils: “Narcissi flowers generally symbolise egotism and vanity. But jonquils have a more useful message in the language of love – I Wish You Would Return My Affection.” Daffodils and other flowers in the narcissus family are also linked with the themes of rebirth, inspiration and creativity. In China they symbolise good fortune and in Japan they mean joy. (https://www.flowermeaning.com/daffodil-flower-meaning/)
In recent years spring daffodils have become associated with cancer, as charities in New Zealand and elsewhere organise an annual daffodil day to fundraise to support cancer research. The language of flowers is certainly intriguing and varies considerably across different cultures.
In a small nature printed painting (detail pictured above) I have included daffodils, jonquils, erlicheer, geraniums, lavender, corokia and other garden leaves. This painting is a quiet celebration of the return of spring during a time of difficulty and uncertainty. As I write this the Auckland region where I live is in a second lockdown after an outbreak of Covid, trying once again to stop the spread of this deadly virus in our society. This time around my family are celebrating a couple of birthdays in lockdown and waiting until we can gather together again to share these occasions with extended family and friends.
I was fortunate to visit the Auckland Domain Wintergardens between lockdowns where I photographed these beautiful double daffodils and jonquils. They were displayed with a large grouping of unusually shaped potted chillies – definitely a sight to warm the heart on a cold winter day.
The brief appearance of fragile and ephemeral blossoms at this time of year has an association with transience, serving as a reminder of the impermanence of life which aligns with Japanese Buddhist traditions. In Japanese Kaika refers to the emergence of the first blooms and Mankai is the time of peak bloom. Last year I experimented with nature printing blossoms, and I was eager to try some more this season. This month I have completed an artwork made with blossoms, erlicheer and spring foliage which I am looking forward to seeing exhibited.
Unfortunately some art projects I had planned have been disrupted by the second lockdown, but I’m hoping to get a few more spring flower paintings completed before the blossoms give way to new greenery. Nature printing with blossoms is a lesson in patience – one must wait a year until the next chance to work with these beautiful and luminous flowers.
My artwork for my Patreon supporters this month was nature printed with a combination of spring blossoms, magnolia, viburnum, lavender and geraniums all from my local streets and garden. During difficult times the arrival of spring is more welcome than ever. The artworks I am making reflect the experience of taking local walks and noticing the changes in nature as spring approaches. This A4 size artwork is available as a digital download from my Patreon page. Patreon is a subscription service for creators, with subscriptions starting from just US$1 per month. I do one painting a month just for my Patreon supporters and give them other rewards over the year. It is a fantastic way for people to support creators that they like and to help them keep on making art, music and other wonderful creations! One of the really cool things about Patreon is that creators can also support each other.
Magnolias are a new ingredient in my nature printed artworks, and it has been really wonderful to see the stellata magnolia that was our living Christmas tree starting to bloom in the garden this month. I’m looking forward to experimenting with nature prints from the flowers and using the blooms from this magnolia in floral creations when the tree is more mature. Once again, a lesson in patience as the tree was covered in green leaves at Christmas and is only now producing beautiful flowers.
During this second lockdown I have been really thankful for the lovely street trees and flowers in my neighbourhood. Some are planted by the council and others are the result of people planting their own choice of flowers and trees on the berms outside their houses. Since the council has stopped mowing these sidewalk berms there has been an increase “no-mow” berms planted with various low growing shrubs and plants. These are much more biodiverse and interesting than the standard mown grassed berm.
During this time of uncertainty and setbacks, art made with plants continues to occupy and inspire me. It is a privilege to keep making art, even if the work has to be squeezed into small pockets of time carved out from other responsibilities. I am looking forward to celebrating the wonderful gifts of nature in more artworks over the spring months.
Aroha from Aotearoa, Celeste