My painting year is defined by seasons, with each season bringing new plant growth and maturity that influences the colours and forms of the artworks. In late November and December as the Summer Solstice approaches, the paintings turn golden. Magnificent summer flowers, seed heads and the foliage of this season are nature printed to create artworks full of abundance and warmth. In my garden the flowers planted in early Spring are starting to bloom, a source of joy and peace during what can be a hectic time of year. This year more than ever the garden offers a place of refuge and beauty as well as a starting point for many artworks.
In the first half of the year, studying Floristry full time and negotiating the disruption of the pandemic and two lockdowns, my art projects were curtailed. It wasn’t until early Spring that I was able to collaborate with other artists for the Shared Lines: Pūtahitanga project, a giant collective artwork which was installed in Christchurch and which is also available to view online. You can read more about my artwork for this project in my previous blog.
This year I also participated in the The Nomadic Art Gallery, another collaborative project which has involved over 100 artists. A travelling art gallery in a truck, The Nomadic Art Gallery journeyed throughout Aotearoa, staging exhibitions in each location visited. The truck itself has been painted by many artists, and sculptures have been added to the interior and exterior.
I’ve never nature printed on a truck or van before so it was a new experience to take my artwork out of the studio and onto The Nomadic Art Gallery. I started with an assortment of plants from my garden including kowhai and corokia, and a pot of beautiful vibrant cornflowers. Blue felt like the colour of the moment, as I woke that day to the news of the American Election results. Luckily the weather came right for us and along with some other artists I was able to complete the artwork at the Lakehouse Arts Centre in Takapuna, which is a fantastic community art gallery. Community galleries are like the creative glue that bring people together and these wonderful places deserve all our support. My artwork had to work with those around it and I enjoyed weaving the plants into the existing artworks. The truck, now complete, is a unique collaboration and also a significant and interesting artwork for Aotearoa given the events of this year. In a year where so much has been postponed and cancelled it was a real pleasure to contribute to these collaborative projects and to join in the celebration with other artists of The Nomadic Art Gallery on Waiheke Island recently.
For the celebration on Waiheke I made a generous flower crown with exquisite Roses, Sweet William, Love-in-a-mist and of course Cornflowers. This resulted in another artwork to remember the occasion, as I deconstructed the flower crown and nature printed it. We celebrate significant events with flowers and the translation of some of these florals into artworks feels like a natural conclusion after the event. In a year when so many events have been disrupted it felt like an enormous privilege to attend anything at all. Here in Aotearoa we owe a huge debt of gratitude to those who have worked so tirelessly and with such dedication to keep our community safe and well. It is also important to acknowledge how much of a collective effort it has been to achieve this, and the sacrifices that have been made and continue to be made, often affecting those most vulnerable in far harsher ways. The pandemic has highlighted and amplified deep inequalities, racism and toxic misinformation in our communities, and the fallout continues to challenge us to transform our society for the better of all.
My November artwork for my Patreon subscribers was also made with Cornflowers, nature printed into an artwork with some white Pelargoniums and grapevine from the garden. This is the time of year that the grapevine explodes into life and it grows very quickly as the temperatures increase. I started my Patreon journey some time ago, and this year I was particularly grateful that I already had established the infrastructure to connect with wider audiences online.
In December I made two artworks for my Patreon subscribers. A small wreath nature printed with blue Cornflowers, Lacy Phacelia and Grapevine, to celebrate Christmas, and a golden painting for the Summer Solstice (see detail picture at the start of this blog). Patreon is a subscription service for creators with subscriptions starting from US$1 per month. I offer an artwork each month available as a digital download via my Patreon page, and for my Patreon community I create extra seasonal artworks and offer more personal writing about my art making. This service allows me to provide art online to anyone in the world who has a $1 to spend on art and who likes what I am doing, which is really incredible and potentially revolutionary in terms of accessibility, and how art is made.
The global pandemic is still having a massive impact as we reach the end of the year, affecting all areas and no doubt it will continue to have a profound effect on the arts. I know that this is just the beginning of huge challenges as the climate crisis also looms upon us. Right now, our connection to nature and how we do everything with regard for the natural world is crucial. All depends on the ability to recognise problems in that relationship and to protect, repair and regenerate nature. Our survival depends not just on dealing with the global pandemic, but also upon recognising and dealing with the urgent climate crisis.
Over summer I will continue to make seasonal art about our about our connection to nature and challenging myself to find more sustainable ways of making art. Increasingly for me that means growing more of the plants that I nature print with, especially bee friendly flowers, and nature printing with minimal amounts of foliage and flowers. The artworks are also small in scale to use less resources, and I provide them digitally when possible to reduce emissions associated with shipping. In a world where so many problems are being created by overconsumption, it feels like small changes but at least some steps towards a more environmentally conscious way of making art.
Whatever your situation currently is, I hope you have enjoyed the artworks I have created this year and that they bring some joy.
Celeste Sterling, December 2020