Autumnal garlands

As late summer shifts into Autumn my artwork also changes, responding to the turning of the seasons. Seeds and berries are included and the palette moves to purple, red, orange and brown. It is a chance to revisit plants worked with last Autumn, and to include some new techniques and ideas in the artworks. Over the past weeks I have been creating garlands and learning more about their history. I have also continued researching the language of flowers, discovering the intriguing floral symbolism of Waterlilies, Dahlias and Camellias.

“The first day of autumn exhales with a berry-breath and all nature catches the scent. It is always the air that announces the change. It sharpens, cools and gently startles.”

The Nature of Autumn, (2016) Jim Crumley, p.12 .

The last Sunday in May this weekend celebrates Botanic Gardens in Australia and New Zealand. In Autumn a trip to the Auckland Botanic Gardens is always a source of inspiration, and a complex colour scheme can start with one garden bed of flowering and seeding plants. Pictured below is flowering purple Basil, Zinnias, Statice and the last of the Cosmos in the Herb garden. All the colours and textures of my April artwork with a garden Dahlia and berries are present. Many visits over the years to Botanic Gardens in Sydney, Melbourne, Auckland and other locations have provided creative illumination and impetus for me. They are special places to visit at any time in the year, as plants are always changing and new discoveries can be found in any season.

For my Patreon subscribers in March I made a dewy and gentle artwork with a Waterlily, surrounded by flowers and foliage including Violas, Jacaranda, Fennel and Spearmint. To research this artwork I visited a water garden in South Auckland to see Waterlilies of many varieties in bloom – a fascinating glimpse of a captivating aquatic flower species. Nymphaea have an ancient lineage and are associated with peace, spirituality and rebirth.

Every year I make artworks about environment and climate. To mark Earth Day on April 22nd I created a digital artwork, combining nature printed plants with scanned foliage from my garden – Akeake, Corokia with yellow berries, Rata, Manuka and Kawakawa leaves. Even in a small garden there is room for an array of endemic plants which provide valuable food and shelter for fauna such as birds, insects and geckos. A garden can be a refuge and wild place if you are willing to let nature in. You can find me in the artist gallery on the Earth Day website, on the second page.

Creating artwork about coastal ecology is one part of my art practice which occupies the Autumn months. Each year I learn more about the endemic coastal plants of a local river, the Tāmaki Estuary, for artwork entered into the annual Estuary Art Awards at Uxbridge Arts & Culture in East Auckland. This year I have focussed on some unusual and lesser known plants, such as the Atriplex (pictured below) and Seagrasses which grow in the estuary. Atriplex is a particularly tough, salt resistant and dry tolerant dune plant with foliage and seeds which turn reddish in Autumn. Seagrasses are important in the marine ecosystem and their role as part of the larger blue carbon cycle, storing carbon and producing oxygen, is only just becoming recognised and understood.

As part of my research for this artwork and others in progress I have been learning more about Tūpare – Garlands. Garlands are an ancient art form and they carry many meanings. They are found across almost all cultures and are especially important in Asia and the Pacific. Learning to create garlands with an assortment of dried and fresh flowers and foliage has been a delight. I have written some more about this topic in my first May post for Patreon subscribers.

Some years ago I set out on a path to discover methods of making art that is environmentally responsible, and which also investigates ways to encourage connection with others and the changes we need to make to protect our biosphere and atmosphere. It is a journey that has led me to floristry, environmentalism, permaculture and other aspects of cultivation and interaction with the world of plants around us. I find myself drawn to the small seasonal plants we see every day but don’t always notice. A single flower can be a starting point in this journey, as flowers are so entwined with cultural traditions, memory, joy and healing.

As it has been difficult over the past years to exhibit and to attend art exhibitions, I have searched for new ways to create and to share my artworks with audiences. To make my artwork more accessible I have created a digital artwork with Tulips, Hawthorne and Jasmine, available as a high resolution download from this website. Payment is by donation of US$1, if you can do so. Not everyone can commit to a Patreon subscription, which is why if you love tulips and would like to have one of my art prints I am offering this special artwork online.

As Winter approaches I am completing some final Autumn artworks. A little artwork created with Magnolia leaves and Seed pods (detail below), is part of ongoing project working with seeds and seed pods. This project is inspired by the seed saving permaculture workshop I attended last year and by the important work being done by seed banks around the world to protect biodiversity. In this new artwork, large, twisting Honey Locust and Kowhai seed pods are combined with a Magnolia cone and the velvety copper undersides of dried Magnolia leaves. It is exciting to work with seeds and their variety of forms is fascinating. I plan to do some more artworks with seeds over the coming months and I look forward to sharing some of them in my next artist blog.

Celeste Sterling, Autumn 2022

“Autumn is the earth’s reviver and replenisher, the first day of Autumn is the new beginning of everything and the last day of Autumn is the beginning of next Spring. Autumn is the indispensable fulcrum of nature’s year.”

The Nature of Autumn, (2016) Jim Crumley, p.13 .

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