Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Poppy Painting Almost Done!

This past Sunday, the 16th, I spent most of the day working on this painting. I decided to keep this one really simple for a few reasons... One of them being that if I did keep it more simple, it wouldn't take me 3 months to finish it. I had completed the background (just painting dark green on it) a few months ago, at the same time that I started my Heron. I hadn't touched this since, and after completing the Heron, this was just sitting there on my easel. As I stated back in November, I have way too many ideas for other paintings to do- so I knew the sooner I finished this one, the sooner I could start another. My other choice was to just put this one aside and start something new, but I'm really not a big fan of doing that.

The other thing was that I wasn't excited about this painting at all- I'll admit it. So picking it up after not having touched it for 3 months was even less appealing. But over the course of the past year or so, I've had people actually ask me at art shows "Do you have any paintings of red poppies?" I would always think, "Are you kidding me? Like 48373 of those already exist, why would I do that?" The idea just bored me; plus, I'm really not even a fan of poppies... Although maybe if I actually had them in my own garden, I would change my mind. I just have no experience with them and no real feel for the flower. I like to be as familiar with a plant as possible before I attempt to paint it. I know nothing about poppies!!!

But I figured since it wasn't my usual tropical subject matter, I'd give it a try. The idea of something different made it seem a little challenging, and the fact that it was made due to others' requests made it seem almost like a commission, even though it wasn't technically. But it's nice to work with subject matter I'm not completely familiar with once in a while- because if I don't have a plant or an exact photo in front of me that I've taken, it makes me play around more with style and composition, rather than just concentrating on pure accuracy. So, sure, my poppies and their foliage is probably not 100% accurate here- but in this case I tried to make it more about the art, rather than about the plant. For me that's tough to do.

Blog edit- Shutterfly put the kibosh on my previously linked photos, so I've uploaded the finished painting here:

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Tis the Season: Giving back to the Rainforest

It seemed like when I was growing up, around 2nd or 3rd grade (1985-ish), us kids started hearing more and more about the rainforest. "Save the Rainforest! The rainforest is disappearing at an alarming rate, and it must be saved NOW!" And our teachers taught us a little about recycling here and there, but... that was about it.

So as a kid I thought, "Okay. Recycle and turn of the water while you brush your teeth and you're 'doing your part.' Cool! The rainforest and all the animals will be saved."

But over the years, it seemed like I was still constantly hearing about the rainforest and how one day it would be completely gone. It even got to a point, at least for me as a kid, where I almost got sick of hearing about it. I mean, here I was recycling (when I could, since many public places don't even offer recycling bins alongside their trash) and trying not to waste water and all... and apparently the rainforest wasn't doing any better.

Fast forward about 15 years, to a time when my husband and I took a trip to Hawaii, and I got to experience a tropical rainforest for the very first time.
And then another 4 months after that, and I was on my honeymoon in Puerto Rico, hiking in the El Yunque rainforest.
4 days from there, and I was in St. Lucia, hiking around near the Pitons and exploring various water falls.

After visiting these places and experiencing it for myself, after all those years, it finally clicked. "Wow. So THIS is what they're trying to save and making such a big deal over. I get it now."

It's really easy to to just dismiss things that you hear about but have never personally experienced.

It may sound cliche, but I think all that travelling and hiking around really changed my life.

It definitely changed my art. And right now, my art is a big part of my life.
The giant, over sized leaves on so many tropical rainforest plants almost make you feel like a tiny minuatureized version of yourself walking around in someone's greenhouse. Plants that may look slightly familiar (houseplants you'd find in most stores, a lot of which I already had at home myself) are 10 times larger than what you might be accustomed to seeing.
But that's just the foliage....
Wait till you see the flowers.
The brightest of colors all combined on a form that looks almost alien (if you don't live in the tropics)... simply amazing. Heliconicas of all shapes and sizes.

If you're ever somewhere and within a few hours of a rainforest, and you've never seen one for yourself- you simply must go. (Even if you don't hike, there are usually areas where you can drive and see things, and easy access to a visitor center.)
Be sure to stop in at the visitor center (if one is available). They will have information on that particular rain forest, and sometimes you can see a short film about the area you are visiting. It may seem like a sort of hokey thing to do, but the films that I've seen in the visitor centers tend to be about 20 minutes long and they really are very interesting and educational. You'll learn a lot in a very short period of time.

I felt so inspired upon my return from these tropical places. I wanted to take all the beautiful things I had seen and put them onto canvas. I did with a couple, but I still haven't had the time to paint all the rainforest plants that I'd like to.

So now I've got all these ideas and a few drawings and paintings, and I've sold a few prints. I recently began to think, "here I am with all these ideas and inspiration- But the things I'm painting aren't even things that I created. They were created by Nature."
In a way it felt sort of like cheating, because it's too easy. Nature just puts it out there for all of us to see. So now I really feel like I need to give something back.

I've decided to start by taking a percentage of all my rainforest related prints and paintings and when I sell them, I can donate that. Since right now that wouldn't be anything very substantial... at all.... I'm thinking about other options- and I need to research some charities, too.