I was asked a few weeks ago to do a painting as a gift for a woman I know, who was having a big birthday coming up. She had no idea that the painting was being done for her. I was asked to paint her as “Mother Nature” but a sexy and elegant version with “wild and beautiful” as the basis of it. I was told what her favourite flowers were, and asked to put a specific sky as the background (which was a brightly coloured one that I loved the minute I saw it). The woman lives in Kent, so I knew I wanted to add various aspects that relate to that lovely county. And what I loved the best was the young woman who commissioned it said “I want you to put your own magic in in!” those are the best words for me to hear, she knew my work well enough to know that if she gave me free rein to be creative, I would go with my artistic instincts!
The first thing I did was look for source photos, and of course Kent is known as the Garden of England, so lots of fruit and flowers came up for me to use as inspiration.
From gathering that information I drew out some ideas, and then did a working drawing which worked nicely as a concept, that lead on to me doing a working painting, as I knew with that brightly coloured sky I wanted to check that the flowers of the rest of the painting weren’t lost against it. I had been asked to do a brightly coloured painting so that helped immensely. I used the same bright reds and yellows of the sun as the reds and yellows of the flowers, and the same bright blue of the sky as the basis of the greens (mixed with various pale yellows) as the greenery and grass that surrounded Sarah who was the subject of the painting. And also if she was to be depicted as “Mother Nature” it had to be bright spring greens as the start of life, rather than summer ochre yellows that look less of start of life in nature. It didn’t matter that the flowers in it bloomed at different times of the year from early spring to late summer, that didn’t detract from the painting.
When I was happy that it all looked nicely balanced I drew it out. The painting is 16 x 12 inches on a block canvas, and I painted it in acrylics to get the bright colours, and also painted down the sides of the canvas to carry the painting around the edges.
There are 28 different types of fruit and flowers and fungi in the painting, in alphabetical order they are ..Barley, Blackberries, Bluebells, Cherries, Clematis (hedgerow) – Travellers Joy “Old Mans Beard”, Cobnuts, Crab apples, Fern, For-get-me-nots, Foxgloves , Fungi (Red)- Amantia Muscaria (Fly Agaric), Fungi (White) – flat fungi on oak tree, Grapes, Hops, Ivy, Lavender, Oak – from fallen oak tree in Kent hurricane 1987, Oak leaves and acorns, Pears, Poppies, Primroses, Rose (Pink ) – “Anne Boleyn”, Rose (Pink heart shaped) – “Princess Alexandra of Kent” hedgerow rose, Rose (Red ) – from Hever, Kent, Rosehips, Strawberries, Vine – sweet heart shaped, Winter anemones.
Some are more obvious than others. I loved using the different colours as the basis of the shades of the body in the picture in the style of that wonderfully clever Renaissance artist Arcimboldo, who’s work I’ve loved for years for the surreal quality of her faces and figures made from fruit and flowers.
As the painting is OF someone I had to make the face look like her, and even though her face is green (of course!!) so long as the tones are correct, it reads as her. I love the fact that she has some of the foliage winding its way around her, and that her hand looks like its part of the oak growing out of the ground. I also love the leaves she has as her earrings, and the way her hair is blowing in the breeze!
I absolutely adored doing this painting, and didn’t want to stop doing it. Its such a clever painting, and one even I hadn’t done before, and I’ve painted lots of strange and wonderful paintings over the years.
So here it is “Sarah as Mother Nature” what do you think of it? And can you spot all the flowers and fruit in it?
The woman who commissioned it loves it, the woman who the painting is for loves it, her husband loves it, and the artist absolutely loves it!!