I’ve never liked still life paintings of flowers or fruit. They’ve always looked boring to me and lifeless— invoking those dull days in art class drawing apples and pears. Except Georgia O’Keeffe! Her flowers were exceptional.
Jio is 6 months old now and it was going to be Jisoo’s (my wife’s) first Mother’s Day. I was just going to buy Jisoo flowers and a balloon, until a colleague at work, herself a mother, reminded me to make this mother’s day special— to do something with Jio, like make a handprint on a Mother’s Day card.
I panicked a little as I drove home. It was only a few day’s before Mother’s Day and there was no way I could deliver or shop for something special at this point. I was going to make a special card but since I had some canvases lying around I came up with an interesting idea.
Unfortunately, most of my poetry and art is moody and gloomy so thinking about what to paint was difficult because Mother’s Day should essentially be celebratory, happy, and fun.
Seeking the right tone and perspective, a quick google search revealed some gems. Everybody’s done a flower painting apparently!
- Hibiscus by Hiroshige (c. 1845)
- Flower Garden by Gustav Klimt (1905)
- White Vase with Flowers by Odilon Redon (1916)
- Still Life with Irises by Vincent Van Gogh (1890)
For speed, I wasn’t going to do anything that required detail or precision. Acrylic would be best for a 3 hour project as we can literally do this while Jisoo sleeps (she’s doing nights on the ICU this month). Moreover, I already have the acrylic paint. Impression-like strokes. Something like Klimt. I want that bold contrast of color like Gogh’s painting. There’s something so beautiful about the flat, cartoonish vitality in Hibiscus.
Secondly, we need to think about Jio’s contribution. I originally thought he’d be able to do a bunch of hand prints. But when it finally became his turn, he wouldn’t extend his thumb! So we had to do many long strokes with his other digits. We also did many taps of his fingertips which proved useful.
I started with a simple white blue wash. Laid out with pencil the overall composition and decided early on the focal point. Jio started with light colors and then moved to dark reds and purples. I then filled the rest in for some definition and ended with the darkest colors.
Details of Vitality and Mystery
I think with projects like this, one can overcook or touch it too much at the end. Part of me wanted to preserve Jio’s hand and part of me wanted to refine it. I can see all his strokes but that’s because I saw him do it. If I had to do it again, I would highlight Jio’s strokes a lot more to preserve the authenticity. Are his strokes stems? Petals? Leaves? The vitality and the mystery! It’s a Mother’s Day gift, not an art competition!
The painting has taught me the importance of preparing the composition and overall color scheme beforehand. I think if I had to do a larger painting, I would have to use an ipad or physically sketch out the colors and shapes beforehand. The random and haphazard nature of the flowers made this project very forgiving, but a lot of prep work would need to be done for larger and more precise pieces.