Flowers have long been a subject for still life painters and photographers alike. They are beautiful and have universal appeal after all.
When I think of flowers in still life, the elaborate floral arrangements of the Dutch Masters immediately come to mind. But, that is not what I want to talk about in this blog. I would like to talk about another type of floral still life artist, Georgia O’Keefe.
What can I say about Georgia O’Keefe’s floral paintings that have not already been said before? Even though she denied it, some of her floral paintings were sensual and bore a remarkable resemblance to the vagina. But that is not what I want to focus on (pun intended) here.
When I look at her floral paintings I see a remarkable and stunning example of still life painting at its finest. Her use of light, shadow and form give her flowers dimension. Her compositions draw me into the very essence of the flower. And yet, there seems to be a vulnerability about them, a transient beauty that perhaps only a woman could convey and perhaps see. This in no way is meant to be a feminist statement or to diminish men in any way. I know many men who photograph and paint flowers beautifully. But I think there is a decidedly feminine feeling to her flower paintings.
I wonder if I can also capture that type of feeling in my own photography of flowers.
Georgia O’Keefe was able to stand apart from the crowd of painters, she was able to BE a woman AND a painter and convey both through her art in a world dominated at the time by men. And, she is now considered one of the most important American painters of our time. That is quite an accomplishment if you ask me.
So, I find myself asking what I could do to make my flower images stand out from the crowd? After all, everyone shoots flowers. Google flower photography and you could spend eons looking at them all. What I found was that after a while they all looked the same, I was scrolling through them quickly, and while some of them were unquestionably beautiful, none of them stopped me in my tracks.
So I thought I would try to shoot flowers in a way that showed the “essence of what I see” when I look at the flower. I don’t want to use alot of props, I want the flower to be the “hero”, as a mentor and friend of mine likes to say, of the image. I know…I know….I can hear you all saying this has been done already - my quest is to see if I can make them MINE. My goal is to see if I can create flower images that would make you stop in your tracks and look at them - just like Georgia’s flower paintings make me, and evidently most of the world, stop and take notice.
There is a beautiful magnolia tree in our yard - I have always loved these trees, they burst forth with these wonderful gorgeous blooms and like the town crier announce spring in big way. The blooms do not last long but while they are here they are so special you can’t help but notice them. My first attempt at working with flowers in my studio is with a branch of magnolia blooms cut from that tree. Just some natural light and a piece of cheese cloth on a white background. A bit of a texture and painting filter was added. If I have made you stop in your tracks and really look at it I am heading in the right direction. If not, I guess I need to keep trying. But, that is how we continue to grow as artists isn’t it?