Friday, March 4, 2011

Journey of the Callas - a lesson in perseverance

It seems that this artistic journey is constantly teaching me new things or making me reconsider my thoughts on how I perceive different subjects.  As a florist, I really did not appreciate the beauty of a single calla lily much less a massive bouquet of them.  Truthfully, I really did not care for the appearance of the flower, finding it lacking because of its simplicity.  Roses, peonies, freesia and the like all held more appeal to me whether I was incorporating them into bouquets or bringing a few blooms home to enjoy.  I suppose it was the fullness of these flowers or the multiple blooms on a stem that made me feel that there was more value in these particular flowers.  Well, once again, it seems that I have decided to go down a path that I did not originally feel was calling out for me to explore it. 

Back in 1974, I started off on my floral design journey and felt that every day was a treat because going to work meant spending time working with a tapestry of colours with a veritable perfumery right under my nose.  I had thought that spending so much time with all that fragrance would make me less sensitive to the delicate scents, but it seems that I became more aware of each flower's floral scent.  Each colour of rose brought forth a different of scent, some crisp, some spiced and others definitely reminiscent of days gone by.  Peonies were exquisite in both their ruffled edges and their burst of fragrance.  Freesia were a heady hit of perfume, the white ones making me think of the aroma of freshly ground peppercorns.  I was intrigued by all these scents and every day brought a new awareness with the various combinations of flowers becoming associated in my mind with the bouquet being put together.  Floral pieces heading off for weddings had a delicate, romantic nature whilst other bouquets being delivered to mortuaries seemed to be heavy with the various scents of chrysanthemums blending into what I considered to be typical of that particular occasion.

The years went by and the availability of exotic blooms expanded.  I developed a taste for anthuriums, bird of paradise, orchids and many other interesting species.  Gardenias however, held no appeal, their heavy perfume being a tad over the limit of what I could handle fragrance wise.  Interesting that stephanotis and gardenias both come from the jasmine family and that while I loved the delicate scent of stephanotis in a wedding bouquet, the in your face perfume of a gardenia could make my eyes water to the point that I would have to leave the shop and step out onto the delivery platform to catch my breath.  Needless to say, I did not suggest that a bride carry a bouquet of these powerful but extremely delicate blooms.  Just touching the petal of a gardenia could cause a bruise on it, the bloom reacting to the pH of misguided fingers fumbling to fasten a ribbon accent to a corsage or gently tuck a few into the bride's display. 

Twenty-five years in the floral industry did not dampen my love of working with such a variety of floral abundance.  I may have continued working in flower shops until retirement became an option, but as the years went by, the industry changed in so many ways.  Many other types of shops started to carry flowers and old time flower shops closed when their owners retired or decided to downsize.  The custom of sending floral tributes to mortuaries lessened as more people made donations to a charity in memory of the deceased.  Many small home based floral businesses opened to specialize in bridal decorations and small shops that carried a variety of items that were handy for someone on their way home from work to dash into added mixed bouquets to their offerings and at a very competitive price.  The need for experienced floral designers lessened as a more casual approach to displaying flowers captivated the industry.  Wisely, I decided that learning to work with computers was in my best interest and transferred into office work. 

What does all this have to do with my appreciation of calla lilies?  Well, over the past few weeks, the Art Deco stylings have been appealing to me and I decided to paint a few canvases incorporating some of these design elements.  That meant taking another look at callas and investigating the bloom right down to its most minute details.  Whilst white calla lilies were the typical blooms depicted in Art Deco renderings, it is interesting to note that the blooms are available in yellow, orange, and purple.  Some of the purple ones are such a deep shade that they appear to be almost black.  The long slender stems lent themselves to the clean elegance of the period and looking at just a few blooms in a tall vase made me appreciate the impact of a flower that I had shunned for years.  Definitely, these flowers warranted a painting or two to be done and as if to punish me for the years I had ignored them, I encountered my love/hate relationship all over again.  But, this time, it was personal.  I had to conquer the shape of the blooms and make them fit into my Art Deco series of paintings in which my Lady with Attitude was to be placed.  I have set the lady aside for now until I conquer the issue of styling my calla lilies so that they are true to form and their simple elegance is showcased to my satisfaction. 

I have looked at countless pictures of my now much loved callas, taking in their various qualities, sizes, shape of the blooms and the curved nature of their stems.  I have been sketching, painting, and dreaming of these elusive beauties and still feel that I have not captured their essence.  So, the Art Deco trio of paintings has been set to the side whilst I focus on simple stylings and some not so simple stylings to paint.  I am putting up the original Art Deco paintings along with some of my attempts of the past few days.  I am getting closer in the "Journey of the Callas," but I still have a ways to travel before this part of my travels can be considered to be roads well travelled.  I plan to keep working on the original series as well as this second part of my journey until I feel that all the canvases have been completed.  How many paintings of calla lilies will evolve out of this infatuation?  I am not really certain, but if you run into a vast number of paintings all of a few blooms of these tantalizing flowers, you can safely assume that I painted more than could be properly put on display in one flat and had to find extra homes to adopt my little family.

Have you encountered a subject or project that drove you to the edge before you conquered it?  I would love to hear some "battle stories" of your encounters and how you resolved the problem(s).  Maybe you are still trying to finesse a particular craft, capture something in acrylics, oils or mixed media.  Share your stories and I will be sure to put your them up as quickly as possible so that we all can learn from your experiences.  But, remember, some journeys just take a little longer than expected due to unexpected detours that pop up.  A delay is not necessarily a bad thing to happen since it allows us a little more time to focus on what it is we are trying to accomplish or where it is that our journey is trying to lead us and maybe more importantly, why it is we are heading there.

Sincerely,    Rutheemac

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