Aside from the obvious inspiration from the Dutch masters, employing their basic compositional structure, the Hogarth curve—named for William Hogarth (1697-1764) who defined the reverse S as the “line of beauty”—in various proportions in my larger florals has been a natural, intuitive process. What takes more significant effort is the minute structuring of details as they interact with one another to generate tension therefore interest on a more abstract level, i.e., how a petal is curled and shadows the neighboring leaf and the shape and color of those shadows, etc. What makes this aspect particularly challenging for me is the fact that I have never had the luxury of painting from a large floral arrangement in my studio. Rather, I resort primarily to memory and snippets of photographs from my garden from which details are refreshed in my mind. Both the idea and structure of a painting almost come to fruition simultaneously as I briefly stare at the blank canvas, and then evolve rapidly as I begin a raw, unplanned underpainting. This process is the most exciting for me as it requires maximum creative force and foresight. Often I can make such significant progress toward fulfilling my vision in that first sitting, that I’m satiated for quite some time.
The second stage contrasts significantly with the first as it requires a great deal more perseverance with the deliberate calculation and placement of every detail on an abstract level while at once remaining sympathetic to the knowledge of a flower’s actual appearance. This is what I consider to be the most challenging and often exhaustive stage, persisting over as much as eight weeks.
Once the final stage is reached I begin to have fun again. This is where I add legs dangling from a hovering bee and add an ethereal quality to the wings of a butterfly, or permit light to softly sift through a petal or reflect through a dewdrop onto a surface...it’s what makes the painting begin to feel magical to me...and perhaps if I’m successful, hopefully for you, too!