I Used Plants To Improve My Art- Here's How

I Used Plants To Improve My Art- Here's How

I purchased my first houseplant in 2020.

We were fresh into COVID lockdown and I needed a reason to get out of the house. I saw a beautiful Majesty Palm for $12 while shopping at Sam’s club and I did what had to be done.

I never would have imagined what was soon to unfold. 

I’ve been a plant mom for 3 years now and while reflecting on my plant journey, I noticed it actually had a significant impact on my art journey. My art journey, in turn, brought a new perspective to my life journey. 

Crazy how everything is connected right? 

If my green babies taught me nothing else, they taught me patience. There’s nothing tougher than planting a seed for the first time. You check for growth every day. You wonder if anything is happening; if you did it right or not. You do all but dig up the seed to reveal evidence of a root (at least, I hope you don’t dig up the damn seed.)

When you’re working with plants, you never really know what’s going on under the surface. The only thing you can do is be patient, care for the plant the best you can while paying attention to what it needs, and have faith that it will bloom. 

This is a lot like painting for me.

Most times, I start a painting with a single idea. Most times, this exact idea never comes to fruition. It’s not that I don’t know what I’m doing, though. If I tried to create exactly what I thought I was supposed to create, my art practice would likely be very unfulfilling. When I learned to be patient with my process and immerse myself in every step instead of forcing or rushing along, my work spoke to me in a different way. It became less about the final outcome and more about the experience of my creative process and what I could learn along the way. 

Faith is a huge part of painting and gardening, but failure is important, too. 

I can’t tell you how many plants died in my care, especially succulents. I have a pretty bad success rate with them, if i’m being honest. I tried to no avail to resist the fact that my Kalanchoe plant was on its way out. Despite the leaves being brown and mushy, I was convinced I could bring it back to life. The more I watered it, which was probably the problem to begin with, the more the leaves fell off.

The truth is, sometimes, you have to accept defeat. 

I’ve lost many plants, but I nurtured even more. I wouldn’t have the capacity to grow more plant children if I was spending all my time trying to revive dead ones. 

I have made room for failure in my art practice as well. I’ve been denied grants, commission opportunities, and just left certain ideas out to perish and I don’t regret any of it. 

Being comfortable with accepting an L is what prepares us to win. Instead of forcing our efforts on a strategy that has proven itself to be unsuccessful, failure gifts us a lesson to redirect our efforts and bring us closer to success. Although I was not successful in some of my grant endeavors, when I won, I WON. I am grateful to be the recipient of the Charlotte is Creative HUG grant and the United Arts Council grant, this year. If I let my past failures mean that I, myself, was a failure, I may have convinced myself that I should just stop applying and I would have missed out on what was actually for me. 

I will admit, at times, it’s difficult to figure out what’s really for me, though. 

I have spent thousands of hours racking my brain for content ideas, painting ideas, how to write my artist bio etc. until I started propagating my ideas.

Let me explain.

Propagation is when you take a cutting from a healthy, mature plant and use it to grow a new one. My favorite plant to do this with is pothos. If I ever see a pretty pothos somewhere public with lots of leaves to spare, you better believe I'm taking home a piece of that. Once I learned to propagate, I realized I didn’t have to buy a new plant all the time. I could take cuttings from plants I grew myself (or just happened to come across) and grow them into new plants. 

This is what most art is.

Every now and then, there will be art that is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before; even then, maybe you’re just not looking for the original inspiration hard enough. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Everything that you need already exists. 

The only difference with propagating ideas is that you don’t want an exact replica, of course. But this is a process that taught me how to channel what I like from other artists into my own work and create “original” ideas. Every painting I make is original to my audience, but they don’t know that I used a reference or a study to make it happen. Sometimes, I try to create with no reference or inspiration at all but it doesn’t work out too well. 

We live in a world full of beauty and inspiration so that we can use it to our advantage, not run from it because we want to seem different and avant-garde. Don’t waste your time, it’s your most valuable asset. 

When you have all your patience, ideas and dignity, it’s important to consider the quality of your environment.  

Environment can mean life or death for plants of most types. If a heat loving plant is put in the cold, it can die and vice versa. The wrong soil can kill a plant. Too much sun can kill a plant. They’re very sensitive to the conditions in which they are planted . 

I learned quickly that plants need to be placed where they are able to thrive naturally and this might not always be where we want them to be. 

I have a lily that I also bought in 2020. When I first got her, yes I said her, I wanted her in this corner of my room soooo bad. It was simply for aesthetics of course, but she was not giving what I wanted her to give.

Her leaves looked so sad. Her pretty white flower even died. I was distraught. 

One day, I decided to redo my room as I did every spring, and I moved her to a new location. I came home one day and her leaves were standing upright again. “Well I’ll be damned,” I thought. 

I tried so hard to make her stay where I wanted her and totally dismissed the idea that what I wanted may not have been in alignment with what she needed. Her needs were something I had to accept that I could not change. 

The same goes for art. 

I realized that environments physically, mentally, and spiritually are important factors for an enjoyable creative process. Last year, I was so desperate to become a full time artist. 

I was so desperate, I went into debt to pay $1,000 for a mentor that ended up making me no money and provided me with no connections whatsoever, which is exactly what I was seeking. 

My content became repetitive, my growth felt stunted. My mental environment wasn’t conducive to creating the environment I really needed to thrive. I needed to accept the fact that where I was mentally was not sufficient to yield what I truly desired. 

I went on a hiatus to figure out what I needed and how to get it instead of just forcing the process that was nearby. 

The result? Beautiful, authentic artwork and a practice that made me happy. I haven’t reached my goal of full time artistry yet, but I learned to accept that I have time and my spirit requires a certain kind of care to align me with my vision.

I hope these analogies inspire you to look at your life from a different perspective. At the end of the day, we’re all just little seedlings who deserve patience, specialized care, and openness to our journeys in order to bloom. 

Today, make the commitment to take a seat in your garden. 

A Seat in The Garden Acrylic Painting

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