Still life with Shadows Gray
I painted this design between February 2015 and January 2016. It is a completely modern take on a centuries-old tradition of floral prints, and is true to the signature style that I’m developing.
These are powerful, grown-up flowers that, while beautiful and elegant, also depict the full range of human experience and emotion.
The title of this original floral print design references the tradition of still life painting, specifically during the 17th century in the Netherlands, when the Old Masters used exaggerated contrast to direct our attention to the subject of a painting. In this way, they employed areas of intense shadow, just as much as bright highlight, to lead us to the essence, and the real meaning, within the frame.
This provides a metaphor for the way we live: happiness is framed by - and accentuated by - sadness, love by loss, life by death ...
And so, the central flower in this bouquet launches itself triumphantly out of the darkness. Wild foliage wriggles loose from the rigid, repeating pattern. This narrative defines both the subject and the form of the print. The balance achieved between these contrasting elements is what makes the design work, both figuratively and formally.
While I was creating this original floral print design, I embarked on something of a personal journey myself. In it, the darkness and shadows were revealed not as places to be avoided, but as places that harbored unexpectedly beautiful moments of their own, while providing direction towards the light, and towards the triumphant, climactic moment in which the bud bursts into full bloom and the heart breaks ... open.
From the start, this was meant to be an optimistic piece, with the focus on the intensely lit central flower. But the shadows were just as important. I wanted to symbolize a triumphant moment, a bursting out of darkness and difficulty. But I didn’t want the shadows to be dark or unpleasant, or depressing. I wanted them to be beautiful too.
This piece is very emotional, I hope, representing the idea that all emotions - good and bad - lead to bliss. That’s the reason I wanted there to be a glowing light in the background, softening and warming the scene and giving you the sense that it is safe to enter into the deepest darkness. There is light on the other side.
In ‘Still Life with Shadows in Gray’, I chose once again to work with a relatively desaturated color palette. This one is of course the least saturated of the two colorways. In the bouquet, you have light tones of pink, lavender, beige, coral and aqua blue. The foliage is silhouetted against a variegated gray background, a sort of foggy glow which makes this print especially moody and atmospheric. In the foliage, there are subtle details in gray and green that give it a sense of unfolding movement while helping to direct your eye to the focal flower.
When looking for colors to compliment this design, you could choose to work with these same colors in their subdued shades, or to select one or two of them to compliment with deeper shades (for example, a deep pink, burnt orange or a moss green).