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    'The Secret Garden' Sketchbook

    'The Secret Garden' Sketchbook

    Take a look behind the scenes of my latest collection 'The Secret Garden'. Inspiration, sketches, works in progress and studio mess!

    After focusing predominantly on landscapes and gum tree works over the past 12 months, I was dying to delve back into florals. I find painting flowers like comfort food, it's my fallback when I'm a bit creatively stuck. They're what I doodle when I'm warming up. In saying that, I wanted to challenge myself to explore florals in a new way. There’s always something new to learn after all, especially with watercolour!

    This craving for florals coincided with my second pregnancy. For my first, I created my ‘Quietude’ series, the need to paint gum trees completely overwhelmed me. Loose, free and sometimes slightly abstracted. This time I wanted to fall into the meditative process of painting layers and detail and flowers, flowers, flowers! This did lead me to believe I was having a girl for some reason, but surprise! A little man came along instead. Maybe it’s indicative of personality types, who knows! I am truly fascinated by the different callings between the two pregnancies.



    I had two ideas that I really wanted to bring together in this new series. Firstly, I wanted to explore a huge range of flowers, not just my beloved natives! I really wanted to bring together large arrangements of flowers in fun, colourful and interesting ways. I wanted to find a theme as a means to bring these paintings to life, so as I wasn’t just stabbing in the dark placing various species together. The little Type A part of me wanted to organise them somehow. I spent a bit of time researching and playing with ideas, eventually settling on different types of gardens as my central idea. That way I could explore some treasures from cottage gardens as well as natives, tropicals, proteas, wildflowers etc. It gave me an avenue to paint all the beautiful things!

    The other key idea I wanted to incorporate into this series was strong background colours. Originally I wanted ultra vibrant, bold backgrounds to be a key linking feature. I did some small test pieces to see how the concept could work. I really wanted a push/pull between positive and negative shapes. Here's a couple of these smaller works.



    From there I started one larger sample piece to see how that worked on a bigger scale. I got about one third of the way into painting a rich chartreuse background until I realised it wasn’t going to work. I loved how the piece was shaping up though, so I persisted on, trying to resolve what was an absolute disastrous colour choice! I ended up building several more layers into the background and it evolved into a beautiful dark teal colour predominantly. I actually filmed the process, you can take a look at the transformation here.



    Once I had one successful test piece under my belt I couldn’t wait to paint more. I planned out 16 different garden concepts to explore, with 13 eventuating. At any one time I had 3 to 6 pieces on the go, with them all lined up on display in my studio so I could see how the body of work was progressing together. Not all were successful straight away and I restarted a few but to me, this is an essential part of the creative process. It’s a part of developing a critical eye and problem solving skills.

    Each piece started with research, working out the type of garden I wanted to explore then delving into not only quintessential flowers that fit into that theme but some unusual ones too. I really enjoyed this process. Then I did a few studies exploring the flowers themselves, potential compositions and background colours. I collected all the information on a sheet of butchers paper for each garden and stuck it up in the studio.



    The next step was to get into the paintings themselves. More often than not I would begin with the key flowers, the anchors in the composition. Then I’d populate the rest before starting on the background. The backgrounds were the most time consuming thing, I poured hours into each one. I particular enjoyed carving out negative space to reflect yet more botanical shapes. This is something that came to fruition during the process not in the planning and I’m so happy with how it turned out.



    It was an absolute delight having all of them up in the studio as I painted along. I finished the last piece (The Tropical Garden) at 39 weeks pregnant! I found the whole process so joyful and relaxing, you couldn’t keep me away from the studio. When work flows like that, you’ve got to run with it! It’s so rare. I would get so absorbed by each one and each resolved itself quite simply in the end.

    I hope you've enjoyed getting a little insight into the new collection.

    You can view the whole ‘The Secret Garden’ series soon, it's launching on the 31st July, 2024.

    I will also have the original works on display in my studio during the 2024 Surf Coast Arts Trail.

    Learn more about the Arts Trail here.