Catching up with spring / by Jeannine Cook

Spring in coastal Georgia comes with such a rush of beauty and imperatives that there is never enough time to celebrate it all. Suddenly there are a myriad subjects to draw in silverpoint, another vast selection to paint in watercolours - and time never suffices.

It is always interesting to return to a subject that one has drawn or painted before; every artist has favourite themes to visit and revisit over time. It is astonishing how a simple flower, such as an azalea, can elicit different reactions and dictate different approaches every time it is drawn or painted. No wonder museums have such diverse collections of paintings and drawings which include and celebrate flowers. Think of the heyday of Dutch flower painting in the 17th century, when so many talented artists followed Jacques de Gheyn II's example. He was one of the earliest artists (1565-1629), who depicted wonderful tulips, roses and other flowers (not all of which bloomed at the same time) to satisfy the demands of the ever-more wealthy Dutch burghers. Since then, Manet, Fatin-Latour, Monet, Renoir, Matisse and so many others have turned to flowers for inspiration again and again.

Perhaps it is because one can see in a flower the basis for realism or pure abstraction - at the same time, really - that it is endlessly interesting as a subject. Added to which, I personally find a serenity and elegant logic to a flower that delight. However, each time, there is a surprise in how the structure works and I am often reminded of Paul Valery's statement: "Until you draw an object, you realise that you have never actually seen it." And so one rushes to catch the fleeting spring glories, to try and "see" them close up and celebrate them - again!