The Siren Calls of Spring / by Jeannine Cook

The stirring of spring, with new growth and blossoms, energises most people. We emerge from shorter days, colder weather and general winter constrictions into the bright, clear light of spring. As days lengthen and the weather grows warmer, everyone starts to think further afield, of more outside activities, more travel, and more plein air art if you are an artist. Endless ideas of where to go to paint come back with insistence, of what to paint or draw, of how to celebrate the world around one...

These siren calls of spring return each year as a renewal of energies for me as an artist. By the end of the winter period, I find myself often flagging, somewhat lacking excitement about subject matter for art. Although the same wonderful flowers and scenes return each spring, they inspire me to draw or paint them, leading to debates about how to depict them in a fresh fashion. Flowers, especially, are my delight. Watercolours and silverpoint both lend themselves to such subjects. The big, bold Azalea indica or Southern Azaleas, for instance, are wonderfully sculptural, their flowers dominating the spring landscapes for a brief and glorious period. I find the subtleties in colour endlessly interesting in the different flowers - Nature is masterful in colour-mixing. It is therefore a huge challenge to be faithful - if one wants to go that route - to these blooms.
I realised, years ago, that I owe my mother a big debt of gratitude for any accuracy I may have in colour assessment. As a very young child, barely able to walk, I used to go with her to the brilliantly radiant fields of annual flowers in bloom that we grew for seed on our farm in East Africa. To keep each strain of flower pure and with correct growth, any plant that was of poor quality or with blooms different from the desired type had to be pulled up before it could set seed. I soon became very accurate in detecting variations in flower colour, and I think I retained that eye in later years. I do remember, too, the countless buckets of beautiful, ebullient flowers that we would take back to the house to enjoy because we hated just to pull up a plant and let it die in the hot tropical sun.
It was thus natural, I suppose, that in my art, I return again and again to the sheer joy of flowers when they start blooming in spring. Not only are they lovely in themselves, but to me, they signify much that is wondrous in nature. They offer solace, serenity, hope and energy. No wonder the Japanese celebrate hanami or " blossom viewing" in festivals, of which the most famous are the Cherry Blossom Festivals all over Japan each spring. There is a palpable sense of delight and awe as the Japanese walk beneath these exquisite blossoms and pay tribute to the beauty of nature in all its brief glory.
The same urgent delight and excitement fills me as spring brings its bounty of flowers to the Georgia coast. It is time to start painting!
Sakura (cherry blossom) at Tokoyo Imperial Palace. Photo by Tyoron2, courtesy of Wikipedia Commons