Floral inspiration for your art

As the weather warms up I see a succession of beautiful colors in my yard. First to bloom are the redbud trees and pink and magenta peonies, followed by bright orange daylilies and butterfly milkweed. Deep purple hydrangeas set against the vivid green of my yard are a summer highlight. This revolving kaleidoscope of natural colors inspires me to be bold with the use of color in my own artwork and it can do the same for you.

Learning from nature

pink and green woven fabric

I’m a weaver and I love using colors inspired by nature in my art. I noticed pink blooms against green leaves and thought I’d weave a hand towel in those colors. Surely it would be beautiful. It wasn’t, but I learned a lesson in the process.

Looking at plants, the proportions of pink to green aren’t usually equal. Using the colors equally in my weaving made them both look lackluster and boring. Adjusting the proportion of either the pink or the green by making one a primary color and the other an accent color would’ve entirely changed the look of the towel and made it much more visually appealing.

Value your colors

For my next project I chose blue and lavender yarns. Now this towel was going to be gorgeous. But it wasn’t. What I didn’t take into account when choosing my colors was value.

Basically, value is the relative darkness or lightness of a color. If two colors have similar values it doesn’t matter if one is blue and the other is purple. When they’re next to each other there’s not enough contrast to make one color stand out from the other one. So my beautiful blue/lavender towel was a study in blah.embroidery floss skeins

There’s an easy way to avoid the blahs, I just didn’t know it when I was planning my towel. When you choose colors for your project, lay them side by side. Using your smartphone or a camera, switch from color to black and white (which will actually be grayscale). If your colors all appear to be the same shade of gray or black, you’re probably not going to be happy with your results. This is a great trick to use at the store when you’re buying your supplies.

Floral inspiration throughout the year

orange California poppiesWhile spring and summer flowers won’t stick around forever, there are several ways to preserve their vibrant colors for inspiration in the winter. The easiest way is to photograph them at their best and brightest.

Creating digital albums with photos of the same flower from many angles at different times of day will provide great reference material for your artwork when that flower is out of season. I probably have a hundred photos of my favorite flower the California poppy, and I know I’ll take more the next time I’m out west.

You can also preserve the actual flowers themselves by drying them. The library has a great book Dried Flowers for All Seasons that covers several different techniques for drying flowers. It also provides advice on growing flowers with a planting guide arranged by color if you want to add to your garden. If you want to go a step further, there are chapters on creating dried flower arrangements for every season.

With your library card you can access the video classes on Creativebug from anywhere. The classes range in skill level from beginner to advanced and each one is taught by an expert in their field. Whether you’re looking to freshen up your artistic skills or to learn something completely new, there’s sure to be a class that appeals to you.

Check out this booklist for some great ideas on using floral themes in your art.

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Brea Black is the Art Librarian and Book Arts Curator in the Alice C. Sabatini Gallery. Her favorite thing is to share the wonderful world of artists' books with the community. She also leads the Arts & Crafts team and teaches workshops on book making and a variety of other crafty topics.