Stay tuned! Soon I will be showing a 'work in progress' with pictures and an explanation of how I create my art...just in case you're curious!
PRAIRIE PETAL ART
Marie Ann Robinson
Painting With Petals, Leaves and Weeds
I have been a pressed flower/plant material artist since 2002. This is a very old art form that is once again becoming popular. It started in Japan many centuries ago and there it is called ‘Oshibana’. Now its popularity and versatility is inspiring artists worldwide. We are basically using botanical materials that have been pressed flat to use as our ‘brush strokes’.
Originally I am from North Carolina. I was ‘transplanted’ to South Dakota and decided to ‘bloom’ where I was planted. South Dakota is a wonderful place for inspiration for my artwork. The sunsets, landscapes and wildlife are so varied and beautiful here. My husband, Loren, was born in this area and longed to return.
So, how does one get interested in creating art from pressed flowers and plant material? It came to me from a discovery of a faded lily of the valley stem that I found years ago in my grandmother’s bible and from my love of gardening. Then, in 1993, I discovered through books that my flowers could be preserved and used to make bookmarks and cards. That was the beginning of my small business, Prairie Petal Art. In 2002 I found an internet guild dedicated to the art of pressed flowers, The World Wide Pressed Flower Guild. We have monthly classes taught by master artists from all over the world. I have learned to create art not only from flowers but from such materials as birch bark, leaves, weeds, fruits, vegetables and roots.
Some of these materials take much effort to prepare for pressing. For instance, I soak and separate the birch bark into paper thin layers, producing a variety of colors that can be used for skies and water. Corn husk is ironed flat and used for skies. I use vegetables such as onion membrane (the translucent membrane between the layers of an onion) for depicting running water and very thin slices of mushrooms for rocks. The inside of the banana peel is scrapped to where you can almost read through it and then pressed in the microwave for varying shades of yellow to black. The peels of nectarines and yellow squash are done similarly. I look at the food I prepare with my ‘artist’s eye’ to determine possibilities for a future artwork.
There are several methods used to press my plant material. Some things press better in the microwave where the water is removed quickly, if it is a wet material, so that rotting doesn’t occur as with longer methods. Other things press well after many weeks in a press that is put into the refrigerator. Here it dehydrates slowly because of the dryness in there and the good air circulation. The low temperature keep things from rotting. Some presses even go into the back window of my car on a warm, sunny South Dakota day where they can dry in just a day. But lots of things like leaves, weeds, gasses and even some flowers, like larkspur and cosmos, are simply pressed in recycled telephone books with patio blocks for weights. I have twelve such stacks of phone books, each reaching about 2 feet tall in my studio.
The challenging part is when I’m creating the art. Instead of being able to mix a few colors of paint and obtain a needed color or shade, I have to search for the color I need from my extensive ‘pallet of botanicals’. I have all my botanicals organized by type of flower or color. These I store on two 4-shelf bookcases.
As for my award winning ‘Mt. Rushmore, Our Colorful Heritage’, I used the white underside of the leaves from the white poplar tree. The shades of grey comes from weeds found along the edge of our rural property. The underside of a thistle and the gray leaves of another weed were perfect for these shades. The trees are made of pieces of the Japanese painted fern. The sky is made of delphinium petals. Both are grown in my Wallace garden. It took me about 6 weeks to complete this artwork. When it was completed I put it inside a ‘dry box’ over night that has a few inches of silica gel (a desiccant) in the bottom to get rid any moisture. It is then sealed between the special UV resistant glass and a sheet of mylar, using aluminum tape around the edges. Also, taped inside and behind the artwork are packets of silica gel and oxygen absorbers. This takes care of the 3 big enemies of pressed flower art: sunlight, moisture and oxygen and allows the picture to retain its beautiful colors for many, many years. The art of pressed flowers has benefited greatly from new technologies and has come a long way since our grandmothers pressed lily of the valley stems in their bibles!I have done many pressed flower art pieces on commission and enjoy that close interaction with my customers. And I have really enjoyed the many presentations and classes I’ve done. Please feel free to contact me if you are interested in having me teach a class or do a presentation for your group. Sharing what I have learned will hopefully bring others to an appreciation and enjoyment of this art form.