Portfolio | The Art of the Flower

Meet 6 artists who capture the delicate art of floral still lifes

By Katie Askew

This story was featured in the June 2017 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art  June 2017 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

Kathy Anderson

Kathy Anderson, Peonies in Green Glass, oil, 12 x 16.

Kathy Anderson, Peonies in Green Glass, oil, 12 x 16.

Meeting one of America’s greatest living realist painters, Richard Schmid, was the most pivotal moment in Kathy Anderson’s artistic career. The Connecticut-based artist has been painting with Schmid and his wife, Nancy Guzik, for 17 years, gaining invaluable knowledge and technical skill from his mentorship ever since.

Today, Anderson says all of her work is inspired by life. “I paint only what I really love, so my paintings come out very honest,” she says. “It would never occur to me to paint something else.” Anderson spends her time as an avid gardener, choosing to paint en plein air whenever possible. She also has been teaching floral art workshops across the country for the past eight years, setting up indoor “gardens” in studios for her students when they can’t paint outside.

In fact, Anderson plans her backyard garden with composition in mind, planting certain flowers next to specific bushes or branches that complement the blooms. She says she finds it exciting to coordinate flowers with other elements of nature or with objects, like teacups and vases, and translate that experience of growth, light, and color to her canvas. “I create paintings outside within my garden,” she says. “I strive to paint my passions and what I love, so it shows through in my work.” Anderson’s work can be seen at Legacy Gallery, Scottsdale, AZ, Bozeman, MT, and Jackson, WY; Susan Powell Fine Art, Madison, CT; West Wind Fine Art, Colorado Springs, CO; Tree’s Place Gallery, Orleans, MA; and Horton Hayes Fine Art, Charleston, SC.

Barbara Flowers

Barbara Flowers, Blue Hydrangeas, oil, 40 x 40.

Barbara Flowers, Blue Hydrangeas, oil, 40 x 40.

Barbara Flowers’ childhood in Germany’s Rhine Valley—where she lived in a home with her immediate family and grandmother—set up her future as an artist. Not only were fresh flower arrangements abundant in their home, but Flowers also spent much of her time working in the family’s flower garden. “I was always encouraged to look at the beauty of a floral arrangement,” she says. “I learned to appreciate the bouquet in the house, the way my mom arranged it, and the specific fragrance it gave.”

Today, Flowers largely focuses on painting white flower arrangements; hydrangeas are a favorite. “White provides a delicate exercise in values,” she says. “To balance the range of whites in the light and whites in the shadows, contrasted with green leaves, provides a good challenge.”

She always paints from fresh bouquets, filling her home and studio in Florida with various arrangements, much like her childhood home in Europe. The silhouette and pose of the bouquets inspires her large canvases, which provide the space needed to develop the painting with the texture and concept she envisions. “I want to look at my art and have it take me to a different place,” she says. For Flowers’ artistry, the suggestiveness of the arrangement takes precedence over a statement of reality in her work. Flowers’ work can be seen at Anne Irwin Fine Art, Atlanta, GA; Jules Place, Boston, MA; and Principle Gallery, Alexandria, VA, and Charleston, SC.

Angus Wilson

Angus Wilson, Sunflowers and Poms on Peruvian Cloth, acrylic, 18 x 24.

Angus Wilson, Sunflowers and Poms on Peruvian Cloth, acrylic, 18 x 24.

Angus Wilson’s artistic creativity focuses on taking everyday objects and exalting them. This idea is evident in his contemporary post-Impressionist floral paintings, where he manipulates color and form to evoke his overall vision. “I think you can create something that has huge amounts of power and resonance within a simple object like a flower,” he says.

The Scottish artist spent years working as an award-winning computer entertainment producer, editor, and animator in Europe. Then he made a career switch, becoming a full-time fine artist in 2004. He has lived in the San Francisco Bay Area with his family for almost 10 years, perfecting his artistic style. “It’s fundamental that my work is instantly recognizable,” Wilson says. “The ability to be distinctive and unique in my art is important to me.”

Unique indeed, because although his paintings may seem spontaneous, Wilson says there are hours of planning and processes that go into each piece. He begins each floral work by outlining the subject, then continues to an underpainting, before finalizing the painting and re-establishing the lines, finishing the illusion that it’s painted with some fluidity.

But perhaps the most interesting parts of Wilson’s bold floral paintings are those thick black lines that break up the canvas and alter the perspective. “The lines are about furthering the traditional aspects of the still life aesthetic,” Wilson says. “For me, the work is more intellectual this way.” Wilson’s work can be seen at Ventana Fine Art, Santa Fe, NM; Chasen Galleries, Richmond, VA; New Masters Gallery, Carmel, CA; and Ann Korologos Gallery, Basalt, CO.

Stacy Barter

Stacy Barter, Sonata in Flowers, oil, 16 x 20.

Stacy Barter, Sonata in Flowers, oil, 16 x 20.

The big, showy heads and ruffled petals of peonies are just some of the reasons Stacy Barter loves painting the flower. She also loves the added pressure to paint before the flowers wilt and die, saying it increases the energy in her work. Although she paints many kinds of flowers, Barter first started painting peonies after hearing her late grandmother describe a dream where she was standing in a field of peonies as a child. “Flowers are nature’s creative explosion,” she says. “Their delicate intricacies make for endless interest as an artist.”

The Florida-based artist is inspired by anything she can paint directly from life, even if that means standing in the middle of a garden of rosebushes to capture the composition. “Inspiration is endless, and Mother Nature is truly the one that is unbeatable for that,” the full-time artist says.

She has an intense fascination with light and atmosphere, too, spending time perfectly arranging flowers in the studio before starting a new canvas. “I’m constantly striving to capture depth and dimension in my oil paintings,” she says. “I look for chances to play up thick paint in the light and thinner paint in discreet areas.”

Barter also teaches floral and still-life workshops around the country and an expressive figurative workshop at the Crealdé School of Art in Winter Park, FL. Barter’s work can be seen at Eisele Gallery of Fine Art, Cincinnati, OH; Del Monte Fine Art, Carmel, CA; True North Gallery, Kennebunkport, ME; Galleria Misto, Belleair Bluffs, FL; and LePrince Fine Art, Charleston, SC.

Terrie Lombardi

Terrie Lombardi, Hollyhock Perfect Example, pastel, 8 x 8.

Terrie Lombardi, Hollyhock Perfect Example, pastel, 8 x 8.

When Terrie Lombardi was in her 30s and pregnant with her daughter, she was thrilled to have time to perfect her art in workshops and classes around Denver while juggling being a full-time mom. She eventually realized her focus on landscapes wasn’t providing enough color or intimacy for her taste, so she gravitated toward flowers as a delicate and bright alternative. “My goal is to create paintings that beckon the observer to step closer and see the beauty and the expressive use of rich, lovely color,” she says.

Later, when she reached the level where she could teach her skill to other artists, Lombardi created a workshop called the Art of the Flower, which she’s been teaching for 20 years. Today, Lombardi calls herself an expressionist-impressionist, with loose edges and texture in her paintings. “I’m drawn toward the vignette,” she says. “I like to get up close and personal with the flowers.”

Her floral works are a mix of en plein air and studio painting, but she needs to see and smell the flowers in her home before starting in the studio. Though she likes spending time with the water lilies at the Denver Botanic Gardens, Lombardi says all flowers have dignity in her art. “I love the life cycle and dying process of flowers,” Lombardi says. “I don’t necessarily paint that stage, but I love that it lives and I enjoy it, then it moves on to something else.” Lombardi’s work can be seen at www.terrielombardi.com.

Elizabeth Robbins

Elizabeth Robbins, Dahlia and Nasturtiums, oil, 14 x 18.

Elizabeth Robbins, Dahlia and Nasturtiums, oil, 14 x 18.

Elizabeth Robbins grew up watching her mother tend to their backyard rose garden in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah. She also learned to identify various wildflowers with her grandmother’s help, pressing and categorizing the flowers into a book that she still has today. Eventually, she turned her love of gardening into a full-time job as a fine artist. “I have a love affair with flowers,” she says.

Today, she gains her daily artistic inspiration from nearly 80 rosebushes in her garden, along with myriad other plants including grapevines, berry bushes, fruit trees, sunflowers, and peonies. But roses inspire her the most, not only because of the flood of childhood memories but also because of the flower’s healing properties through essential oils. “They’re also something that can cause a lot of damage,” Robbins says. “Thorns are a little wicked and protective, but beautiful at the same time.”

Her painting RUBY was created in honor of her late husband, who proposed to her with a ruby ring, and her late grandmother, whose name was Ruby. “The ruby glass is giving life to the flowers inside through water,” she says of the painting’s deeper meaning. Robbins’ work can be seen at Highlands Art Gallery, Lambertville, NJ; Legacy Gallery, Scottsdale, AZ; Montgomery-Lee Fine Art, Park City, UT; Wilcox Gallery, Jackson, WY; Wildhorse Gallery, Steamboat Springs, CO; Authentique Gallery of Art & Design, St. George, UT; Bella Muse Fine Art Gallery, Ogden, UT; Beartooth Gallery Fine Art, Red Lodge, MT; and Dick Idol Signature Gallery, Whitefish, MT.

This story was featured in the June 2017 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art  June 2017 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

MORE RESOURCES FOR ART COLLECTORS & ENTHUSIASTS
Subscribe to Southwest Art magazine
Learn how to paint & how to draw with downloads, books, videos & more from North Light Shop
Sign up for your Southwest Art email newsletter & download a FREE ebook

COMMENT