|Dirk Hagner's depiction of dying sunflowers
won a Juror's Choice Award in the
Blossom Art of Flowers competition in 2007.
An artist shuts the door on inspiration and creative possibilities when he or she withdraws from exploring subject matter because there doesn’t appear to be anything new to say. Painting flowers or fruit can seem to lead down predictable paths, but there’s always another avenue to explore, especially considering that what an artist brings to a painting—not necessarily the subject matter itself—is often what makes the artwork interesting or noteworthy.
Picasso, Keith Haring, and Julie Heffernan are just a few significant artists with strongly-developed points of view who have depicted or incorporated the humble flower in their work somewhere along the line. In the same way, German-born, California-based printmaker Dirk Hagner decided to experiment with flowers in just a handful of pieces several years ago, and he submitted a piece to the Blossom Art of Flowers competition, which is one of the largest floral fine arts competitions in the world.
|Hagner sought out unconventional
depictions of flowers when he decided to
experiment with the subject matter.
“I had never done a painting of flowers before, but my work is referential to the past, and floral paintings—along with nude studies, still lifes—are giants of western art,” Hagner says. “I was in good company, and when you do something that resonates with that kind of long history—it is very rewarding.”
|The artist brought his own artistic
sensibility to his flower depictions,
and found meaning in them,
just as in his other works.
But for Hagner, conventional depictions of the beauty of flowers were off-putting. “Flower paintings always seemed very traditional,” he says. “I saw them in museums as a child—they were part of my upbringing. People always respond very positively to them and think they are beautiful.” But the artist wanted to pursue the subject matter in such a way that the visual trope became more meaningful and less “pretty.” He chose to depict flowers past their primes, such as droopy, withered, and browned sunflowers and red lilies with stems so weak that their blooms careen down headfirst over the sides of their container.
“It wasn’t so conventional, and yet it does speak to a certain beauty—to the fact that life makes room for new life,” Hagner says. His entry in the Blossoms competition was recognized with a Juror’s Choice Award, received a cash prize, and, when the work was exhibited, it was chosen to become part of the permanent collection of the Festival of Arts, in Laguna Beach, California.
|Attracted to many different kinds of subjects,
Hagner only produced a few flower paintings
but says they were rewarding for him.
Hagner approached flowers as a subject matter that could be invigorated by his own artistic sensibility, much like artists have been doing for hundreds of years. He found meaning in the work and was able to make it equally interesting and compelling for viewers, judges, curators, and fellow artists. Doing likewise means honing your technical skills and establishing your own creative approach.
Artist Daily is a resource to help get you there. Right now, the resource I am working with is Claudia Seymour's DVD, Still Life Flowers. With it, I am able contemplate the simple beauty of the flowers I bring into the study while learning a lot about composition and making an image pop. With this knowledge, I hope I grow as an artist and learn to take on any subject matter with authenticity and verve. I wish the same for you!