And breathe….I really hope this painting make you feel like doing just that. Can’t you smell the fresh air, hear the leaves in the wind and feel the sunshine on your face? At least, that’s the intention and exactly what I was trying to convey in this piece. By adding plants, in this case black bamboo, I was attempting to recreate that sense of calm and serenity plants give us. Such a simple addition provides a subliminal message; all is well. Our subject is enjoying a well-earned break, perhaps she has been working away on her laptop and has stepped outside to relieve the tension in her neck. So much is said without words in art. While painting, I’ve frequently added flowers to a subjects’ hair on a whim, a spur of the moment choice because it makes us (and me as an artist illustrator) feel good. It lifts the mood of a piece or subject just as flowers and plants do in the actual world.

Nature also provides a readymade perfect colour palette. Artists typically spend a great deal of time with what we rather unflatteringly call ‘smear sheets’ – more simply, a swipe of the colours we intend to use so we can see how they interact with each other and the light. And yet, I often find my favourite smear sheets reflect the colours found together in the natural world; mother nature has already done the work for me.

My own studio is full of houseplants as I know the positive effect they have on my mood and creativity. In a time when a lot of us must work alone, they are companions to be cared for, nurtured and even spoken to. But there’s something else at play here too; we’ve all heard about the positive effects of plants and nature, decreased anxiety, increased productivity, better attentiveness and memory function. The list goes on but there’s something so much more special and it too has a huge influence on our sense of wellbeing. To prepare the soil, sow and cultivate plants involves hope for the future – and isn’t that something we could do with right now? X

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