Garden Inspired Art: Lessons from my Garden Club

Every time I go to a Garden Club meeting  with the Valparaiso, FL Garden Club I get crazy inspired. This phenomenon always surprises me. After all, I joined so I could get some gardening tips and wasn’t expecting a series of continuous garden inspired art revelations. As soon as the meetings start, ideas for my paintings and sculptures start shooting in my brain like machine guns. For a while, I didn’t know what was causing this, but now I think I’m figuring it out. Read below to see how joining a garden club improved my art and could boost your creativity too.

5 Life Lessons Resulting in Garden Inspired Art

  1. Garden club people seriously love flowers.  I mean we all like flowers, but these people are totally bananas over them. They eat and breathe this stuff and drop casual tips that are like gold to my ears-that-know-nothing. Did you know if you live on a hill and plant azaleas, your yard won’t wash away? I learned this eavesdropping at my last meeting. Gold, I tell ya.  Anyhoo, being around people who collectively love something so much that they talk constantly about it, read about it, meet about it, and then act on it by planting gorgeous gardens is infectious. It makes my obsessions seem totally normal. Right now, I’m completely obsessed with sculpting trees and flowers. So because of these wonderful gardener friends of mine, I’m moving towards my obsessions: enjoying them, talking about them and realizing the heck out of them.

Key lesson: Embrace your interests without holding back.

Garden Inspired Art - Snowball Tree Large Pendant Ceramic Lighting

Garden Inspired Art:

“Snowball Tree”, Large Pendant Hanging Sculpted Light

  1. Gardeners go the extra mile. Maybe the vision of little old ladies sitting around discussing their rose bushes is what comes to mind when you think of a garden club, but that’s just silliness. These folks are ridiculously hard working and crazy fit. They shovel dirt into a wheelbarrow, then mix it together with all this other special stuff (compost, etc), then dump it, then mix it with the dirt that’s already on the ground, then they plant, then fertilize, mulch, and finally water – then move to the next section of their garden (moving all the their tools, hoses and dirt) and do it ALL over again. These folks don’t just dig a hole and stick a plant in the ground. They give that plant the best possible environment and nutrients to encourage it’s health, then tend to it daily. I’ve realized that as an artist I’m like a plant too. I bear more and better fruit when my environment is nourishing. So at the end of the day, before I walk out of my studio, I clean my work areas. I also keep my tools in their place and frequently redo my workstations so they are more organized. My studio is always calling my name because it’s a nurturing place to be.

Key lesson: Make sure to prioritize a nurturing environment; you’re as important as a cone flower.

 Garden Inspired Art - Vine Pendant Ceramic Light

Garden Inspired Art:
“Vine Light”, Hanging Pendant Sculpted Light

  1. My garden club cares about everything. Whooooeeee – do they care about the environment. I learned about neonicotinoids, the stuff that makes plants grow healthy but their pollen makes the bees really stupid, and how to avoid buying those plants. I learned that I want “good” bugs in my garden because they provide great nutrition for the birds, eat the “bad bugs” and enhance the health of native plants. I was afraid using only native plants would look like boring, but I’ve learned there are loads of gorgeous, flowering native plants at most local nurseries (or sold by your local garden clubs). Read Marie Harrison’s book here for more details.

Because I’ve learned so much, and it’s totally doable, I’ve changed my backyard from a grass lawn to what looks more like a naturally wooded, wildflower, bird- and bee-loving environment. It’s actually a lot prettier AND cheaper to maintain. Without the gardeners’ influence, I would have never thought I could create such a cool, diverse and beneficial back yard. How does this translate to my art? When I’m working in my studio, and I get frustrated because my sculpture keeps collapsing, or my painting looks like a panda did it, I now know I have to take a break and search for a different perspective. I google my problem or talk it over with someone. This helps because (shocker alert) I don’t know everything and other people loosen up my thinking.

Key lesson: Being around different people gives us perspectives we’d never think of, which can get us out of a rut, and even multiply our creative ideas.

Garden Inspired Art - Mountains of Love II 

Garden Inspired Art:
“Mountains of Love”, Oil on Canvas

  1. The folks in my garden club appreciate a good looking flower. They are visual people, they are into beauty. They value color and design and where the eye flows in their landscape. Many of my gardener friends, who have breathtaking landscapes will look me straight in the face and say, “I don’t have a creative bone in my body.” It makes me roll my eyes. I don’t correct them because I’d feel ridiculous, like trying to convince someone the Grand Canyon is big while we are standing there beside each other looking right at it. Maybe some of my friends won’t own it, but they are actually amazing artists. It took them years of learning and cultivating. One particular day, after I broke my tenth sculpture trying to develop a special design for a light, I realized this process was important. For one, the harder it is for me to develop a design, the harder it would be for someone else to develop something similar, so the piece is more unique for the effort. Some of my sculpted lights are nearly impossible to make. Some designs have over twenty broken prototypes behind them. I’ve learned not to get too attached to my pieces and to just keep at it. Like my gardening friends, sometimes I don’t feel successfully creative, but I hope my effort will bloom into something. When a sculpture turns out and it’s beautiful, it’s a joyous thing.

Take away: If we are willing to get messy and fail repeatedly, it will eventually lead to something pretty amazing.

 Garden Inspired Art - Connection - Tree Series View 2

Garden Inspired Art:
“Connection”, Hanging Pendant Hand Sculpted Light

  1. Life is short. So the truth is, I’m one of the younger people in my garden club. This is noticeable because most of them are beyond the age of giving a flip about what other people think. They speak without this fear that seems to consume me lots of the time. It’s refreshing. And they laugh at each other when somebody gets a little over-opinionated; they don’t get all worked up and judgmental. It’s a big group of relaxed, accepting women and men. This is good for me. I feel connected with people who I have a lot in common with even though my front yard is just plain humiliating. But I’m working on my yard and that’s what’s important. It just doesn’t really matter because we can only fit so much in our lives. All of us run out of time. So creating as much beauty and kindness as possible, without overburdening ourselves, seems like a good way to share our time with each other.

Key point: At the end of our road, we’ll be glad we put time towards something enjoyable that made people feel delighted and connected. We will be glad we smiled this much.

Garden Inspired Art - Floating Down Turkey Creek 

Garden Inspired Art:
“Floating Down Turkey Creek”, Pen and Ink

Hope this first blog entry takes the pressure off and gets you feeling more open to your good ideas. Please share and like.

Much love,

Julia

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