Bird & Botanical Influences

illustration M.J.Heade Orchids Mckenzie engraving Peacock J.Hnizdovsky woodcut
 Plant Ornament book M.J.Heade passion Nouveau pattern
William Morris Tulip and Rose Vallentin illustration JollyBe cake William Morris lily drawing
Nouveau pattern M.J.Heade magnolia

From top left: an Australian illustration; Orchids & Spray Orchids with Hummingbirds painting by Martin Johnson Heade; coloured engraving by Daniel Mackenzie; peacock and peahen illustration; rooster woodcut by J. Hnizdovsky;  Second row: image plate from the book Plants & Their Application to Ornament; Passion Flowers & Hummingbirds painting by Martin Johnson Heade; Kingfishers, Dragonflies & Flowering Rush and Butterflies & Wood Sorrel illustrations by M. P. Verneuil; Third row: Tulip & Rose fabric by William Morris (1876); illustration by Mrs. Vallentin from the book Women of Flowers: A Tribute to Victorian Women Illustrators (J. Kramer, 1996); “Neoclassical floral design” wedding cake* by JollyBe Bakery; Golden Lily drawing for wallpaper by William Morris; Fourth Row: Bats & Poppies and Butterflies & Bellflowers illustrations by M. P. Verneuil; A Magnolia on Red Velvet painting by Heade.

Kieffer corset detailsFloral, or at least curlicue, imagery has been a part of (i.e. handles) or on the surfaces of my work for a while. But it was a more general reference. In the last two years, I have begun to place some of the botanical and animal (especially birds) imagery I enjoy, more literally into the surfaces. (I purposefully wrote “into” instead of “onto” because I hope the way that I apply slip, stamp and carve the surface makes the imagery feel a bit more a part of the form rather than flat.)

When I look at the illustrations above, what I like are the soft, repetitive lines that resolve themselves into symmetrical, organic pattern iced with color. The botanicals are easy to come by at antique shops, and I own a few. These drawings appeal to me more than a photograph would; they have a different kind of detail, slightly stylized and romantic. The Nouveau drawings and prints appeal to my sense of pattern and layering—a bird disappeared into a thickness of leaves.

I’m pretty sure the first Martin Johnson Heade painting I saw was at the National Gallery in D.C. a few years ago. They are striking in person, especially for their modest size. They have a wonderfully mysterious atmosphere and depth I would like to capture in some of my own bigger pieces.

Kieffer cups w. animalsMy favorite class as a kid —other than art— was my fifth grade science class with Mr. Morton in Louisville. He could imitate the sound of every bird in the field and trees behind the school, and describe their peculiar behaviors. I thought that was really cool. Between him and my parents, my interest (that curiosity and admiration) in nature, has been there for awhile, but I’ve only just now figured out how I might include it in my work. I think too, in our current culture, we need to reconnect with what’s outside.

Briefly, the peacock and rooster images have popped up in my work lately as an amusing way to quietly question the gender of decoration. If a decorative male bird is featured on work that is perceived as feminine because it is decorative, is it [the work] feminine or masculine? (Did ya catch that?)

Kieffer covered jars I just completed the two greenware covered jars pictured here (not a great image, sorry). This is a new form for me, and bigger too. The one on the left (15″h) has lilacs, and the other (13″h) reminds me of wallpaper.

On a different note, I am off for two weeks to play in clay with a group of other artists during a residency at Watershed called Artists-Invite-Artists. So I’m signing off for that time. May I suggest, while I am stepping away from my computer, that we all spend some of the summer reading real words on paper, like the imminent issue of SP hitting theoretical newsstands post haste!!

*Another cake, I know, I couldn’t resist. I also forgot to mention in the post below that I listen to CAKE all the time. These cakes from JollyBe are amazing, and will probably be featured here every time I mention an influence because she has one for everything! The one I pictured above stated with the image, “…design derived from a mattress cover chosen by the bride who uses mattress design as a source of inspiration for her own art.” How perfect is that for what I’ve been writing about?!

Back in July!

Cake as Influence

Thiebaud cake A. Steeter cake Oldenburg floor cake Cake Girls
Couture cake Thiebaud wedding cake M. Braun cake Trend de la Creme blog image
Cupcake color Architecture as cake Julia Jacquette cake painting

From top left: Wayne Thiebaud’s painting Let Them Eat Cake; Painted Bird Cake, (a real cake) by Amanda Streeter; Floor Cake by Claes Oldenburg; and couture wedding cakes. Second row: another couture wedding cake; Wedding Cake by Wayne Thiebaud; a real wedding cake by Margaret Braun; a great blog entry from Trend de la Cremé pairing runway fashion with couture cakes; Third row: cupcakes by Dozen Cupcakes; architecture as cake; and Julia Jacquette’s painting White on White (Thirty-six sections of wedding cake, swans).

I started looking at wedding cakes eight years ago for decoration ideas. It seemed an obvious reference for me as slip-trailing (squeezing liquid clay through a bulb syringe) is the clay equivalent to cake-decorating.

I’m not sure when I first came across Wayne Thiebaud’s pastry paintings from the ’60s, but I love them. If I could paint, that is the style and possibly content I would choose. I enjoy his fantastical and exaggerated use of color (hard shadows of electric pink) and style that reminds me of the vintage ads I like. The paint is thick, and somehow simultaneously gestural and precise. Some of my influences are abstract ideas, and that last sentence would be a good example of something I see [in a Thiebaud painting, for example] that I would like to emulate in my work —a feeling, a presence.

Kieffer tile trioI also just like the word, cake (the title of and text on the left tile, actually). I am drawn to the sound of certain words (Who doesn’t like to say rutabaga?), especially if they can have different meanings and contexts. I don’t know where I picked this up, but I sometimes use it as an expression to mean, “exceedingly lucky”. As in, “He is in a pretty cake situation since he married a millionaire,” for example.

I chose Claus Oldenburg’s Floor Cake to show because it fits today’s theme, and because I am drawn to his sculpture and drawing for making real, hard forms soft and humorous. Both elements I look to capture in my own work. Kieffer Soft Treasure box

It may or may not be obvious from the images I chose above (and from my last post below): many of my influences overlap. In these things, I see hard and soft lines, humor, form, context and content. A couture dress looks like a tiered cake which looks like a Victorian home, which could be a covered jar—or maybe that’s just me. As I’ve said before, we artists are the blenders of the disparate creating the unified.

Influences: A Pictorial

Oribe ware George Nelson bubble lamps Martin Johnson Heade
Bombe highboy Vintage playing cards Mucha Job Tord Boontje
W.Thiebaud Cakes Fruit crate ad 
Haute couture KleinReid birdcages Vintage wallpaper Louis Majorelle Botanical drawing

From top left: Oribe/Mino ware, George Nelson bubble lamps, Martin Johnson Heade paintings; (2nd row) bombé chests, imagery from vintage playing cards, Alphonse Mucha illustrations, Tord Boontje design, architecture and Victorian homes; (3rd row) Wayne Thiebaud pastry paintings, early 1900s fruit crate labels, Islamic brass forms and patterns; (4th row) haute couture, KleinReid design, vintage wallpaper patterns and textures, art nouveau design, lines and patterns –like Louis Marjorelle, and botanical drawings.