I am looking to photograph and paint fruit trees, vines, and bushes that are in backyards, front yards, and patios in my general neighborhood (Melbourne.) If you want to learn more about my project, please read my plan below:
A series of photographs and paintings.
Zechariah 3:10 “’In that day each of you will invite his neighbor to sit under his vine and fig tree,’ declares the Lord Almighty.”
Micah 4:4 “Every man will sit under his own vine and under his own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the Lord Almighty has spoken.”
Landscape is often defined by what grows within it. The produce of an area often becomes its symbol (for example, Maine potatoes, Maine blueberries, Florida oranges). As a newcomer to Melbourne, I am in the process of discovering what defines this area – what is different, what is shared, what is unique. Food is one of the easiest ways to explore these differences.
I have always had a fascination with the idea of food just popping up out of the ground – what a miraculous process! We watch it in our own backyards, patios, and other personal spaces, and then we get to eat it! While the summer garden is the source of this miracle in Maine, I have noticed that here the fruit tree is the more frequent suburban/urban source of personal produce. I expected the occasional orange tree and other citrus, but have been delighted to notice other fruits, only a few of which I have been able to identify (mangoes, starfruit.)
I have observed that joy in the harvest is universal. Gardeners everywhere become excited when sharing information about their emerging crops, however modest they might be – the container garden on the patio or in the sunroom brings as much joy as the acre of backyard garden. I have followed with joy the Facebook conversations about the solitary pineapple plant coaxed for years from the top of a fresh pineapple (I now have my own pineapple top struggling to take root.) I smile at the photos of meals prepared from the garden. I know that joy.
God’s generosity in providing luscious food from a patch of dirt with a regular application of rain and sun becomes contagious—home gardeners everywhere often share the abundance of their harvest with family, friends and neighbors. (Think of all the jokes regarding excess zucchini and green tomatoes—be sure to lock your car in late summer!)
I am also intrigued by the concepts of fruit and the fruit tree as symbols of a life of abundance and peace – gifts from God. While God generously gives this miraculous gift to all – including the nonbelieving and the unrighteous – the ability to enjoy the fruits of our labor with peace and contentment is a product of an obedient relationship with our Creator. This concept is also intertwined with spirituality – fruitfulness as a symbol of a godly life, productive spirituality, nourishing (and pleasing) to those around us. This project is about fruitfulness in our personal spaces, our own version of “vine and fig tree” growing in the yard or on the patio.
Like all art, the symbolism will have to take root in the heart of the viewer of its own accord. These are the symbols calling to my heart right now, and God has the infinite ability to plant symbols in the hearts of others according to His desires and their needs. So the images will be about the fruits, the trees, the plants, and the places. The rest is up to those who see them.
The project will be long-term—at least one year, possibly two years. Gardens, trees, and their produce take time to develop and grow. The miracles and beauty exist in numerous steps: blossoms, early fruit, ripening fruit, harvested fruit, prepared fruit. Mature trees have a different feel from the young sapling or the patio tree.
The first and continuing explorations of these themes will be through photography. Much of this will be a learning process for me as I discover the seasons and cycles of a new region and new produce. I hope to visit and revisit these spaces and trees as the crops progress and seasons change. When possible, I will create some studies plein air, but I expect to work predominantly in studio from the photographs.
I will be experimenting throughout the project: some images will be digital paintings. Some images will be pastel paintings. Some images will be oil paintings. I want to emphasize a painterly approach – simplified shapes, mindful color, strong value range. Especially in oil paintings, I will aim for letting pieces of color form the image. In pastel paintings, I will utilize unblended layers of colors, letting the eye do the mixing. The digital paintings will mostly be for the purposes of the image compositions and experimenting in color placements. A slide show of photographs and digitally manipulated photographs may also be developed.
Image sizes will be in a significant range. Studies and small finished pieces will begin at approximately 9x12, especially for pastels on paper. I may prepare some larger masonite panels for some larger pastels, 12x16 and 16x20. Oils will be on gessoed Masonite, starting at 12x16, up to 18x24. I might paint a couple of large pieces, 24x30 or larger, depending on subject. I have not yet determined the number of finished images for this project. The images will be grouped into three themes.
Theme I: Edible Sunshine (On Tree and Vine)
This will be a focus on the fruit from blossom to harvest. Sun, rain and cycles of seasons – and maybe some help from a few bees – an intimate look at the miracle of our food forming and growing.
Theme II: Backyard Harvest
These images will look at the spaces and places of these daily miracles. The focus will pull back a little to see how our personal spaces in backyards, front yards and patios become our own bountiful mini-farms. Viewers are free to consider the implications of local ecology, locally grown food, and individual freedom and control over our own food.
Theme III: Edible Sunshine (On the Table)
This will be an opportunity for me to set up still-life arrangements to paint in-studio. When feasible, I will use fruits from subjects featured in Area I and II, but I will probably resort to store-bought fruit in most images. I would rather eat any harvested home-grown fruit I might receive, than risk having it spoil while I paint it. I might include a mix of photography of harvested fruit and store-bought still-life arrangements. Of course, it would not be the first time I’ve eaten a still-life.
Paintings will be displayed at the gallery and shows as they are completed, but as the portfolio is completed, I plan to present the collection of images as a cohesive show. Meditations on the overall theme and individual pieces will be a part of the show. I might present the collection as three shows, one show for each of the themes. That will depend on the number of images that I have when the project is finished.