“I am following Nature without being able to grasp her, I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers.” – Claude Monet
Nature, especially flowers, has always captured the minds of artists. Claude Monet is said to attribute his becoming a painter due to flowers. To relax his mind, Pierre-Auguste Renoir would paint florals. According to Henri Matisse, nothing is more difficult to paint than a rose, because you must first “forget all the roses that were ever painted.”
Abstract artist and painter Jim Klein grew up in an agrarian family that had farmed their land for generations. During the 1950s when Jim was a young boy, the farms he knew were self-sufficient: growing their own food, raising livestock, and always growing bountiful gardens full of color.
When the elder family members reached the age to move off the family farms, they carried with them a need to cultivate. As a child, Jim would visit his relatives who had moved into town and during his stay he would notice they always had beautiful gardens, remembering how the blossoms brightened his recollection. His family’s green thumb deeply affected Jim and stayed with him over the years.
Which relative stands out in their gardening ability?
Jim: Aunt Liz was my godmother and a talented gardener. I remember she kept beautiful gardens even until the end of her life.
Her gardens were (unsurprisingly) what was brought to mind when painting Aunt Liz’s Garden. But before it was completed, I recall having had an extraordinary amount of trouble with this particular piece. Before the garden sprung through the canvas, I began and completed two separate paintings. A lot of time was spent on Aunt Liz’s Garden and it evolved tremendously until, one day, there it was!
It’s amazing how life can be that way; you’ll find yourself in a frustrating rut, slogging through the mud, and then the first tulip of spring appears. The previous frustration that had built up melted away and disappeared. The colors popped and the painting finally felt right.
Do you remember a time when you weren’t surrounded by expert gardeners?
Jim: My mom and her sister always prided themselves in their flowers, especially roses, and the arrangements they would craft. They have always been a part of my life. Even now, I am highly inspired by my wife Betsy’s artistic garden.
Years ago I found myself fixating on one area of the yard she had so diligently cultivated. It spoke to me, so I grabbed my graphic markers, created an illustration, and then painted the scene. It was one of my earliest floral paintings. Betsy’s Garden has since been sold and inspired me to continue painting florals.
Are there other pieces inspired by your floral surroundings?
Jim: This is another floral painting that happened to be one of my most frustrating, but transformed at completion. One day in the spring a few years back, I had been walking around town and happened to stop in front of the Scottsdale House, a condominium community with a gorgeous flower array at the entrance of the community. I was immediately inspired!
I grabbed my brush and paints to capture the beautiful flowers than the unfinished canvas back to the Art Factory. After a long struggle, working off and on, Scottsdale House Entrance was hung in the gallery and has since found a home.
The Old Town Scottsdale Florals painting was inspired by the many florals accenting the buildings down Main Street. Many galleries down Main Street in Old Town Scottsdale have lovely floral arrangements outside their buildings. All are very unique and they bloom most of the year.
Another painting from my floral surroundings, Daylily in a Bottle was inspired after spending time walking around Betsy’s garden. Among her variety of flowers, she grows these beautiful daylilies in many different colors. I fished a vase out of the basement, placed one of Betsy’s lilies, and posed the arrangement in the studio. After completing the piece, I hung Daylily in a Bottle in the Art Gallery where it thankfully received a lot of positive attention. One couple, in particular, stands out in my memory.
During an Art Walk event a few years back, this lovely couple visited the Gallery and bought Daylily the same day. Later, they visited the Art Factory while our pianist was playing, and we were able to chat and have a nice visit.
Our conversation turned to the painting they had purchased, and I learned one main reason why the husband had bought on sight: every day, he would pick a daylily and give it to his wife. It was their special tradition, and now it could be celebrated with my work.
Pierre-Auguste Renoir is quoted as saying that painting flowers gave his brain a rest. “When I paint flowers, I put on colours and try out values boldly, without worrying about wasting a canvas.” Do you experience anything similar?
Jim: I’ve found when I become very frustrated or stuck when working with a painting, my comfort zone and default are floral pieces. Although after painting florals consecutively for a while it can begin to feel like a very flowery Groundhog’s Day. Fortunately, folks tend to respond positively to florals and are usually popular pieces so it works out well.