How to use the language of flowers in your art

Hi creative peeps! It’s Riet here. I can’t believe it’s nearly the end of my time as creative team member. I feel quite nostalgic writing this as I can remember the excitement and nervousness of my first tutorial as a creative team member in February. Ah, time flies when you have fun, right? Anyways, it’s not quite the end, so today I want to talk with you about flowers and their meanings.

It’s probably common knowledge that a red rose stands for love (and hopefully more than the short living love of a bachelor…) but what about other flowers? Sunflowers, pansies, lilies? They all have a meaning and some florists still keep this virtue alive by binding flowers together that go with the meaning of the occasion or the story you tell them! Although flowers had always been used to convey messages and held significance in other cultures it was in the Victorian Era that it became very popular to send secret messages through a bouquet of flowers- called floriography. Luckily nowadays our communication is not restricted by conventions and society, we are allowed to express our emotions and speak about tabooed experiences aloud. But, I don’t know about you, sometimes I’m completely unable to express with words what I feel. Some feelings have so many layers and are intricate that they can’t be defined by the limitation of words. That’s why I love to use symbols. They speak on their own and can tell a story without words. With flowers being a symbol as well we can make use of their secret language in our art. I want to thank our “English thorn” aka David who inspired me for this tutorial with a discussion about collaging in the forums. Thanks, David!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • A book about flowers/flower meanings (you might want to check your library for this or thrift stores) OR the internet
  • Your art journal
  • Watercolors
  • A bit of salt
  • Images of your favorite flowers
  • The usual tools: paint brush, scissors, glue
  • A pen or old book pages for found poetry
  • Optional: pressed flowers

(Yes, yes, I KNOW I wrote forget-me-nots wrong.)

Before we head to our art journal take a piece of paper and write down 5 of your favorite flowers. Don’t think too much about it, just write down what comes to your mind. Now, if you found a good book about flower meanings take that or google the meanings of your chosen flowers and write down 2 or 3 meanings that speak to you. You’ll see that some flowers mean different things in different cultures and some flowers have some myths attached to them. Feel free to take those inspirations and different meanings if they speak to you. For the sake of demonstration I’m going to use only one flower. You can do the same or pick several, depending on what story you want to tell.

I decided to go with forget-me-nots, their meaning include many things but these 4 stood out for me: undying love, connection, remembrance, loyalty. The last couple of months I’m struggling with the loss and missing my dog a lot. My grief is so thick that I’m unable to express it in any form. I can’t find words, I can’t find color to put it into shape. In this state it’s difficult for me to create. So while I keep my dog and what I feel in mind I’m picking colors that remind me of that. I chose dark pink and blue mixed with a little black. Choose colors that you feel drawn to while you think about the things you want to express. They will be right whatever you choose.

I prepped my page with gesso first. If you don’t like watercolor on gesso use watercolor or mixed media paper. Start applying the paint. No need for a formula, just move the paint around.

I like to add a second layer of paint to add depths and a pinch of salt for texture. Now wait until everything is dry and rub off the salt gently.

Time for the flowers! Go through your magazines, books with flower images or paint your own (sadly, I’m useless when it comes to paint flowers but I could imagine this would look neat) or print them out. Or maybe you even have your favorites dried and pressed! I ripped my image in half and glued it onto the second half of the page, adding some cut out forget-me-nots that looked like they sprang out of the image along the page.

Even though we used symbols to express what we feel it doesn’t mean we can’t add journaling! Maybe you already know what you want to write or you have a quote that you want to add- take your time and write it down! I still felt like every word was too much and too little at the same time and so I used my go-to technique: found poetry. Found poetry allows me to access a part of my subconsciousness and express things in a way I never would have. I have this little bag that I call my “pouch of words”, where I keep book cut-outs and I often randomly pick them and put together some lines. For your found poetry take a book page (if you don’t want to cut the actual book take a photocopy!) and underline every word or phrase that speaks to you. Cut them out and rearrange them in a way that makes sense to you. You don’t need to use them all and you’ll probably need to cut out some pronouns. Funnily enough, my book page was about a man falling into madness because of a woman but it had many good lines. Isn’t it funny how close madness and love are?

Mine reads: away, I can’t do a damn thing about it It’s all slipping away from me disappearing under ten coats of paint, you wouldn’t understand. I can’t live without but I have to love is the center.

Final touches. I wanted to add a photograph of my dog but in the end I decided against it. Instead I added some gold splatters. Gold splatters are the answer for everything.   I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and feel inspired to use more flowers in your art (as if we needed a reason for that).

RECOMMENDATION

For starting I found this page very helpful, it has a lot of information and a great range of flowers.

ACTION STEP

Explore the meaning of your favorite flowers and make use of their message in your page.

Riet

Riet lives with her husband near the coast in North Germany where she enjoys capturing her memories and feelings in journals and albums. If she isn’t covered in paint and glue she writes stories or photographs the nature outside her door.

21 Comments

  1. Eleanor McComb

    This is gorgeous Riet. Thank you!!

    • Riet

      Thank you, Elly! Coming from you it’s extra special! <3

  2. Vanessa Oliver-lloyd

    Riet I am sorry for your loss. But I am glad for this lovely tutorial and the healing it brought. I’m so grateful for the year we spent together on this team

    • Riet

      You know how much I love and value our connection <3 It's been a great year!

  3. Amber Coulter

    What a beautiful spread and tribute Riet! I am excited to try it

    • Riet

      Ooh, yay, Amber! I’d love to see what you create!

  4. Thea Marie

    This page is so gorgeous, and I love your found poetry! I’m so sorry for the loss of your dog.
    Thank you for the inspiration!

    • Riet

      Thank you, Thea Marie <3
      Found poetry is a favorite of mine! It's always a new surprise what comes up and out!

  5. Lea Betty

    This page is so gorgeous. The flowers just jump out at you.
    I’m so sorry for the loss of your dog. I totally understand the grief and pain that come with the loss. It can be a dark, sad place. Sending love.

    • Riet

      Thank you so much, feeling the love here <3

  6. Divyam Bernstein

    This is such s beautiful tutorial, Riet!

    • Riet

      Aw, I’m so glad you like it, my sweet Bernstein! I can’t wait for all your tutorials next year!

  7. Cheryl Angelini

    Lovely !! I will be doing this. Thank you , Riet!

    • Riet

      Yaay, makes me so happy, Cheryl! Can’t wait to see!

  8. Deborah Wittstock

    Riet – what a lovely, lovely tutorial. Much love to you while you are grieving your loss. xx

    As an added resource suggestion – I read this lovely, but sad, novel recently:
    The Language of Flowers: A Novel Paperback – April 3, 2012
    by Vanessa Diffenbaugh (Author)

    xx

  9. Laura Rahuba

    Pouch of words!? Awesome!

  10. Marsha Smusz

    lovely image, more inspiring projects. O o o – how to keep up?

  11. Heidi Lilley

    Riet, This post touched me so deeply. Having lost my beloved soul dog in 2018, I can fully understand the need to do a page devoted to him. I have done a few pages devoted to my dog, and this is one that I will do as well. The sunflower is the flower I will use, it’s meaning is: feelings of adoration and admiration, loyalty and strong bonds, positivity and strength, and brightening your mood. My favorite flower, and all of this represents my relationship with my beloved Tiago. Thank you so very much for this inspiration.

  12. Marsha Smusz

    Adore this, Riet-and—-the pouch of words!! Oh, yesyesyes.

  13. Marsha Smusz

    So wonderful, Riet. In starting with this tutorial, and choosing gardenia, and no ther direction, what unfolded was an exploration of my feelings around recently selling my house. Since transitioning to living part time with family and part time in my tiny house in the mountains was a long planned choice, I was surprised by some tears. Although this lifestyle makes travel much easier in many ways, the process of leaving the place I had lived and devoted myself to contained unexpected developments that were painful. So this unplanned forray into my choices and the way I executed them was an opening into healing from the aspects of loss that were hiding in my choice. I love these unexpected gifts that art journaling taps into far more readily than other journal styles. Thank you for yourbeautiful tutorial.