One major difference between making Cherry Blossom Tree and The Murmuration was the intention. The Murmuration was born out of a desire to play whereas Cherry Blossom Tree was commissioned. I had no expectation of displaying The Murmuration, but I created Cherry Blossom Tree specifically to be hung in my husband’s study.
Looking back on the experience of painting both pieces, I see how much more challenging it was to paint Cherry Blossom Tree. I had to make it work. It was not for me but for a loved one. I wanted my husband to be pleased. This led to me simultaneously being stressed out and more open to feedback. I felt somewhat detached because I was not making it to my own personal taste. I had no qualms about immediately making any changes that my husband proposed. In the end, I produced something better than I had expected. While the piece is not an artwork I would have ever made for myself, I am grateful for the experience and the success. Every piece makes you stronger. Creating something outside of your normal style is a great way to practice the Studio Habit of Mind Stretch & Explore.
In both the Cherry Blossom Tree and The Murmuration, I did not know the meaning of the pieces until after I had finished it. This is not my normal M.O. I usually start with a message and then determine how to create an artwork that will communicate the intended meaning. I found it liberating to allow the meaning to develop with the artwork. True to the description of Express in Studio Thinking from the Start: The K-8 Art Educator's Handbook by Jillian Hogan, Lois Hetland, Diane B. Jaquith, and Ellen Winner, I discovered the meaning as I made my work.
I have been examining my studio practice through the Studio Habits’ lens. While creating Cherry Blossom Tree, I kept a log of my hours and a record of what I did each day. As I reflected on my time, I categorized the various activities by Studio Habit.
Log of Hours:
Day 1 (July 9, 2023) – 2.5 hours
Practiced the Studio Habit of Mind Understand Art Worlds by collaborating with my husband about my second piece. Researched images and discussed possibilities with my husband. Sketched out thumbnail sketches for my husband to choose from [Envision]. Practiced the Studio Habit of Mind Engage & Persist by sketching my plan onto the canvas with charcoal multiple times before finalizing it. Painted the grass and the bottom edge [Develop Craft: Technique and Observe].
Day 2 (July 10) – 2.5 hours
Practiced the Studio Habit of Mind Stretch & Explore by trying new things. I used Anime art as a reference instead of a photograph. Painted the sky and clouds [Develop Craft: Technique and Observe].
Day 3 (July 11) – 3.5 hours
Painted the cherry blossom tree and reworked the sky [Develop Craft: Technique and Observe]. Darkened the sky and blended the brushstrokes to create a sense of wind [Express].
Day 4 (July 12) – 4.75 hours
Repainted the grass and sky [Develop Craft: Technique and Observe]. Created deliberate brushstrokes to add texture to the grass and to show wind blowing the grass [Express]. Lightened the sky in an area that was too dark. Blended different values on the clouds. Created fuller blossoms on the cherry blossom tree. Sought and listened to feedback from my husband [Understand Art Worlds].
Day 5 (July 15) – 3 hours
Created dramatic lighting by painting different values on the cherry blossom tree and the grass [Develop Craft: Technique and Observe]. Made it look like sunrise [Express].
Day 6 (July 16) – 7.5 hours
Repainted the clouds multiple times and painted over the sky [Engage & Persist]. Solved the problem of the clouds not flowing with the rest of the painting by adding some of the colors from different parts of the painting into the clouds. For example, painted a very subtle pink along the bottom edge of the clouds. Reshaped the clouds and made them smaller. Added more cherry blossoms being blown in a gentle breeze and on the ground [Express]. Collaborated with my husband frequently to ensure that the painting was going to meet expectations [Understand Art Worlds]. Learned that the imagery is what my husband visualizes when cultivating a calm feeling [Express]. Completed my second artwork.
Total – 23.75 hours
Image credit: Cherry Blossom Tree, 2023 | Oil on canvas | 24x36 inches
Hetland, L., Hogan, J., Jaquith, D., & Winner, E. (2018). Studio Thinking from the Start: The K-8
Art Educator’s Handbook. Teachers College Press.