The Art of Gardening

Every fall our garden grows out of a hope that when you plant a seed in the spring, it will be a mature plant at harvest time. The pulling up of carrots, the canning of beans, the dicing of tomatoes—these things are the symbolic closing of the backyard gardener’s loop as it passes through hope, nurture, harvest, and enjoyment. 

Artists, like plants, aren’t born—they are grown. A person may have an aptitude for creativity, but the idea of an overnight sensation is a myth. By the time artists are noticed publicly, most have put in years of thought and hard work and passion. Much like our attempts at backyard gardening, it’s a process more complex than just sticking some seeds in the ground and waiting. There are no shortcuts. 

We grow our skills. We nurture our talent. We weed out the imperfections in our compositions. The natural parallels between how plants are grown and how art is made got me thinking about how the conditions needed to make edible vegetables might also help to grow artists. Wherever you’re at in your art-or-gardening career, maybe these green-thumb tips can help you germinate those creative seeds into something more: 

Choose the right location
I started my artistic career in a town up the highway about an hour. It is a great community full of great people, but I struggled getting traction for my art. Our move to Fernie facilitated a rapid growth in my work simply by being situated in a supportive environment, surrounded by passionate people to learn and grow with.

Start Small
Too many ideas and techniques means you’ll be spread thin, and take a long time to get proficient. Start with projects you know you can manage. It’s important for an artist to feel like they are succeeding and to do that you need to start with manageable projects. That doesn’t mean you should avoid challenges, but be realistic about what you have time and ability to do. 

Start with the easy-growers
Everyone has a pen or pencil laying around! Drawing is not easy, but its simplicity makes it low-hanging fruit for would-be artists. Not only that but drawing is the foundation of most of the other visual practices, so it’s a great way to learn the art of ‘seeing’ and make a habit of creating. Draw a plant, draw a face, draw a pile of squash. Even a few minutes a day will improve your skills steadily and all you need is a pencil and some paper. YouTube is a great resource for free tutorials to help build the fundamentals of sketching. 

Know when to plant
All of our lives have seasons. If you’re working full-time, or have a newborn in the house, maybe it’s not the time to jumpstart your art career. On the other hand, carving out a daily drawing getaway might be just the thing you need to get through the week. It’s about knowing when you’re ready to take it up a notch and make your garden bigger. When you’re ready don’t hesitate—it’s scary, but do it anyway. Regret is a worse pain than fear.

Don’t be afraid to ask for advice
Experienced artists are generally very glad to pass on knowledge and ideas. I think it’s because sharing our knowledge lends validity to our own journey—knowing that someone wants to follow us down the garden path is affirming and gratifying. 

Have fun 
My mom always planted a party of bright flowers in the front garden. There didn’t seem to be a pattern or method, just a riot of colours and blooms she liked. Follow your muse. There has to be something in it for the artist too—if you can look forward to your next project then it won’t feel like a burden to do some weeding now and then. 

Now is the time of year when we start to see the fruit of our labours—it’s an exciting time for gardeners. When you take a crisp bite of that carrot fresh from the garden, it’s easy to forget all the time you spent sowing, weeding and watering. And so it is with our art that unless we take on all those small tasks between seed and sampling to nurture our creative growth, we won’t get to feel the hope and satisfaction of the harvest.