The Garden as Art

It is the time of year when we find great joy and inspiration in our gardens. We love to watch our flower gardens slowly unfold through the spring and seemingly explode with the summer sun into a riot of colors, shapes and textures all demanding our attention. However, there is a unique challenge in painting the garden en plein air. The chaos of blooms and foliage can be daunting to compose and resolve into a painting. The camera is not a very helpful tool here, because photographs capture too much detail to be very useful as a painting reference. If we become too conscious of rendering each flower we can easily lose sight of the greater impression. We must paint the way we see. Painting from life can help us to retain that gestural style that gardens seem to demand and provide a perfect excuse to spend more hours outdoors in the garden. Who wouldn’t enjoy that?

Monet Painting in his Garden at Argenteuil by Renoir, oil painting.
Monet Painting in his Garden at Argenteuil by Renoir, oil painting.
Iris Bed in Monet's Garden by Monet, oil painting.
Iris Bed in Monet’s Garden by Monet, oil painting.
Garden with Path by Vincent van Gogh, oil painting.
Garden with Path by Vincent van Gogh, oil painting.

As a result of our combined interests in gardens, flowers and painting, we have amassed a library of wonderful books about painting, about gardens, about paintings of gardens, and about the gardens of well-known artists. A few of them are listed here. The History of Gardens in Painting by Nils Büttner is an interesting compilation of paintings and murals created of gardens from as early as 20 B.C. to 2000 A.D. Büttner writes “As works of art, gardens were both fragile and evanescent, thanks to the eternal natural cycle of growth and decay. Painted representations of ancient gardens provide a better idea of their one-time splendor than the various descriptions by classical writers. Pictures of gardens also document developments in art history, both in garden design and in painting.”

Perhaps more than any other group of painters did before, the Impressionists explored, developed and popularized the garden as a subject for art. Many of them had gardens of their own which they painted repeatedly. We are the beneficiaries of their interest in the subject. But it was Monet who understood that he could design and build a garden for the express purpose of painting. As a result, he created the ne plus ultra example of an artist’s garden at his home in Giverny, a project that occupied him for the last 40 years of his life and gave birth to his greatest works. What a perfect feedback loop of intention, action, inspiration and ultimately financial support he created. It is a model many contemporary artists are working to emulate today.

–John & Ann

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John Hulsey and Ann Trusty

About John Hulsey and Ann Trusty

John Hulsey and his wife, Ann Trusty created the website, The Artist's Road - Painting the World's Beautiful Places.  The Artist's Road inspires with practical art tips and painting techniques for the traveling artist, video painting tutorials and demonstrations, workshop resources, artist profiles and interviews and remarkable painting locations.  The Artist's Road is an artist community for oil, watercolor and pastel artists.  Articles cover intriguing art travel experiences artists have had while painting the world's beautiful places. "I believe I must speak through my art, for the preservation of Nature and the natural landscape from which I take my inspiration and living." John Hulsey is an accomplished artist, author and teacher who has been working professionally for over thirty years. In addition to producing new work for exhibition and teaching workshops, Mr. Hulsey continues to write educational articles about painting for national art magazines, including Watercolor magazine and American Artist Magazine. He has been selected as a "Master Painter of the United States" by International Artist Magazine where his work was previously chosen to be included in the top ten of their international landscape painting competition. He was awarded residencies at Yosemite, Glacier and Rocky Mountain National Parks. "I strive in my art to celebrate the mysteries of Nature - the fleeting light on the landscape, the unimaginable diversity of creatures, the beauty of each leaf and flower." Ann Trusty  is an accomplished third generation artist whose work embodies the natural world and is created through direct observation and translation of her subjects into her paintings. She has found inspiration in the dancing light across the water of the Hudson River (where she had a studio for ten years), as well as the big sky and waving tall grasses of the open plains of the Midwest (her current home). Her work has been exhibited throughout the United States, France and Turkey in both museum and gallery exhibitions, and has been reviewed favorably by the New York Times.