When we think of floral bouquets, the biggest, brightest blooms often steal the show: the dahlias and zinnias and sunflowers. But a bouquet without a taste of all the sizes, shapes, and textures of the cut flower world is like a recipe with no seasonings or spices. Take Cerinthe, for instance: it's not screaming for your attention, but it will seduce you nonetheless with its blue-green foliage, which melts into ombre teal and purple fronds. And it's not only a pleasure for the eyes: listen closely to the bell-shaped blooms before cutting them and you'll hear the joyful reverberation of bees achieving pollination using a process known as sonication. Each bee grabs the flower firmly and rapidly fires its flight muscles; this intense shaking releases pollen from the anthers while generating a buzzing sound that is amplified by the bell-shaped flowers.
Jessica Battista is not only an accomplished illustrator, but a designer whose work adorns countless products, objects, and brands. Her skillset, as well as her ability to bring her subjects to life with incredible depth and character, made her the perfect person to depict the bold beauty of these sonic blooms.
Tell us about what inspires you, and how this project fits your artistic vision.
As an illustrator who specializes in packaging design, I have to say that I take a lot of pride in making what’s on the outside a true reflection of the product on the inside. In a similar sense, the unique exteriors of seeds serve a utilitarian purpose of protecting the embryo. Yet, that same covering also has an outward beauty that entices animals of all kinds to help disperse the seed and increase the chances of growth and survival for the potential plant. For me, there’s just something about turning a blank canvas into a narrative that another person could potentially connect with. No one else will ever stare at one of my illustrations for as long as I did while creating it. But, if a single image can grab someone else’s attention and hold it, even for just a moment, it’s worth all the effort.
What was the process of creating this piece?
I created this illustration in acrylic ink and colored pencil. Then, digitally rendered the concentric circles to create the halo vibration lines. I have a tendency to hesitate when I first approach a blank page. So, I savor the process of building up my layers slowly, starting with pale washes of color that increase in saturation and vibrancy. I don’t wish to cover up each imperfection. But, by adding layer upon layer, the mistakes are softened as the work becomes whole.
What do you love the most about this piece?
As much as I thoroughly enjoyed drawing the bees and painting the Cerinthe, the halo lines are probably my favorite detail in this illustration. I took a great interest in the unique way bees pollinate this strangely beautiful plant through a process called sonification. Sonification, or buzz pollination, takes place when bees rapidly move their flight muscles to produce strong vibrations which help to release stubborn bits of pollen from the flower’s anthers. Since this process can only be heard, I took some creative liberties when it came to visualizing this crucial characteristic. The halo lines symbolize sound waves. Yet, the repetition of this additional design element makes the overall composition more dynamic.
When people see your art on the Cerinthe Art Pack, what do you hope it inspires in them?
I hope this illustration conveys not merely the beauty of this variety, but its special relationship with pollinators. I may revel in the tiny details, like the itty bits of pollen on the bees, but I don’t wish to give away all the answers. Not everyone will understand the significance of the halo lines at first glance. Instead, I hope my artwork provides just enough insight to inspire others to start asking questions and begin seeking out the answers for themselves.
How do you think your process of creating art is similar to the work of a gardener?
Art making, like gardening, requires a whole lot of trial and error. Both areas of expertise require knowledge and skill. You can read every book on gardening and memorize all the great artists who came before. Yet, the skills required for both vocations can only be obtained through years of crops lost and erasers eroded into nubs. It takes a person who is willing to dive in and get their hands dirty. Then, after each success and every failure, they must return with equal determination to begin again. ■
Just like a bee shaking a blossom with all its might, or an artist bent over her canvas with an eraser, a gardener is often asked to exert great effort to accomplish their task. But as Jessica intoned, with that effort, and with trial and error and more trials, the rewards of gardening will reverberate through all your senses just like a Cerinthe bush buzzing with bees.
To learn more about Jessica, visit her website and follow her on Instagram @jessicabattistaart.
How To Grow Cerinthe
Cerinthe is quite easy to grow, quickly growing from stout sprouts into cheerful blue-green shrub-like plants. Start seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before your last frost and transplant after frost has passed. It makes an excellent bouquet filler. Wait until bracts are dark blue and flowers are purple to cut. Be sure to leave some blooms for pollinators to enjoy.