• Cynthia Haller

Art Story : Birds of paradise

Updated: 4 hours ago


In today's art story, let's talk about how inspiration can strike you like lightening and get you to jump off the sofa and straight to your desk and iPad to create right away. This is exactly how this bird of paradise illustration and matching pattern came to exist in the first place after mindlessly scrolling on Instagram.



It all started in June 2021, back then birds of paradise flowers aka heliconia were starting to pop in my Instagram feed more regularly, fo some reason, all the artists I follow were having a serious case of tropical vibe fever and in the world of tropical flowers, the two that stand out the most are hibiscus flowers and heliconias/lobster claws/bird of paradise. Living in a tropical region myself, I probably wasn't as "struck" as most artists living under colder latitudes and those flowers are pretty common all around me and I didn't particularly felt compelled to draw them. That changed when on a lazy evening, while enjoying the monsoon rain, lounging on my sofa, feet up on the coffee table, I was scrolling through my Instagram feed and came across this picture from the ModCloth account (yes I follow them). It was a pretty abstract pattern that kind of looked like birds of paradise, and had all the colors you usually find on that stunning tropical flower and for some reason it gave me a jolt of instant creativity. Suddenly I had to get off the sofa, get out of lazy evening mode, grab my iPad and start creating a bird of paradise design right away!


I knew right away that it had to be a pattern, so I drew all the elements separately. To assemble them later in not only the pattern you see on the right, but also created the "bouquet" you see in the sticker picture above.

I normally don't draw anything past 6pm, I leave evenings for either conducting my art classes or do something relaxing for myself, but that day, the compulsion to draw was way too intense. If I hadn't read "Big Magic" by Elizabeth Gilbert (it's an Amazon affiliate link), I would have found it weird. But, I knew better, that book has introduced me to the notion that ideas are body-less entities that roam the earth in search of a creative person that can give them a physical form.


In her book Elizabeth Gilbert explains how an idea for a book stuck with her for a while, then left her, only to find out while casually chatting with Ann Patchett that the novel's idea that left her found it's way to Ann without them knowing each other before, or having shared notes. She also mentioned that sometimes ideas need to visit several persons all at once and that it's probably how trends come to be and how big discoveries that advance the human race are made.


To me it was clear that the Bird of paradise art/pattern idea had made the round in the artist and surface designer community around that time, and that it probably wanted me to join but that it hadn't found the right trigger until that Mod Cloth picture. It was the point at wich I went for "Ohhh bird of paradises are everywhere" to "I MUST draw a bird of paradise pattern...RIGHT AWAY" That evening I spent a couple of hours getting it drawn and ready to turn into a pattern and went straight to bed, knowing that the instant I would wake up the next morning I would export all my made in Procreate elements straight into Photoshop to turn it into the pattern it was meant to me. And this is exactly what I did, I woke up at my usual 5-ish am and went straight to my laptop to continue working on it. And then, it was straight to my Society6 shop. If I remember well, I couldn't eat breakfast or do anything else until that was done. Some body-less ideas are oddly persistent and determined to come to life aren't they? This one was in a hurry to be born and out in the world like no other ideas that visited me, including the groovy rickshaw.


The bird of paradise pattern isn't as widely popular as the rickshaw in terms of sales, but ultimately, that is not what ideas really aim at, an idea just want to get into the physical world, what happens afterward is not in anybody's control. What is clear is that this tropical flower idea really wanted my attention and really wanted me to commit to bringing it to life, for what reason? I'll never know, but I know it needed me to give it a form. That's what we artists and designers do.


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