Sunday Makers Session with Artist Flora Dorian

Hey Flora, thanks so much for agreeing to do this week's Sunday Makers Session, we have been longing to delve a little deeper into your beautiful art and find out more about your work! How would you describe your style to those who have only just discovered your artwork through this session?

My work is mainly 2D; works on paper, walls etc. I love to explore natural forms with line and mark-making but a strong and careful use of colour is important to my pieces.

We know that you feel very strongly about the environment and are environmentally conscious within your practice. Can you tell us how you go about implementing this as an artist?

Honestly sometimes it’s so hard to maintain an eco practise. Art supplies are beginning to head in that direction but it’s a whole thing, avoiding plastics, avoiding paints that might be toxic, contain animal products, have been made in an unsustainable way or made in factories that harm the environment in any way. Paper choice is also important, what it’s made of, if it’s recycled or natural: I’m looking to start hand pressing my own paper made out of old works/magazines/newspapers and at some point I will be making my own pigments from found items too. Right now, I put a lot of time into doing the background research of the products I use. A paint brand I’m enjoying using for bigger pieces at the moment is earthborn, they do some really love claypaints. I tend to stick to handmade papers, natural canvases, recycled/reclaimed wood and when I’m having print material made I’ll stick to bamboo or recycled paper with vegetable-based ink. 

Something else that you have spoken about is how your work acts as a safe place for discussions around mental health; something that needs to be bought up and communicated more than ever. We would love to hear of any positive responses that you have had in allowing these open conversations, and giving the viewer of your work this space for reflection when observing your art.

I have always wanted to make people happy with my work. I’ve done a lot of research into the act of playing in children and adults and the use of colour to help enhance positive moods and create safe space. This comes across in the bigger wall paintings, where they have the ability to make a space much warmer and more playful than before. I think there can be something quite intimidating about a crisp, clean wall.

I’ve had a lot of really positive responses to my work. I particularly love seeing young children around wall paintings because the colours and the lines can be exciting for them. I think art should be accessible and have the ability to invoke emotion in everyone. For me, I hope that the emotional response is one of joy.

We've seen some beautiful new large scale wall paintings that you have been working on recently, could you give us some insight into the processes involved in creating these pieces?

These pieces all start with a space viewing so I can get a feel for what’s going on. Then I’ll do digital drawings from different angles so I can understand where I want to place my work. I start with the colour scheme; recently I have been enjoying using a mix of three colours, two light and one darker. Once I have mapped out where I want colour to be I begin choosing the subject: for example the biggest wall painting I’ve done so far was a cactus and succulent piece, I researched the different plants I wanted to include, drew them from different angles and looked at their marks. I like to be able to see the plants in the flesh where possible. I love trips to places like Kew Gardens and garden centres for this reason. Then it’s pretty much time to start on the wall where I do everything free hand.

What draws you to painting on such a large scale? What do you love about it?

I think this goes back to me wanting to create environments not just works on paper. I love making big work because of how visible it is, the reactions I get and how the work makes people feel.

Do you have ambitions to do more wall paintings, and if so where would be your dream place to do one?

For sure, they are my favourite things to make. I’ve not really thought about a dream place but I would absolutely love to paint the outside of a flat block; one of the big ones in london. I’d need to get over my fear of scaffolding but I think it could be completely incredible.

You have written and illustrated a book 'Plants, An A-Z of Houseplants', could you tell us a bit about your inspiration behind this?

I used to own a shop just off Columbia Road and it sparked, as I'm sure it does with most people, a love of houseplants. I think I've got over a hundred. For me the book was a big passion project, I grew up in the countryside so have always been around nature and I think that I missed being around so much green when I started living in flats in the city. Houseplants became the obvious step for me. Bringing the outside in, and filling my own home with green. I started researching care guides to take care of my personal plants, I also started drawing them all the time to the point where I’d catch myself drawing them without realising I was. Before I realised I had all of these notes and sketches of houseplants. At the time I was looking at a lot of children’s books, because I think they’re fantastic, and as a result of that I had a lot of A-Z books; so from here the idea fell into my head. A-Z’s don’t necessarily need to be for kids and I wanted to share my own research in an art book. It was a work in progress for about a year so I was very excited when it came to life.

As a lover of houseplants, do you have a personal favourite? And is there one you would recommend to someone who's new to the world of houseplants?

My favourite houseplant is actually a rubber plant I have. They aren’t my favourite plant generally, but I have one that’s super important to me. I actually talk about this one in my book! I got it from a supermarket on the way to visit my grandad, it was actually one of the last times I ever saw him. The plant had one or two tatty leaves and I asked if I could buy it, they told me I could have it as they we’re going to throw it away because of its condition. My grandad plant is now four years old and has twenty four leaves and gets bigger and bigger every year, so I like to think it’s him with me. 

To anyone who is new to houseplants, they are brilliant. Make sure you put them in the right places and if you have a pet make sure you haven’t got toxic ones or if you do put them out of reach. In general they will make your everyday nicer.

Take a look at Flora's available artwork and illustrated book here!