Flower inspiration for tutu Tuesday

A glimpse into my inspiration

What an absolute delight this weekend to sell another ballerina from my flower-tutu series to a returning customer (whoop whoop). The flower-tutus are one of my most best-selling collections. Since today is tutu Tuesday, I thought it a good time to share some of the inspiration behind these floral dance creations with you.

Painting of a ballerina in a iris tutu, photographed as a flat lay with iris flowers around it.

Jumping back to the 80s

One Christmas, when I was in primary school, the Cape Town ballet company (formerly known as CAPAB Ballet back then but now Cape Town City Ballet) performed The Snow Queen. There’s a flower scene in this that really captured my imagination (as did the wonderful jagged asymmetric tutu of the title character).

I spent the rest of my summer (I grew up in South Africa where Christmas coincides with summer) devising a ballet based on all the flowers in our garden. My recollection is that my fantasy ballet lacked an enthralling plot but I certainly imagined and sketched a variety of floral costume designs. I can’t remember all the ones I had envisaged but I do remember that I did one inspired by the beautiful flame lilies (Zimbabwe’s national flower) that we had in the garden. So, the flower-tutu theme in my work is long-seeded in my imagination.

Coming back to recent years

A few years ago, I had a beautiful bunch of daffodils in a vase on my windowsill. They looked just like a tutu to me. Completely inspired, I decided to paint this joyful ballerina:

Painting of a ballerina mid-leap wearing a green bodice and a tutu made up of daffodil flowers. 

Her blossom tutu friend (below) was soon to follow. She was inspired by the glorious blossom tree that blooms across the road from me. They’ve both since gone to their happily ever after home.

 Painting of a ballerina poised en pointe with one leg raised. She is turned away from the viewer and wears a tutu made up of pink blossoms.

Revisiting my childhood flower costume theme in paint is loads of fun and so the series keeps growing (as does my explorations with texture). In addition to the flower-tutu paintings you’ve likely seen on my website, I have created a number of flower tutu sketches and ballettoons. One of my most popular (on @ballettoons on Instagram) drawings was this chamomile-inspired romantic tutu that flew off to her forever home in the US:

Drawing of ballerina poised en pointe, turned away from the viewer with a leg extended in front of her. She wears a long romantic tutu made up of chamomile daisies and is scattering flowers from her raised left arm. 

In both the painted ballerinas and the ballettoons, sunflowers are always very popular.  Waltz of the sunflowers (below) combines inspiration from these beautiful blooms and sepals with Tchaikovsky. I love a good pas de deux and ballet attitudes are one of my favourite poses. The pose in this one is partly inspired by the Bluebird and Princess Florine pas de deux in The Sleeping Beauty, partly inspired by the Sugarplum Fairy and Cavalier pas de deux in The Nutcracker and partly inspired by memories of watching the waltz of the flowers in Capab’s Nutcracker in the mid-1980s. Thrilled that this one went to the forever home of one of the most lovely creators I have met on Instagram, who happens to be a ballet lover like me.

Painting of a pas de deux in which the dancers are wearing sunflower costumes. They are both poised in attitude, she is resting her arms on his right arm. Her tutu is a giant sunflower. 

In early 2019, I planted some iris bulbs and only one bloomed that year. Iris (below) was inspired by that lonely bloom and the more impressive irises in the Harris Garden that year (which had better colours than my solitary bloom). Pleased to say I had a better crop of irises in my garden this year!

A painting of a ballerina in wearing an iris flower tutu. Photographed at an angle with fresh iris around the edges of the photo. 

My creative process is iterative. I often explore themes and poses across multiple works, revisiting ideas and poses over time. In this regard, Iris has a non-floral predecessor with a very similar pose.

A ballerina in a turquoise tutu, poised in attitude leaning towards the viewer. 

Many of my flower-tutus pay tribute to the wonderful blooms I enjoy in nature. They are also a good excuse to buy cut flowers to enjoy at home. Lily Unfurled was part of a series of Lily dancers painted from some gorgeous lilies. I love the unruliness of lilies. So beautiful but wild and unpredictable. The title of this painting was intended to suggest both the movement of the dancer and the opening of the flower.

Green painting of a ballerina poised en pointe, both arms raised aloft. She is dressed in a white lily flower tutu, the petals forming her flowing skirt.. 

I’m honoured that the paintings featured in this blog post have all gone to their forever homes, many of them chosen as gifts. Thank you to everyone who now owns a J-L original. If you’d like one in your home, or know someone for whom one might be an ideal gift, do browse my flower-tutu collection.

P.S. I’ll be adding a few flower-tutu creations that are on paper rather than canvas (and also lower in price and more affordable to ship) to the website soon, so sign up for my art newsletter to hear when those go live.




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