Creative Work & Growing Plants
I've been drawing a lot of plants lately, which has me thinking about invisible growth. Read on for comic panel previews and caring for plants as a metaphor for creative work.
My comic “You Are With Me, Always” is gradually coming together! I’m designing it in a way that the layout will be easy to read both in my newsletter (I’ll post the full comic for subscribers only!) and as a printed zine.
I recently finished the change of season sequence where a flower grows over a series of panels. These panels will have text in the final version, but I wanted to share them as a wordless sequence today.
I spent a somewhat embarrassing amount of time deciding on what type of flower to use in this comic! After researching several different flowers, I landed on a yellow bearded iris for a few reasons:
It’s a perennial flower that comes back year after year, which is important to support the theme of the comic.
I wanted the flower to be yellow like the bird in the comic, so it visually reminds the capybara (and the reader) of the bird friend.
The bearded iris happens to be my favorite flower (I love irises in general!)
Technically, I don’t think there are any irises (bearded or otherwise) growing where capybaras hang out, but this is an artistic liberty I’m willing to take.
Orchids & Invisible Growth
The section of the comic above has me thinking about invisible growth and how much is happening even when it looks like (or feels like) absolutely nothing is happening,
Now, I don’t mean to brag, but I have kept an orchid alive for more than two years now. Normal people would probably not be proud of this, but this is a plant caretaking record for me!
I’m notoriously bad at keeping plants alive… I have no instincts when it comes to caring for plants, and I’m actually slowly killing a different plant that is arguably the easiest one I have to care for — a spider plant. And my failure with it is punctuated by the fact that this particular spider plant is a direct descendant of a sapling my husband brought home to his mom when he was in kindergarten. Yes, I’m killing my husband’s childhood plant.
I am a monster!
But my orchid lives.
A friend gave this orchid to me as a housewarming gift in early 2020, shortly before COVID hit. Since receiving it, I have religiously given it two ice cubes per week (just as the instructions told me). And it bloomed for months. Inevitably, it stopped blooming and the stem that once held many vibrant flowers shriveled up. But the green leaves at the base continued to look healthy. After a few online searches, I was assured it wasn’t dead — just dormant. I’m not sure if dormant is the right term, but essentially it was in a non-bloom cycle where it just hangs out and maybe grows some new leaves.
It felt like my orchid was in this dormant phase FOREVER. Over time, two or three larger green leaves very slowly sprouted from the base of the plant, which was exciting! But with each new leaf, an old one at the bottom would turn yellow and fall away. One step forward, one step back!
The metaphor for creative work here is pretty obvious, and in some ways, incredibly comforting. Especially now that my orchid baby is blooming again! It seems that dormant period of time was critical after all! It looked like it was doing almost nothing for two solid years, and at times, maybe even dying. But recently a new stem finally sprouted, and it’s covered in buds. I am amazed by this.
All I did was give my orchid two ice cubes every week and wait. I didn’t fertilize it or give it special orchid food or anything. I did say kind things to it sometimes. Like, “You’re doing a great job, orchid! Look at your big impressive leaves!”
But caring for this orchid has come to two really basic things:
I want my art and writing practice to be like those two ice cubes every week.
Every week I’m trying to make metaphorical ice cubes and feed my creative practice. Sometimes it feels like the project I’m feeding is dying on the vine, but eventually I believe it will turn into something… with enough time and consistency.
I’m perhaps overly proud that my orchid is blooming again, but rest assured, I have no illusions about being some kind of orchid guru. I acknowledge the role of luck and environment played in keeping this orchid alive and well. The parallels to creative work continue! In plants, life and creative work — I’m hoping that consistency over time, in a good environment, will lead to a bit of luck and general well-being.
Consistency over time in a good environment will hopefully lead to a bit of luck.
If you enjoyed this post and you haven’t already subscribed, please consider doing so! You’ll get exclusive access to finished comics, behind-the-scenes project progress and thoughts on creativity delivered right to your inbox.