Greenwich artist’s botanicals are more than just pretty pictures of flowers
Published 2:39 pm, Sunday, July 16, 2017
GREENWICH — Hidden on a street off Round Hill Road, Jeanne Reiner’s studio offers bright sky lights, simple white walls, and intricate, framed paintings of flowers.
A former graphic designer who worked on packaging for cosmetic companies, Reiner these days focuses her creative energy on drawing and painting plants, flowers and insects.
“I like to think of my flowers as being florial portraits rather than just botanicals,” Reiner said on a rainy afternoon while standing near the depiction of a hibiscus nearly half her height.
“I try to give my flowers a little bit of personality,” she said. “And I think of them while I’m working, and I think about how they look to me in terms of, like, a person.”
The open hibiscus in her work had fully bloomed, its leaves were shining in the sunlight. Its stamen and stigma, she said, were like fuzzy buttons sticking out of the center to draw attention from bees, butterflies and other pollinators.
If that’s what the flower is asking for, Reiner said she wants to depict it in her painting.
But botanicals is fairly new in Reiner’s career as an artist. Soon after finishing a graphic design Bachelor’s program at Cooper Union in New York City, she worked for Estee Lauder, and then Elizabeth Arden. The work allowed her to design packaging, and to work with engineers designing perfume bottles. She later turned to textiles with Jeanne Dickey Design.
When Reiner moved to Greenwich in 2002, she began taking courses at Purchase College, Silvermine Arts Center and the New York Botanical Garden, which led to a career creating and teaching art in the area.
At the Greenwich Land Trust, she has taught several botanical drawing classes with Steve Conaway, the trust’s conservation and outreach director. New ideas for a fall session are brewing; courses involving vernal wildflowers, pollinators and insects were offered earlier this year.
“We tour the property and look at possible subject matter,” Conaway said this week, “and I'm approaching it from a scientific or ecological perspective and she’s got the artists eye. So I’ll show her some neat things in the landscape, like plants and insects, and she’ll always be able to see something neat that her art students can really latch onto.”
Reiner’s husband is a fan of his wife’s creative expression, and her commitment to getting to know her subjects, which gives her work its authenticity.
“The science has to be right,” said Robert Reiner. “You have to understand botany and how plants develop. And there are patterns that occur in nature and also occur in something else.
“She can see the pattern developing in a flower that she can relate to because she sees it somewhere else,” he said. “The nautilus shell, the pinecone — the actual cones grow in a Fibonacci spiral ... She is able to capture that as well, because she has a great eye for how it connects to the real world. Her skill is putting those two things together.”
In describing a poppy she painted, Jeanne Reiner said she likes to think of the beauty and the ugliness of the plant. She compared its flowers to an awkward teenage girl wearing a beautiful orange and fiery red organza ballgown. Below the large billowing petals, skinny little fuzzy stems stick out like twiggy adolescent legs.
Combining her imagination with the perfection of nature, Reiner said she aims to convey the unadulterated existence of everything that’s strange but also appealing about botanicals.
“It’s a right and left brain kind of thing,” she said.“You have to know about the plant botanically and understand it’s growth pattern botanically, and know all those plant parts, and how to draw those plant parts.
“It’s not like I’m just drawing a pretty picture,” she said gesturing toward her sketch book, open to a page scattered with petals, stems and leaves.
“You actually have to dissect the plant and figure it out,” she said. “I love this kind of art — specifically because of that nerdy part where I sit there and cut things up, and get my magnifying glass, and really make sure I get it right.”
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