Kerrie Woodhouse

Whimsical words and watercolour


The language of flowers

Fascinating factsKerrie Woodhouse

It is an enchanting idea to me that flowers express themselves so clearly that they have become recognised symbols of their own energy. They are, to me, a hopeful representation of the notion that if we could be truly ourselves, without the shroud of our doubts and fears and unobscured by our 'shoulds', that self expression would be effortless and that we would be completely understood.

There is a language, little known, Lovers claim it as their own. Its symbols smile upon the land, Wrought by nature's wondrous hand; And in their silent beauty speak, Of life and joy, to those who seek For Love Divine and sunny hours In the language of the flowers. –The Language of Flowers, London, 1875

We have been attributing meaning to flowers for so very many years that the 'language of flowers' now even has its own  name - floriography.  Victorians sent coded messages using flower arrangements. For example;

  • roses symbolise love

  • daffodils symbolise chivalry

  • lilies symbolise beauty

  • daisies symbolise purity and innocence

  • gerberas symbolise cheerfulness

The colour of the flower conveys meaning too.

  • red - passion and love

  • orange - expansion, growth, and warmth

  • yellow - clarity, truth and intellect

  • green - renewal, growth, hope, health and youth

  • blue - dreams, inspiration, tranquility

  • indigo - emotions, depth, intuition and expressive moods

  • violet - royalty, nobility and spirituality

If you are in the mood to explore the language of flowers a little further, Kate Greenaways' Language of Flowers is available to read online for free here. Vanessa Diffenbaugh has a more modern Flower Dictionary as well as a charming novel, The Language of Flowers.

Explore more of the Flower Faces Series or see the rest of the monthly series in the collection.

Drawing perspective doesn't have to be hard - here's 3 easy tips to get you started

Beginner ResourcesKerrie Woodhouse

One of my endless fascinations is the illusion of depth on a flat piece of paper.  Being able to perceive distance in an image on a page is what draws us into the world of the image's creator.

My analytical side is intrigued by the techniques we can learn to create the illusion of three dimensions.  Ok, I have to admit I kind of love that even something as mystical as art boils down to maths in places.

The fact that drawing perspective does involve a step towards maths is probably what puts many of us off learning.  I think the trick is to sidle up to it... surreptitiously. Ease gently in, nothing too scary. My introduction was really in Danielle Donaldson's class Creative Girls - a good beginning!

If you are starting out with drawing perspective, here are three things to think about that will help to offer the illusion of depth and distance.

Atmospheric perspective

This is a safe place to begin - all about colour. Warm colours (red, orange, yellow) appear to push forward from the paper, while cool colours (blues and greens) recede into the paper.  How fascinating it is that this is the way the brain interprets these colours.  So one of the easiest ways to suggest a sense of distance is to graduate colours you use from warm ones in the sections of the image closest through to cooler ones in the sections of the image intended to appear further away. Just like my row of little flower ladies...

Size matters

The other thing that the brain does in interpreting information from the eye is to recognise smaller versions of similar items as being further away, relative to their larger counterparts.  So even though all my little flower ladies are about the same size, the ones intended to appear close to the viewer are larger and further apart from each other. Their size and spacing diminish gradually to suggest to the viewer that they are more distant. If you were to draw a line across the tops of the heads of the flowers and extend it out beyond the tiny blue flower and another similar line across the bottom of their stalks, these lines would intersect at one point out beyond the right hand side of the image.  Accordingly, this is referred to as one point perspective.


As amazing as our eyes are, we can only see the finest details close up. As we look further into the distance our ability to perceive small distinct details decreases.  On a piece of paper, we can mimic this by reducing the level of fine detail progressively from the parts of the image intended to look like they are nearest to us to the parts of the image that are intended to appear further away.  Compare the level of facial details on the little red flower at the front of the row to the blue one at the end of the row in Flower Faces no 18 to see what I mean.

Learning to solve puzzles like how to make a flat piece of paper seem three dimensional is an intriguing pastime. If you end up hooked like me then you will be wanting to know a bit more.  I am reading a terrific book by Phil Metzger called The Art of Perspective which I am finding to be very helpful. It is not a dry collection of rules and is more like a series of annotated pictures. Phil has a sense of humour and offers step by step instructions of things to try out. Give it a go!

Explore more of the Flower Faces series or see the rest of the monthly series in the collection.

What is the bee's favourite colour?

My art journeyKerrie Woodhouse
Flower Face no 14 Arttally

Flowers are designed to get attention. That's probably why we love them. Those bright colours certainly can lift our spirits but they serve a very specific purpose. The point of the flower is to attract pollinators.

Insects, birds and bats are all pollinators. Insect pollinators include ants, bees, beetles, butterflies and moths. Honeybees do more pollinating than any of the other insects.  Purple is the bee's favourite colour. (It's mine too. Sensible bees.) Bees are attracted to purple flowers more than any other colour of flower.

The honey bee aims for purple flowers for an excellent reason. Purple flowers contain more nectar than other flowers. So it makes sense that if the bee is genetically primed to seek out purple flowers they have the best chance of survival. It is a symbiotic relationship. Likewise, the flower that has the showiest purple flowers increases its chance of pollination and also improves its chance of survival.

Butterflies prefer bright pink, red, orange and yellow flowers, while hummingbirds are attracted to red, fuschia, pink or purple blooms.

Flowers that bloom at night tend to have less vivid colours.  These flowers tend to be pollinated by bats and moths, and there is little sense in their having beautiful colours that won't be seen in the dark. Instead, these flowers are heavily fragrant, using scent to attract their pollinators, rather than colour.

Interestingly, the honey bee doesn't actually see colours in the same way that we humans do.  Bees see colours in ultraviolet. Primary colours to the human eye are red, green and blue. But to bees, primary colours are blue, green and ultraviolet.  While the studies don't all agree on what the exact colour spectrum is through the eyes of a bee, they all agree that bees cannot see red. To a bee, red is seen as black.

We have been learning about the bee's view of the world from about the early 1900's and the work of Karl von Frisch. If you are looking for more recent investigations of the sensory perception of the bee you might want to start with Lars Chittka from Queen Mary University of London.

But on a more practical note... if you are wondering what colour to paint your hive..... go here!

Explore more of the Flower Faces Series or see the other monthly series in the collection.