Flower child

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On Feb. 9, 6-8 p.m., Atlanta artist Stewart Haddock will debut blog entries from his A Painted Flower a Day Project at Eyedrum. Every day in 2007 Haddock handed out a tiny 2- to 3-inch painted flower to strangers and friends and recorded their response. The project brought art into daily life and allowed Haddock to deal with his shyness.

What are the flowers painted on? How long do they take to paint?

The flowers are painted on loose canvas with acrylic. I would paint them in batches of 30 to 60, sometimes less if I was just working with a spare piece of canvas. I would make an evening out of it. So, 30 to 60 in two to four hours.

What gave you the idea for the project?

The woman I was dating at the end of 2006 was an extreme extrovert. I am not. I can get serious anxiety in social situations. I was thinking of some way to get over this anxiety. I was thinking that I should just introduce myself to random people and tell them why I was doing this, but I knew I would not really do that. At the same time I was thinking of some way to do more with my art than just give it to my friends. The two ideas just fit together, so I decided that I would do it for a year.

How do you decide who to give a flower to?

Sometimes, I would actively look for someone to give the flower to. If I was on my lunch break or if the day was ending, I would give it to the first person that was not obviously busy or talking to someone or shaking their fist at me. Other times, it was a spur of the moment thing. I would be talking with a person and they would seem nice and I would give them a flower.

No one shook their fist at me, of course!

So now that you've completed the flower-a-day project for 2007, what's next?

I just moved and my place is a wreck! I need to get my life in order, you know?

I am thinking about a postmaster popularity contest where I make prints on postcards with two addresses and have the mail carrier decide where they should go. It would be a March Madness-style single elimination contest. If you got the card, you would advance to the next round. The final winner would end up with five prints.

I think I want to learn to keep bees.

Are you sad it's over?

Sometimes. There were a few days at the beginning of 2008, where I would reach in my pocket to check if it was there and it would be weird that it was missing.

That small canvas in your pocket every day of the year turned into a kind of comfort item, like a security blanket or a rabbit’s foot.

Flowers have connotations of romance. Do people often construe the paintings as a come-on?

I don't think so. If they did, they probably thought it was an odd way to get hit on. Most people seemed to need a moment to figure out what was going on, or they had an immediate happy reaction.

Have you come to any conclusions about peoples' receptivity to art based on reactions to the flowers? Do you get a better response depending upon where and to what kind of person you give the flowers to?

Well, based on the flowers, people love art. Or they really love art that is given to them. The flowers are so simple that people just took them for what they were and they just enjoyed having a small painted flower. A lot of people hung them up or kept them in their wallets.

Based on my experience in Germany, people eating do not want to be given flowers! I never got a feel for who gave the best reactions. Everyone was very different.

What have you learned about people since beginning the project?

People like to be approached and they are genuinely interested in other people. I need to stop being so stressed out by strangers.

What do you tell people as you hand them the flower?

I would say something like, "Here you go" or "I want to give you something" or "Oh! I got something for you!" I would try to explain the project as little as possible, but telling people that I gave a flower away a day seemed to take away some of the oddness of the situation. People liked being part of the bigger project, knowing they got one of 365 flowers seemed a lot more special that just getting a random individual flower.

What has been the weirdest response to the project?

Hmm .... Strangest reaction: I am going to have to go with 6/4/07: Woman at Georgia Organics function at JCT Kitchen and Bar. She thanked me, slapped it to her forehead and said, "Look! It sticks!"

I did not mention it on the blog, but she leaned forward and and was all bug-eyed when she said, "Look! It sticks!" It was really great.

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