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‘The Power of Flowers’: La Jolla’s fallen foliage helps create book of floral art

Artist Vicki Rawlins' images made of foliage are featured in “The Power of Flowers,” set for release in September.
Artist Vicki Rawlins’ images made of foliage are featured in the book “The Power of Flowers,” set for release in September.
(Laura Quackenboss)

Like many artists, Vicki Rawlins is inspired by La Jolla’s natural beauty. But rather than the seaside or the historic architecture, the part-time La Jolla resident finds herself drawn to fallen foliage and what she finds in the cracks of sidewalks.

With the leaves, twigs and other plant life she takes home (she never picks flowers or anything off trees; she only takes what has already fallen), Rawlins creates floral artworks and collages of people, scenery and other images made of foliage. The pieces are then photographed.

A book containing the prints, called “The Power of Flowers,” is set for release in September.

Vicki Rawlins creates floral artworks and collages of people, scenery and other images made of foliage.
Vicki Rawlins creates floral artworks and collages of people, scenery and other images made of foliage.
(Courtesy of The Quarto Group)

“Three-quarters of the work I have done is out of La Jolla,” said Rawlins, who lives locally during the winter and the rest of the year in Wisconsin. “When I’m here, all I do and all I want to do is work. It’s very inspirational here. The light is perfect and there are flowers all the time.”

In creating her pieces, “sometimes I’m inspired by the subject. It would be something I want to do and I will find a plant or something randomly that inspires me to do it then.”

But a lot of times, she said, “I’m inspired by what I see on the street.”

For example, Rawlins said she’ll find twigs that would make “great hair” or dead bougainvillea that still have some color and pliability. Occasionally, she’ll find a bouquet of flowers and will love “every single one of them” and take it home to create a piece.

“I come home to my table and like to play around with it and see what happens,” Rawlins said. “I use tweezers and scissors to cut and assemble the piece. So instead of a drawing, I’ll draw with sticks. Once I have the pieces where I want them, I photograph it.”

"Playing with plants was, and still is, therapeutic, meditative medicine,” says floral artist Vicki Rawlins.
(Courtesy of The Quarto Group)

Her daughter Brooke added that Rawlins doesn’t use glue to keep her creations in place. “That tends to open people’s eyes because it makes each piece totally temporary,” Brooke said.

Rawlins said “one reason I love this art form is I have to be super present. I can’t think about it too much because the flowers are wilting and will only be around for so long. It forces me to get into a flow and be in this place where I do what I do and hope that it stays the way I made it.”

Wherever she lives, she designates a place to throw away the plants so they can naturally compost or sprout new flowers.

“Three-quarters of the work I have done is out of La Jolla. ... It’s very inspirational here. The light is perfect and there are flowers all the time.”

— Vicki Rawlins

The idea to create a book was broached many times over the years — just not the book that was made.

In addition to collages, Rawlins creates images of people she admires. She created 49 images of artist Frida Kahlo over the years, and Rawlins thought she would create a book called “Foraging for Frida” as “something for my kids to have.”

A book publisher that had followed Rawlins’ work reached out a few years ago with interest. But the idea shifted to creating a book of her prints, including Kahlo.

The result is “The Power of Flowers.”

Rawlins said the intent of the book is to inspire the reader “to unplug from technology and spend more time outdoors — see Mother Nature in a whole new way. … I also encourage playing like you’re a child again, where there was no fear of getting creative and trying new things.”

The book also features how she created each print and the inspiration behind it.

She hopes the book will help others out of dark times, like it did for her.

Rawlins, a lifelong artist, switched to floral arts after she battled an illness almost a decade ago that made it painful to hold a paintbrush or pencil and sit for hours at her easel.

One day she was playing with flowers to create a collage and “for the first time, I wasn’t thinking about how much pain I was in … I was in the flow of creating,” she said. “I needed it and it showed up for me at just the right time. I hope me sharing how I got through some very difficult times, where my world was turned upside down and I needed to turn fear into courage, will help some people. This theme is woven throughout the whole book. Playing with plants was, and still is, therapeutic, meditative medicine.”

Learn more about Rawlins and her work at sistergolden.com. ◆