Creative Thinking: Showing love to cherry blossoms

March 23, 2014 

As my wife and I were walking downtown a few weeks ago, I saw something on the pavement that caught my attention. A cluster of delicate blooms were floating in a small puddle in a parking lot. I simply walked by it at first but then, trying to make sure my eyes weren’t deceiving me, decided to turn around and go back for another look.

Upon closer inspection, I saw a flower with which I am very familiar. There was no doubt about it. The blooms I saw were indeed our famous cherry blossoms.

“You’re not going to believe this,” I said to Debra with excitement. “These are cherry blossoms!” I continued pointing down to the pale pink blossoms.

“What?” she asked bending over to take a closer look. “Are you sure? Isn’t the first weekend in March a little early for them to bloom?”

“Yes, I’m most definitely sure and yes, it is a little early,” I replied.

I quickly pulled out my phone to take a visual documentation of my discovery. I guess deep inside I knew people wouldn’t believe me so I wanted to have some sort of proof. But, no proof was needed for me. Being an artist who has painted them for more than 30 years, I know them pretty intimately. I was just a little shocked with the timing of their arrival.

Unpredictable at best, our famous, beautiful flowering Yoshino cherry trees have a mind of their own when it comes to when they will burst into bloom. I’m sure the weather definitely plays a role in their blossoming but, when they decide to blossom, there is no holding them back.

Like pale pink popcorn popping out all over their oriental branches, you can almost see them opening before your very eyes.

I’ve driven down Ingleside Avenue for an appointment and, when I returned a couple of hours later, there was a visible difference in the amount of blooms that had opened. I guess you could say they are magical trees because in a matter of days they go from dark and twisted branches to being completely covered in a poof of cotton candy-colored blooms. They have the ability to make you gasp, taking your breath away with their beauty.

I met my first cherry blossom all the way back in the early 1980s. I liked it right off the bat because of its color and shape. I took lots of photos and did many sketches trying to capture their subtle nuances and delicate colors. They appear almost translucent, which is one reason I think they are so captivating.

People travel from all parts of the world to see them in our beautiful town. After all, we are the Cherry Blossom Capital of the World, having more trees growing in our soil than in any other soil. Their dreamy pink color has definitely put our city on the map. We all owe them our gratitude.

During the years, I have painted them so many times from so many angles that I told Debra I didn’t know if there was anything else I could do with a cherry blossom. My renderings of them have been on posters, prints, porcelain plates, pins, hats, license plates, note cards and T-shirts. After 30 years of painting them, I wondered what I could possibly do for my design this year. I simply had to put on my pink thinking cap and allow their beauty to continue to inspire me.

Sitting in front of a brightly colored pink sheet of paper early in January, I stared at it for what seemed like hours. I summoned my creative self to come to my aid and help me once again try to capture their amazing beauty.

The image that kept coming to mind was that of a heart. So, I picked up my brush and started to paint small, individual cherry blossoms until they formed a large heart. Fully opened blooms, partially opened ones and buds, worked side by side to become a heart -- an appropriate shape for them to be since I love them so much.

During the last 30 years, they have been very good to me and this was my way of saying thanks.

Almost 50 blooms -- with the help of a few bumbles bees, butterflies and a blue bird -- make up my heart-shaped design for this year. Looking back at my finished painting, I still felt my tribute needed something else so I decided to paint “I love pink” in a clever way to grace the back of the shirt. That way, whether someone wearing the shirt is coming or going, the expression of gratitude will be a shining tribute to the beauty of these cherry trees and how blessed we are to have them.

The trees seem to be timed perfectly with the festivities this year, so get out and enjoy them! Happy Cherry Blossom Festival!

More with Mark

• Mark is again coordinating and emceeing the annual Cherry Blossom Festival Brunch and Fashion Show on March 27. Very few tickets remain. Get more information at www.cherryblossom.com or call 478-751-7429.

• Visit with Mark and more than 200 other vendors March 29-30 at the 44th annual Mulberry Street Arts and Crafts Festival in downtown Macon. In addition to all of Mark’s merchandise, vendors display a wide variety of arts and crafts. Food trucks from all over Georgia will be there as well. Free admission. Rain location is Georgia Farmers’ Market on Eisenhower Parkway

• Mark is on www.macon.com 24 hours a day. Videos, columns and articles are featured.

Mark Ballard’s column runs each week in The Telegraph. Send your questions or comments to P.O. Box 4232, Macon, GA 31208; call 478-757-6877; email markballard@cox.net; or become a subscriber to Mark’s Facebook page.

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