Interview -- Drawings of Flora

Name: Susannah Coleman-Browntulipsuspended.jpg
Shop Name: Drawings of Flora
Shop URL:

We would love to know a bit more about the woman behind "Drawings of Flora" (name, age, background, etc.): I'm 27 and I live in a tiny apartment in Melbourne, Australia with my boyfriend Cloud and a few plants. I'm from Tasmania (small island south of the mainland) originally and was always very creative as a young child. I followed my talents/loves (music,dance,drama,art) throughout school until University where I attempted to become a kindergarten teacher (I had romantic notions of quiet classrooms somewhere in Ireland...). Anyway-it wasn't for me and I was far too young, I thought, to be responsible for 30 children every day. I quit, did odd jobs from nannying to administration (I love repettive tasks!) and travelled a bit. Which I didn't enjoy on the whole. For example, Egypt, in the middle of summer is just a stupid idea. Got married (in my case, a particularly stupid idea - at age 20 and moved to Melbourne to study at the best Creative Arts College in Australia-the Victorian College of the Arts (Voice major- Jazz/Improvisation). My husbands idea, as I had none at the time. I worked really really hard, did well, graduated with great marks, got a singing teaching job and some fantastic gigs/recordings, got a divorce then proceeded not to sing, or go anywhere or do anything for three years! I returned to Art slowly by drawing flowers as gifts for my family. I haven't stopped! And so Drawings of Flora began.

Tell us a bit about your business and how you got started: The more I drew, the more realistic and luscious the drawings became. I use only coloured pencils and fine tip pens. The drawings are often mistaken for paintings which I think is great! It means all my hours and hours of blending has paid off! I scanned the originals then had them professionally (expensively!) framed to eventually exhibit. Then I designed greeting cards with the images and later, giclee prints on beautiful premium papers. As each original drawing can take about a month to complete (drawing between 1-3 hours a day approx.) I like utilising each image as much as I can.

The other aspect to Drawings of Flora is commissioned works. I get requests to draw particular species/varieties and I have a beautiful pamphlet where the customer can specify the paper, size, composition and even select a background effect from my samples. I've found that people like to be involved with the process of planning a piece of art for their home, but some will to leave it to me.

It's absolutely vital personally- to make affordable art of the highest possible quality. My prints are Unlimited Editions to try and keep costs down for customers (and I hate the idea of someone missing out on the one they love). I'm extremely picky when I get my work framed so that the standard is superb and consistent.

How long have you been doing your craft? I attended a fantastic children's school of art and design in Hobart, Tasmania when I was 11 or 12-through till I was nearly fifteen I think. It was there that I can honestly say I learnt the most about drawing techniques. The class size was no more than 6 or 7 students once a week, for about 2.5 hours. It was so fantastic. I wish I could still attend! I have always drawn really, but it's these last few years I've allowed myself to take it seriously and make it a priority over singing/songwriting.

Apart from art, what are your other interests? Lately? Learning to play the drum kit. It's so much like dancing, but you get to sit down! Of which I am a dedicated fan. I also write and illustrate children's books and last year, started an Artist Group (we call it the mutual appreciation society as it isn't a forum for critique). I found that after such intense creative training at the VCA I attended, I felt quite isolated and vulnerable after I graduated. There were no lecturers to help, guide or challenge and I was frustrated to feel blocked creatively. So, I started a group! To encourage each other, drink wine, eat homemade soup and hear about current and future projects, attend each others performances etc etc. There's an actor, a poet, an author/journalist who has interviewed people like Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson and Kinky Freidmann (spelling?), a retired ballet dancer who is an extremely talented Choreographer and me (visual artist and hermit singer/songwriter!). I have also become interested in 'blogging' where I post works in progress. I'm even planning to film my drawing process then play it back really fast-like time lapse photography.

What inspires you? Flowers, obviously...brilliant cinematography...fabric...ceramic forms...definitely other artists...good movie soundtracks. My own need to contribute to the world creatively or respond to the world...that inspires me. It's more a compulsion really.

Is there a certain piece of yours that is your favourite, or epitomizes everything you love about what you do? There is a piece that springs to mind, so that's what I'll talk about. It's called 'Memory of a Muse'and it's a drawing of a tulip species called a 'Parrot Tulip'. It has frilly edges to the petals and the blooms are quite large. It started as a realistic drawing, then totally metamorphosed into this swirling romantic, spiritual and intensely emotional piece that I have only now been able to part with. It took an extremely long time to finish. Very very demanding of me personally. I believe I tried to settle an argument between a dear friend who died the year before-through this drawing. We weren't reconciled before he died and naturally, I had a lot I needed to pour into it.

What handmade possession do you most cherish? A handmade acoustic guitar made of huon pine and other Tasmanian woods. It was made by a family friend who is a superb musician and artist himself. He's known me since I was born and he gave it to me on my wedding day. He was annoyed because he used the wrong varnish on it so it's a thick, deep treacle colour on the body. But I loved it.

Name your top 5 books, movies, songs/musical groups, and websites:
This list is ever changing, but here goes.
The Red Tree by Shaun Tan (exquisite picture book and it happens to be in front of me)
Cloudstreet by Tim Winton
The Turning by Tim Winton
The Harvest by Maggie Beer (it's a cook book but it is huge, has an embroidered cover and Maggie is just a delight)
Flower Portraits by Joyce Tenneson (photography)
The Secret of Roan Innish
Good Will Hunting
Angels in America (technically a series. Jaw-droppingly good script)
Lilo and Stitch
Wings of Desire (Wim Wenders)
Fast (2) from album 'Different Trains' Steve Reich played by Pat Metheny
Mary Chapin-Carpenter (all her ballads)
John Martyn
Bruce Cockburn
Damien Rice

Name some Etsy shops that are your personal favourites? (ceramics) (ceramics) (jewellery/wood) (seriously, it's my favourite and that is that).

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  1. I found your site on technorati and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you.

    Jason Rakowski

  2. Wow! It feels strange (but good) to have the interview 'up'. It looks good and thanks so much again for asking me to share. By the way, I read your post on the valentines order for that couple who wanted their love-letters bound. What a lovely idea. And they came up so well. The leather heart shapes were a nice touch, too.


  3. Susannah, your work is amazing and deserves a feature. :) Thanks for doing the interview with me!