Blog / 2023 / Daffodil-icious

November 1, 2023

[video transcript]

If you want to see more of my series about mental health, you can click through to the online gallery. Jocund Company isn’t the only piece from that collection that had a rather circuitous development: Threat Level Cupcake did too. You can see the making of the octopus painting here, and you can buy your own belly-bouche shirt here.

two figures with daisies for faces, eyes on their chests, and gaping mouthes for bellies
Gwenn Seemel
Of Two Minds (Belly-bouche Twins)
marker, tempera paint sticks, and oil paint marker pens on paper
14 x 11 inches

The original drawing of the daisy belly-bouche twins is for sale for $200 plus shipping (and tax if you live in New Jersey)—contact me if you’re interested.

a field of daffodils, but two of the flowers are monstrous figures hiding amongst the blossoms
Gwenn Seemel
Jocund Company
acrylic on panel
14 x 11 inches

The original daffodil piece is for sale for $1200 plus shipping (and tax if you live in New Jersey)—contact me if you’re interested. There are prints and pretty things here in my print shop.

two monstrous daffodil figures hiding amongst the other blossoms
detail of Jocund Company

This painting is titled Jocund Company after a line in a Wordsworth poem about observing nature and delighting in it, but the image didn’t start out being inspired by English lit.

It began in 2015 as this painting of a crocodile, which I turned into this shirt through my print-on-demand shop. By focusing the design on just the lizard’s smile, I made clothing that showed off both my art style and my personal style, which I define as a brightness tinged with dark whimsy. For years I wore the shirt, reveling in the way it turned my belly into a “bouche,” which is the French for “mouth.”

And then, in 2019, I made this sketch. I’d been working on letting my brain wander as I drew and, one day, this came out. A couple years later, I went back to the image, drawing it again. And then I eventually solidified it into this: one of the first paintings I started work on for my Everything’s Fine series, the paintings about mental health. But this artwork languished for two years, mostly staring down at me resentfully from where I’d hung it on my studio wall.

In 2023, I dove back the image, first by switching up the octopus in this sketch and then by making a whole new painting of the cephalopod. I got rid of the belly-bouche entirely and emphasized the eyeball in a new way. But just because I’d pulled the tentacles out of the original image and made them their own thing didn’t mean I was ready to give up on the belly-bouche figure.

I decided she needed a twin and I replaced the head with blossoms. At first, I was into dandelions—I even tried to turn the sketch into a painting. Then I settled on daisies, which didn’t feel totally right, but this image did help me figure out a way to do the coloring of the figures. And, once I hit on the idea of using a poem by William Wordsworth as inspiration, I knew that the heads would need to be daffodils.

This is Wordsworth’s poem:

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

This poem—my father’s favorite and one that I was encouraged to memorize as a kid—celebrates solitude and nature. I love the poem and the simple pleasures it names, but I also love the idea that belly-bouche monsters might linger among the ten thousand golden flowers that made the poet so gay. Because for me that’s the most jocund company of all: the tinge of dark whimsy among all the brightness.

Maybe this post made you think of something you want to share with me? Or perhaps you have a question about my art? I’d love to hear from you!


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