The Daffodil Thief

Many people are obsessed with particular flowers.

Daffodils, oil on canvas

History is peppered with stories of the adventures of people following a flower obsession. Tulip bulbs were at one time more valuable than the currency of The Netherlands.  Instead of Dutch coins, you paid with tulip bulbs!  It became so serious the government had to deploy armed guards around the tulip fields.

On a recent visit to Light Trap Books in Downtown Jackson, TN, proprietor Lauren Smothers suggested I might like reading Susan Orlean’s The Orchid Thief. While the main story revolves around the life of a colorful orchid expert in Florida, the author goes into great detail about the history of orchids.  Orchid societies abound all over the world to feed the obsession of orchid aficionados. More on that in an upcoming episode!

Reading that book led me to look at my own flower obsessions.  I have to say obsessions because I have never settled on just one flower.  As a child I was obsessed with daffodils for a while. I loved their bright sunny faces that told me that spring was almost here. One spring I lusted after the daffodils that had sprung up all over a neighbor’s yard. There were bunches and bunches of them. I must have been about 6 years old.  I couldn’t resist.  I walked right over there and picked myself a large bouquet of the gorgeous blossoms.

Daffodils, watercolor on paper

Needless to say, my mother was appalled that I would do such a thing.  She made me take my whole bouquet back to the neighbor’s house, knock on the door and apologize for my theft. I cried all the way over to the neighbor’s house and could not summon up the courage to knock on the door.  I put the bouquet down on her porch and ran all the way home.  My mother never asked what the neighbor said and I never told her what I had done. Whenever I see daffodils, I think of the shame of a little girl who acted on her obsession with daffodils. I don’t think I have had the urge to steal flowers from someone else’s garden since. 

However, I do still have flower obsessions! Do you?

The Captivating Amaryllis

Symbolic of success, strength and determination, the Amaryllis’ name means “to sparkle” and so it does!

Symbolic of success, strength and determination, the Amaryllis’ name means “to sparkle” and so it does!

Pink Amaryllis, colored pencil

Symbolic of success, strength, and determination according to FTD.com, the amaryllis is a captivating flowering bulb. Gardener’s Supply says the Greek meaning of the word, “Amaryllis” means “to sparkle” and details the mythological love story Amaryllis and Alteo.  Gardener’s Supply also states that an amaryllis bulb can live for 75 years!

The exotic winter blooming amaryllis has become a part of the Christmas tradition for many people.  For me it began in my grandmother’s last years. She was mostly housebound in those years and my mother decided watching a beautiful flower grow would bring her joy.  My mother was right.  Both my grandmother and her caretaker, Betty, quickly became enthusiastic about the fast-growing bulb.  They kept the yard stick near the pot and made daily measurements of the growth, delightedly reporting every inch. Each year we gave her a different variety and each year the enthusiasm would build as the amaryllis came closer and closer to bloom time. What color would it be? How big would the bloom be? When the bloom day finally arrived friends and family made a visit to observe the amaryllis in all its glory. My grandmother and Betty would show off their gorgeous flower like proud parents whose child had just won the spelling bee.

Those memories came flooding back this year when my dear friend, Celeste, gave both me and another friend, Caroljeanne, amaryllis bulbs for Christmas.  Celeste works with the University of Tennessee Agriculture Center which has an amaryllis yearly sale where she was able to get some wonderful varieties.  The three of us made regular text message reports on the progress of each bulb. Caroljeanne’s delicate pink flower arrived first.  I realized immediately I would have to begin a painting to mark the three bulbs. Celeste’s gorgeous variegated red and white flower arrived second. And finally, my beautiful salmon-colored double petal variety, “Double Dream” made its dramatic presentation.

Instead of replicating my grandmother and Betty with their yardstick, I recorded the rapid growth with my camara. The preliminary work has begun for a painting of the three beauties with a colored pencil drawing of Caroljeanne’s lovely pink flower pictures above.  Next will come Celeste’s variegated beauty. “Double Dream” will bring up the rear as it did with its blooming.  In the meantime, I couldn’t resist showing off the progress of the growth in a slideshow.

For more about buying, growing and caring for Amaryllis bulbs follow these links:

Gardener’s Supply

FTD.com

University of Tennessee Agricultural Center, Jackson, TN

ZOOM Botanical Style Painting Workshops Open

We’ll be covering 3 Steps to Beautiful Botanical Watercolor painting in this three step Zoom workshop.

Purple Pansies, watercolor

Registration is open for the first Two series of 3-Step Botanical Watercolor workshops that will be held in 2 hour increments over 3 weeks. The First part will cover the preliminary drawing and how to transfer the drawing to watercolor paper via tracing paper. Part 2 will focus on detailed under-drawing as the key to depth, shadow and texture. Part 3 is the finished painting in watercolor using layering or glazing techniques to achieve rich color and velvety smoothness in petals and leaves. The first series will feature sunflowers and the second will be on Pansies. Sunflowers will take place on Tuesdays and Pansies on Mondays. Two times will be available for both series. Click on the Workshop button in the side bar or go to the Workshop page. Class size will be limited to provide personal attention. I look forward to meeting new faces and seeing the art work of lots of artists out there. Please don’t hesitate to contact me with questions.

Sunflower, watercolor

Once registered class materials will be made available for download in PDF form.

Coming up soon will be a Student Gallery of work created in the workshops! Help me make a place to showcase what artists are doing in Botanical Painting

Colorful Fridays–Fruity Green

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“Are you green and growing, or ripe and rotting?” Ray Kroc (from Brainyquote)

Many painters rely on Hooker’s Green for the precise replication of the trees of the forest and the grass of the fields but its origins are with the botanical artist renowned for his fruit depictions, William Hooker (1779-1832).  Hooker began mixing colors to get the precise bluish green of apples and other fruits of a green variety.  He shared his green mixture with his contemporary, John Sell Cotman, noted watercolorist and namesake of the Cotman brand of watercolors.  Hooker’s Green has continued to be a mainstay in the paintbox of watercolorists and botanical painters to this day though oil painters enjoy its use, as well.

William Hooker was a botanical artist working for the Horticultural Society of London, when he developed his green, mixing Prussian Blue and gamboge.  Gamboge proved to be fugitive in the mix leading latter artists to prefer the substitution of Aureolin or Yellow Oxide.  For those artists who prefer to mix their own Hooker’s Green, the Prussian Blue is frequently exchanged for Phthalo Blue and mixed with Aureolin or Yellow Oxide for better similarity with the tube version.  Hooker’s Green is a transparent green making it a great choice in the layers of washes and glazes of botanical painting.

William Hooker, botanical artist of the Horticultural Society of London is frequently confused with William Jackson Hooker (1785-1865), botanist and former director of Great Britain’s famed Kew Gardens.  Though the two William Hookers were both noted in the world of botany around the same time period, they are not related.   William Jackson Hooker was a professor of botany before taking the position of director of Kew Gardens.  William Hooker, studied scientific illustration under Francis Bauer before serving as official illustrator to the Horticultural Society of London, (now the Royal Horticultural Society).

Painting fruits, trees, leaves, and grasses is a breeze when adding Hooker’s Green in some form to your palette. Hooker’s Green is the green of growing things.  Whether mixing your own or using the tube variety, today’s versions of Hooker’s Green have a better light-fastness than the original. However, when discussing the inventor of this particular paint color, be sure not to mix up your Hookers.  Not all Hookers are the same.

For more on botanical gardens and botanical painting follow these links:

 The Society of Botanical Artists

 The American Association of Botanical Artists

 The Royal Horticultural Society

Kew Gardens

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