Flowers often become an obsession for many people.
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.
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?
Symbolic of success, strength and determination, the Amaryllis’ name means “to sparkle” and so it does!
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:
Artists regularly utilizing drawing in their work know it sharpens visual skills and heightens awareness of the focused subject. Science is coming around to that awareness, as well, thanks to innovative researchers like Edmond Alkaslassy and Terry O’Day in an article published in Bioscene: Journal of College Biology Teaching, (2002). Art Plantae has been following this subject for years and keeping up with the latest research. Left- brain scientists are embracing right -brain art.
The two researchers, Alkaslassy and O’Day, set out to show the benefits of training the eye to see through a drawing class. Their point was to teach the importance of good observation skills in the science of biology. In other words. the right brain is teaching the left brain to improve its ability to see details.
Having taught botanical-style drawing for several years, I have seen this point played out over and over. A student who has been planting pansies for years but never painted them will suddenly notice the tiny red dot deep within the center of the bloom. Once I began to draw more flora and fauna, I developed enhanced awareness of growth, color, shape and more. My guess is that many other visual artists would say the same.
The evidence is increasingly showing what artists have always known: right -brain or left -brain, we really need both!
Citation: Alkaslassy, Edmond and Terry O’Day. 2002. Linking art and science with a drawing class. Bioscene: Journal of College Biology Teaching 28(2): 7-14. Web. 25 April 2011
Yellow is yellow. Or so it would seem. Or is it? Yellow has many variations though it doesn’t appear to. When painting a daffodil or a sunflower, are there any yellows that can be used besides Lemon Yellow or Indian Yellow, my favorites? I confess to a dislike of any variations of yellow other than these two. If I need to paint shadows in either Lemon or Indian Yellow, I most often use purple for Lemon Yellow and Prussian Blue for Indian Yellow. But what about painting those little nuances in petals that can quickly go flat with too much of the purple/blue additions? Digging around in my yellow paint drawer, at the very back I come up with Yellow Ochre.
Yellow Ochre comes in just about every packaged starter set of paint, oil, acrylic or watercolor. If you’ve ever bought a set, have a look. In every medium-sized set, yellow ochre is nearly always the second yellow. Sometimes buying a set can be less expensive than a single tube, if there is a sale on. When I get those, it’s usually for the browns. The yellows promptly get thrown to the back of the drawer until spring flowers pop up. Then back in the drawer again until late summer when the sunflowers are in force. That’s when I realize I am dissing a timeless classic.
In painting daffodils and sunflowers, Yellow Ochre is the winner for the subtle variances in petals. Yellow Ochre can also be quite effective in the variations of bird feathers as most birds are colored naturally in earthy hues. While Yellow Ochre comes up as number 6 on my list of essential Yellows, it is never the less essentially, essential. When adding a bit of dirt in your art, don’t forget this important yellow once made from dirt.