It’s National Wildflower Week!

Three yellow cactus flowers in New Mexico to celebrate National Wildflower Week

Wildflower season is in full swing, so be sure to get out there and enjoy the colors and scents!

May 2-8 is National Wildflower Week! I only found out yesterday, thanks to a scan of the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center’s Instagram feed. (blush). It does make for a nice kick-off to the 2016 Wildflower Wednesday season, 😉 .

Here are some great botanical gardens, arboretums, and nature centers offering events and programs to celebrate:

The dates for National Wildflower Week vary by geographic climate band, so you may want to check with some of your local arboretums and gardens to see what’s going on in your area.

How will you enjoy your local wildflowers this week?

The search for a perfect botanical specimen

. . . Or, how to make the produce manager at your local grocery store run for the nearest exit! 😀

How important is cosmetic perfection of specimens  for botanical artists today?

Pineapples are in season–challenging to paint and delicious to eat!

Recently I had an idea for a painting of a pineapple, and went to a local grocery store to find one. There were lots of pineapples, and at a very reasonable price. Unfortunately, most of the ones on display had battered and scarred leafy stems, thanks to rough handling during transportation. When I asked the produce manager on duty if there were any with “pretty” tops, he gave me the hairy eyeball, and told me to check back the next morning (when he would be safely off-duty, lol).

Contemporary botanical art has lots of examples of “damaged” fruit and flowers. There even seems to be a bit of a vogue for painting decayed and desiccated plants. However, most of these artworks feature natural imperfections such as the chewing of grazing insects or animals, scar tissue caused by diseases or parasites, the soft colors of detritus on the forest floor. Bruising, scars and rot caused by modern agricultural production and marketing are hard to find in contemporary botanical art.

So, the question is: How do botanical artists find those glossy specimens portrayed in their work? Do they just make statistical assumptions about the completed shape of that torn leaf and “fill in the blanks”? Or do they paint it warts and all, even if those commercially made warts aren’t as romantically pretty as a lacy, bug-eaten leaf?

If you’re a botanical artist/illustrator, are a realist painter or keep a sketchbook of observational drawings, please leave a comment and describe what you do and think about grocery store specimens! Or take the poll below.

Current projects: Fall bounty

Last Sunday was cold and snowy here in the high desert. I didn’t need much encouragement to spend the day in the studio drawing and painting.

I love decorative gourds and Indian corn. They are so colorful, and challenging to draw, what with all the knobs and kernels and twisting leaves.

Three decorative gourds on tile, a watercolor and colored pencil on paper botanical art study.

More of a still life than a botanical painting. I decided to place these gourds in an environment, rather than floating in empty, white space.

The simple round and elliptoid forms of winter gourds look odd to me when composed with a blank, white background. Placing them on colorful Talavera tile gives them more gravity, plus it lets me play with differing degrees of rendering vs. impressionism. After some washy watercolor layers, I began defining the gourds with colored pencil.

Pencil drawing on layout paper of decorative maize. A work in progress in Wren Allen's studio.

At some point, you just have to grit your teeth and render every kernel!

We drove through Española a couple of weeks ago and picked up some Indian corn and gourds at a produce stand. I’ve been daunted at the complexity of the challenge in drawing the ornamental corn cobs, with their multiple colors and the textures–and of course, their wild head of hair! The cob leaves dry into all manner of twisting ribbons and forms. Also, as the corn is fertilized, the seeds grow in unruly rows and spirals. No neat grids or tidy Fibonacci spirals here!

I stopped this drawing when I realized that with each progressive row, I had decreased the height of the kernels, leaving a gap between. Yikes! Time to pull out the eraser and try again. 🙂

 

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