Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Flowers of May

Along with getting my garden on its feet (that's an odd idiom), I have succeeded in painting a little the past week. I get so torn this time of year. Garden? Paint? Garden? Paint? Some of the spring flowers are so fleeting that they need to be painted or else I have to wait for next year. But my garden can run away on me (those feet again) if I don't get it under control at the beginning of the season.

Our back lawn is covered with wood violets right now. They are so pretty and I much prefer them to the dandelions which are also vying for my attention right now. I dug out a little clump of the violets and potted them so I would have to time to paint them. I am not a quick painter. I never have been. Too detail-oriented for that I guess. Below is my painting in progress and at the very top is my finished wood violet study on Twinrocker hot-pressed watercolor paper.

The paper wasn't completely flat when I finished the painting so I placed it under a pile of big art books. I really didn't pay attention to them at the time. They were serving a utilitarian rather than literary purpose. It was only when I retrieved my painting afterwards that I noticed the top book "The Flowers of May" with a watercolour painting of violets on its cover! I had distractedly chosen the perfect paperweight!

While it would be easy to assume that "The Flowers of May" is a celebration of this month's flowers, it actually pays tribute to a wonderful botanical artist named Caroline May who lived from 1809 until 1874. She painted delicate, beautiful watercolours of British wildflowers. About a thousand paintings of her paintings have survived. This book contains reproductions of ninety of them. I hadn't looked inside this book in years.  Look at Caroline May's painting of wood violets that she refers to as 'Dog's Violet'. Isn't it lovely? I'm so glad I saw it after and not before I had completed my own painting. It was a beautiful moment of serendipity in my week.

Within the same lovely purple palette, my lilacs (Syringa vulgaris) are in full bloom right now. I adore their fragrance and can't resist burying my nose in them each time I pass. You do have to be careful though. Yesterday my nose came very close to a giant bumble bee!

I am very fond of purple, especially blue-purple. My favourite colour is periwinkle (which is somewhere in between purple and blue). The lilac blooms have wonderful combinations of purple, blue and hints of pink. It's just amazing the gradation of colour in each little blossom. With their scent and colour, they are pretty close to a perfect flower for me.

I picked a small lilac sprig to paint. I actually had to pick more than one over the course of finishing my painting as lilacs wilt very quickly.

Here is my lilac sprig painting also painted on Twinrocker paper. The lilac in the photo is not the one I used as my reference for my painting but it's very similar. Wouldn't it be nice if there was a 'click and sniff' button so I could share their sweet, heady fragrance with you? 


18 comments:

  1. When I was little my Nana said her favorite color was purple - so it became my favorite color too. Only I could not pronounce it and it became 'turkle' and that is how we pronounced it from then on. :-)

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    1. Turkle is a beautiful color. :)

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  2. This is a lovely post. I adore the scent of lilac too and I actually caught a whiff when I read about yours! Talk about the power of the mind....or is that the power of the scent! Transcending all those miles between us, computers etc! Mrs A

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    1. Isn't that wonderful! So happy that we were able to share the scent. :)

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  3. Kathleen, merci de votre passage sur mon blog Red Berry. J'abandonne ce blog pour ré-ouvrir mon blog "encre-couleurs". Si vous voulez me rendre visite, cela sera ici désomais :
    www.encre-couleurs.blogspot.fr

    Les violettes et les lilas sont parmi mes fleurs de printemps préférées. Les premières me rappellent ma grand-mère paternelle et les seconds, le jardin de mon enfance. Tout comme vous, je prends grand plaisir à peindre les fleurs au fur et à mesure qu'elles viennent selon les saisons.
    Bon weekend. Ici le temps est maussade.

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    1. Je vais m'inscrire pour votre nouveau blog, Hélène. Merci de me l'avoir dit.

      Ma grand-mère maternelle s'appelait 'Viola' et j'ai une faiblesse pour tous les fleurs dans la famille des Violacées. J'adore les lilas aussi. Ici il fait beau enfin, parfait pour mon travail dans le jardin.

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  4. You´re so talented - and I´m another fan of that scent, it´s lovely! :-)

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  5. Lilacs are my favorite flower, both for color but especially for their scent. Hydrangeas are my almost tied for first place favorite flower too; those gradations of color you mentioned. Your paintings are as beautiful, if not more so than those from the book you shared. I think your work has a more delicate touch which I love!

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    1. Thank you for your kind words about my paintings. They mean a lot to me. :)

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  6. Are there any better colours than purples? Gorgeous Kathleen!

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    1. I do love purple. My bedroom when I was a little girl was painted lilac. I especially love all of the different shades of purple found in the garden.

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  7. I love visiting 'your secret garden' here, Kathleen! what a gorgeous thing to be able to paint the flowers you grow! And these fabulous connections with other artists and their view of the same flowers!
    By the way, I just bought my fist three Holbein colors they were on sale. They are great so far, I would buy them again. I am generally always unhappy with yellows-do you know what I mean? Have you found a very good yellow?
    xxam

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    1. Thank you, Annamaria. You are a welcome visitor in my 'secret garden'. :)

      I have some Holbein paints too. Some of their colours are very pretty. I know what you mean about yellow. It's hard to find a clean, pure yellow that's not too dark. I have about 8 differents yellows. I used to love Winsor and Newton's Chrome Yellow but no longer use it as it is toxic. The two I use most often these days are both W & S - Winsor Yellow and Lemon Yellow (Nickel Titanate).

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  8. Oh, I love violets ! They have a special meaning to me, they were growing in my parents' garden, and when I was a teen, my paternal grandp-mother passed away, and I made her a bouquet of violets from the garden to put on her grave.
    Your watercolors are so realistic, Kathleen, your talent blows my mind away.
    xoxo to you & Meeko

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    1. I like the way we all have memories associated with flowers. I am very fond of tiny bouquets. There is something very special about them.

      Thank you for your oh so kind comments about my painting, Sonia. Your support means so much to me. A hug to you and Gary.

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  9. I love your lilac painting! I've never heard of twinrocker paper, I'll have to check it out! I love watercolours. I miss lilacs; I'm not sure they grow here in Cape Town. At my childhood home in Canada we had a hedge the length of our yard of different colours of lilacs, from white to "lilac" to deep purple. They made such beautifully fragrant bouquets for the home! Lovely post and lovely blog.

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    1. Thank you, Jane, for your kind words!

      That sounds like a very beautiful hedge!

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Thanks so much for taking the time to visit my blog and to leave me a comment. I love reading them. -- Kathleen

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