Recently, as a gift for a friend, I painted a pineapple.
Feeling inspired by botanical art, I gathered reference material, made pages of color samples and detail studies, bought a pineapple to observe, and composed the image with leaves, fruit, and stem.
I chose to work in watercolor for this project, and began by experimenting with color blends and washes. The first two columns on the page below are colors right out of the tube. To the right of each pair are three mixes at various strengths. It was really exciting to see all these colors flow onto the page.
A formally trained botanical artist would have done this a little differently.
Ideally, I would have worked from the entire plant. However, December in Alaska is not the best time or place to find a pineapple plant, complete with leaves and stems. Also, my painting is not life-size. Those things would have been fun, but were not essential to my project. I simply wanted my gift to evoke the charm and complexity of my friend’s favorite fruit.
My friend was as delighted as I hoped he would be, and I got to eat the pineapple. Here is the finished piece.
I admire the accomplishments of trained botanical artists.
Their work combines scientific observation, aesthetics, and an occasional bit of weirdness to make things really interesting. Historically, many of the finest botanical artists have been women, a trend that continues. Modern practitioners are reviving and transforming the tradition, while preserving its high standards.
You can find astonishing and elegant botanical works (and some of that weirdness) online. To see examples, or to learn about training to be a botanical artist, I encourage you to visit the websites of the American Society of Botanical Artists and the (British) Society of Botanical Artists.
For this week’s installment in my series “How it Looks in a Frame,” and for an example of something closer to a botanical painting, I present my watercolor September Fireweed. A botanical painting must show correct scale, color, and detail. Because I had the entire specimen to observe, I was able to represent the many colors and details accurately, and at the same size as the actual branch.
I always add some home furnishings to “in the frame” shots, because an artwork resonates with its surroundings. In this case, the fireweed branch and the vase really harmonize!
Being a working artist has its joys and challenges, but, through it all, your support and encouragement sustain me. Thank you so much for being my audience.