Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Queen Anne's Lace

Queen Anne's Lace- 6" x 6", Oil on Panel, Bridget Grady
"At the Wicket"- Ivan Shishkin
The best thing about being back in New England is witnessing  the change of seasons. It was something Jay and I both missed when living in Singapore.Watching the succession of wildflowers blooming throughout the spring and summer months will never get old . It is a constant reminder of time, place, and memory. For me, it also serves as a botanical calendar. "Sticky Note" messages provided by the plant world.  The blooming of Queen Anne’s Lace, and the blue Chicory that grows beside it, is a visual reminder that my Aunt Betty’s birthday is not far off. 








Elizabeth Heal Grady(Aunt Betty)is a former teacher of art history and a perpetual lover of books. It was Betty who gave me my first real art book as a Christmas present. It was a book of M.C. Escher woodcuts, and it blew my 10 year old mind. Still does,and she has been adding to my art library ever since! Thank You Betty! And Happy Birthday!

I’ve been particularly aware of the Queen Anne’s Lace blooming along the roadsides and un- grazed pastures this year. It seems extra robust.For the very  first time it has appeared in my own ”garden”. I tried for years to get those white lace beauties, paired with the equally stunning ultramarine chicory, to grow in what once was a well attended garden. No luck. They just wouldn’t reside there.They had escaped  from colonial gardens and adapted to the freedom of the wild.Apparently they snubbed eight inches of compost for a life of living on the edge. This year, however, I’ve have triumphed and have a lovely patch for the first time.
The secret? Complete  neglect:)!

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Every year I say to myself I’m going to paint delicate flowers, but when painting flowers from strict observation, timing is of the essence. Procrastination just doesn’t cut it, and I kept missing the flowering stage. Just recently,I came across a couple of images on the web that reminded me I had better get to it or wait yet another year.One was on James Gurney’s blog featuring an image of a “Weedy Garden” by Ivan Shishkin.




Weed Fest ( I kinda like it this way)
"Corner of a Overgrown Garden- Goutweed"- 1884-
Ivan Shishkin















"Oak Grove"-1887- Ivan Shishkin
The image on the Gurney blog reminded me of  my once well cultivated piece of turf that now looks very much like the painting by Shishkin. Shiskins's painting is is entitled "Goutwort,Parabolo,.., but I 'd have to agree with Mr. Gurney that is looks much more like Queen Anne's Lace.It's hard to tell from the painting. Both Goutwort, also refered to as Bishop's weed, and Queen Anne's Lace have an umbel flower structure. Their leaf shapes are quite different.

Both are considered invasive
species. Though the Queen Anne's Lace can have some beneficial qualities if kept under control.  Many wildflowers resemble each other. If one cannot closely to compare their botanical structures it can be easy, and occasionally dangerous to confuse them.(See this Link).For instance, Queen Anne's Lace and Water Hemlock look very similiar but the Water Hemlock is toxic!
If one looks through Shishkin's paintings a white lace-like flower is a common feature in many of his works.Some seem to resemble Goutweed and others more aptly fit the physical description of Queen Anne's Lace. Thank you Mr. Gurney for sharing this artist!






 "Pine Forest, Vyatka Province"- 1872,- Ivan Shishkin
The other image I saw that prodded me into capturing these wildflowers in paint was from Robert Zeller's Teaching Studios Plein Air Competition blog.I took a cast drawing class from Rob as part of my research into drawing pedagogy about 5 years ago.He's great instructor and  the founder of a growing atelier in Brooklyn and Long Island. I ran across a picture of a Queen Anne's Lace flower on his Facebook page.I figured it was yet another message from the universe that I had better get at least one painting in before the season is over!The Chicory has been a bit tricky to paint.It only blooms for about 4 hours and during that time it changes from a deep ultramarine to a very pale lavender white.One has to get to it by about 7am around here. Painting time is over by noon.We'll see if I get to it before it's bloom time is over!

Queen Anne's Lace and Chicory





Water Hemlock( Toxic)










Goutweed( Invasive)





Hogweed (Extremely Toxic and Invasive)



Cow Parsnip(Native, Skin Irritant)














For those of you who are unfamiliar with James Gurney's blog, Gurney Journey,you should definitely subscribe. It is a wealth of information for anyone interested in contemporary realism, history,and pedagogy. He is an accomplished artist,illustrator and author of several books. generous with his knowledge and research. His book" Imaginative Realism" is well worth adding to the drawing library and was one I recommended to my students interested in Concept Art or Illustration.
For those of you in the New York Area you might want to stop in to Zeller's atelier.
The Teaching Studios
For more information on Ivan Shishkin or Queen Anne's Lace visit the links below.





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