I’ve always loved the understated elegance and rhythm of this plant, which grows happily in my mother’s garden amongst the vinca, snowdrops and sweet woodruff . I was therefore very glad to see ‘Solomon’s Seal’ on the plant list and be given the opportunity (and push) to finally paint it.
It’s definitely not my usual sort of subject (Green! Leaves! Oh my!), so it was a challenge in several different ways. This was also the first time I’ve painted to scale, and measuring was definitely not my favourite part of the preparation.
I’ve often sketched this plant, and will probably paint it again in different stages, as the emerging shoots are stunning and very occasionally (maybe twice in my memory, so this might be a very long-term plan) it weathers to a glorious skeleton.
I planted some in my own garden with the intention of having a living specimen to hand, but it turns out that young plants are much, much smaller than mature clumps, so rather than painting my own ‘bonsai’ version, I made several trips to the original plant.
I took hundreds of photographs over three sessions, and played for quite a while with composition sketches, finally deciding to keep it very simple. I carried this simplicity through to the palette, using only three colours (WN transparent yellow, DS indanthrone blue, WN permanent alizarin crimson).
There were several characteristics of the plant which I wanted to highlight in the final painting – the dramatic difference in both texture and colour between the underside and the top of the leaves, the way that low late winter sunlight glows through them, and the springy nature, almost wing-like, that the leaves have as they grow from the stem. I’m unsure how successful I was with this in the execution, but I like to have a vague idea of the final effect in mind as I pootle along!