Sunday, March 17, 2019

Early Spring Flowers

Crocus flowers.

The first warm days of March this week brought my crocuses into full bloom. It seems there are three distinct varieties: the pale lilac Crocus thommasinianus, a deep purple variety and a scattering of feathered lilac ones. The last two were part of a mixed crocus assortment I planted there during our first fall here--as I recall, there originally were some yellow ones in this mix, but somehow, the yellows seem to have died out. With so many voles and squirrels that like to eat them, it's hard to keep these bulbs growing from year to year--the yellow ones must have been the tastiest.

Bees love the Crocus thommasiniannus

The C. thommasinianus seem to be the least palatable ones to the rodents, so they have reproduced and are forming nice clumps under the cherry tree in front. The flowers are a-buzz with bees during the sunny afternoon.

Feathered lilac crocuses on the right, and C. thommasinianus on the left
Journal sketch

And of course, I had to sketch a few for my journal. The 'February Gold' daffodils have also opened in the last days. The lavender growing behind it was starting to overtake them and had to be pruned back quite a bit. These will probably need to be divided this coming fall, so I'll have to decide where else I can tuck some of these beauties to advantage.

Daffodil 'February Gold'

It's so wonderful to see green shoots coming up everywhere! I'm hoping my yellow magnolia will have the chance to bloom without blighting frosts this year.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

The Spotted Mandarin

Spotted Mandarin (Prosartes maculata)

Yellow Mandarin (Prosartes lanuginosa)

I'm finally getting the opportunity to work on my painting the Spotted Mandarin (Prosartes maculata). The genus Prosartes, of which there are two species, the Yellow Mandarin (Prosartes lanuginosa) and the Spotted Mandarin or Nodding Mandarin, are members of the lily family which are perennial woodland plants native to the Appalachian region. I saw them for the first time a few years ago during a trip to southwestern Virginia with the Virginia Native Plant Society (VNPS). The Spotted Mandarin is considered rare in Virginia, but not yet endangered.

Inked pencil drawing

Working from my photos, I developed a drawing of two flowering sprigs--one stem with two flowers, and another stem with a single flower. On the stem with the two flowers on the left, you may notice there is a tiny object on the stem just below the clump of leaves. This was a curious thing observed in the field: it mimics a dried leaf so convincingly that one of our team had to point out to me that it was actually an insect, a moth to be precise. I took a close-up shot using my camera's macro setting.

Unidentified leaf mimic moth

I've been fascinated by this tiny moth, and have been trying to identify it--after going through a number of insect identification sites my best guess is that it's a type of Sphinx moth, but I've not been able to find the genus or species. Nevertheless, I wanted to include the details of the moth in my painting, in order to add more interest to the composition with a likely pollinator for the flowers.

Once my inked drawing was transferred to the paper, I used masking fluid on the edges and veins--practicing the Pastoriza techniques learned last fall--and after the mask was thoroughly dry, began laying very light washes of color.

Spotted Mandarin - Step 1

With a gradual build up of colors, the shapes of the flowers and leaves begin to emerge. The white flowers are so pale and delicate, it's a challenge to articulate the tepals and other parts. The veining of the leaves is quite distinctive too, with a sort of puckered pattern. The entire plant is covered with fine hairs, most noticeable on the stems.

Spotted Mandarin - Step 2

Spotted Mandarin - Step 5

I still have a number of things to do before the piece is finished. Perhaps before it's complete, I may have the identity of the mystery moth.