|Variable-Leaf Heartleaf (Hexastylis heterophylla) and Little Brown Jug (Hexastylis arifolia), |
watercolor with colored pencil, 17"h x 14"w.
Here's my most recent painting: an illustration of two unusual plants from the forests of southwestern Virginia. Hexastylis are part of the Aristolochia family (Pipevine), and considered a segregate of the genus Asarum (Wild Ginger). These plants are native to the eastern US forests and like Wild Ginger, have inconspicuous flowers that hide under the foliage. The flowers are pollinated by ants and/or beetles.
I saw these plants for the first time during a Virginia Native Plant Society (VNPS) spring field trip to this area in 2017. The unusual flowers, the "Little Brown Jug" (Hexastylis arifolia) and the weirdly-mottled, elaborate flower of the Variable-Leaf Heartleaf (Hexastylis heterophylla), intrigued me, and I wanted to illustrate both plants in one painting.
The flowers bloom in the spring just as the leaves are emerging from the ground. I worked from a number of different photos, some taken in different locations, so it's quite possible that the mature leaf on the lower left is actually yet another species, Hexastylis virginica--there were no flowers on that specimen photographed in Pandapas Pond in late summer.
|Line drawing in ink|
As usual, I started my painting with a pencil drawing and once I'd settled on a final composition, inked the lines to trace onto the watercolor paper. At first I had thought of including a lovely orange eft (a juvenile salamander) photographed at a different location during the same trip, it was such a neat thing to capture on film! You can see a bit of the drawing of the eft under the tracing paper here, but I discarded this idea as detracting from the original intent, which was to focus on the unusual flowers of these plants.
|First stage: colored pencil on the flowers with watercolor underpainting.|
Unfortunately, I didn't take any other photos along the way to the finished piece. The hardest part of the painting was deciding how much of the leaf litter to include, and how to shape it to give continuity to the painting while presenting the plants in context. I hope the finished painting gives the impression of looking at a small piece of the ground in the woods.