Showing posts with label Indian pipe painting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Indian pipe painting. Show all posts

Monday, January 14, 2019

Indian Pipe Painting

Indian Pipe (Monotropa Uniflora) watercolor, 13"h x 10"w.

This painting is a new version of one of my favorite plants. Herb and I first came across this member of the Monotropaceae family years ago during a Fourth of July hike we took at Rachel Carson Conservation Park in Maryland when we lived in near-by Sandy Spring. It had been a very wet summer and the tiny flowering stalks of this ghostly apparition were all over the forest floor. I was charmed by their delicate beauty and decided to pick one to take home so that I could draw it.

When we got back to our house a few hours later, I unpocketed my prize only to find that it had turned completely black! In my disappointment I began an internet search, trying to find out what kind of plant it was, and why it was so perishable. I've been captivated by this family of myco-heterotrophic plants ever since, and painted a number of portraits of other family members such as the Yellow and Red Pinesap (Monotropa hypopitys), and the elusive Fragrant Pinesap (Monotropsis odorata) which I've documented in this blog. These members of the Ericacea family (they are relatives of heaths and rhododendrons) live in deep shade, have no chlorophyll to produce their own food, and must draw their sustenance from mycorrhyzal fungi that colonize other trees' roots. 

A few years later, after another very wet spring, we returned to the Rachel Carson tract and found another extraordinary flush of blooms, even lusher than the first one.  By this time I had acquired my first digital camera, and was able to take lots of photos of these flowers. In addition to newer photos, I still use that first set in my artwork, and this painting was done from those.

Wanting to incorporate some of the new techniques I learned at John Pastoriza Pinol's Brookside Gardens workshop, I put masking fluid over the lines after transferring the drawing to the watercolor paper, and laid down very pale washes of the three primary colors.

Step 1: color washes over masked line work

When that was thoroughly dry, it was time to remove the mask, soften the edges of the lines and then gradually build up color. At first glance Indian Pipe appears to be ghostly white, but the color is actually more subtle: the stems have hints of flesh coloring, particularly at the curved neck, and as the stalks age, dark spots emerge here and there where drying or insects have nicked the edges of the filmy scales.

Step 2: building up the color

As with my previous Monotropa paintings, I decided to include some of the dried leaves and debris on the forest floor to give the plants a base, and to allow the pale stems to stand out better.

Step 3: defining the shapes with deeper color

It was hard to decide how much of the forest floor to include, and how far up to extend the background, whether to include some of the green leaves behind. I hope the final painting strikes the right balance.

Step 4: adding a suggestion of green leaves