The Art of Discovery

I could paint the colorful planter of flowers on my porch or the stately trees in my yard, or the golden field nearby, and sometimes I wonder why I don’t. Instead, I’m drawn this week to what most people would consider far less beautiful—a mass of polypore fungus emerging from a red maple growing (and dying) along a stream. But a sense of discovery and curiosity has long been integral to my art. I love finding things and finding out about things, and then keeping those discoveries between the pages of my sketchbook.
Tips & Techniques– These fungi were strikingly white, but translating white objects onto white paper is tricky. Whites come to life when placed next to darks. I had to look at this group of fungi over and over to begin to see the subtle values and to pick out the mid-tones and darkest darks. When painting whites, keep looking at what’s next to your lightest areas; squint; and keep evaluating whether you’ve got a good range of values from light to dark on your paper.

19 Comments on “The Art of Discovery

  1. Wonderful subject matter and beautifully rendered. Thank you for the advice on how to achieve this ‘look’ – I greatly appreciate the tips.

  2. Ah, but to see beauty in unexpected places and share these discoveries is a noble mission! Here’s a nice quote that says it all: “Our job, as we see it, is to be curious about the world and be open to the sudden appearance of unexpected beauty and the profound recognition that can come at those moments when we slip out of “I” and into “Eye”. These moments are gifts and we are meant to bring them forth into the world.” (from Ann Trusty and John Hulsey – The Artist’s Road)

  3. Love discovering these things too. Coincidentally, just yesterday took a walk to my favorite woods and started particularly looking for fungi and mushrooms, easy to overlook if not concentrating on finding them, under leaves, etc. . So many sizes, shapes and colors from bright red to black and white. Was going to try a page with all the different kinds on it, now I have great instructions on how to do the white ones! Thanks, Jean.

    • It seems like this is a time of year when a number of fungi are out. I’ve been seeing lots. Glad I had a chance to paint these. Enjoy studying and painting the ones you see.

  4. Jean, I hear your story about enjoying the challenge of painting uncommon objects in nature. I love your attempt to paint the (we call them barnacles) growing on the trunk of the tree. The colors representing white work perfectly against contrasting dark values in the trunk. Well done. I look forward to seeing your future posts on the fields of grass, forest and scenery in the close environment where you live.

  5. Your sketchbook drawings are so ‘complete’, just beautiful. And I am with you, love the hidden and sometimes unusual shapes and forms of things such as fungi.

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