The Irony of Beauty

I went to the New York Botanical Garden for the first time this weekend and it did not disappoint. A spectacular Orchid Show drew crowds to the historic conservatory, while thousands of visitors strolled the grounds on one of the first sunny days of spring. I could have spent hours painting orchids, but there simply wasn’t space. Instead, I wandered sunlight paths, soaking in the beauty of the place, and scoping out potential subjects for when I return in May to participate in this year’s Plein-Air Invitational.

In the Native Plant Garden, only a few bloodroot were in bloom, but I expect it will be putting on quite a show six weeks from now. At the margin of the garden’s large pool, I was drawn to a group of pitcher plants, still stunning despite being faded and dry. Later, a twisted and broken old willow tree at the edge of a wetland caught my eye. How ironic to find one of the few things on the grounds that had not been pampered or pruned, and yet, was uniquely beautiful all on its own.

Tips and Techniques– Pare down! When you are sketching on location, bringing less is often more. I brought a micron pen, a small set of watercolors, and a waterbrush, and I was glad to find a sepia pencil tucked in my bag. Not only is it easier to carry a smaller kit, but fewer choices may help you simplify when time if limited. If needed, you can always add details or finish later at home.

18 Comments on “The Irony of Beauty

  1. Lovely sketches. You really captured the character of the willow.
    I like the depth you created in the first sketch, a lovely study of these unusual plants.
    That’s exciting that you’ll be at the Plein Air event! 😀

  2. Nobody does faded and dry, twisted and broken better than you do, Jean! You bring out the beauty in everything.

  3. Your pitchers are beautiful! and about that invitational…You and James Gurney in the same place?!? I already wish I could be there, watching you both work!

  4. Wonderful. I cannot agree more with your advice to carry less. Some of the kits that I see folks lugging around stager me. Other than an extra pen what you described is pretty much my go to for travelsketching. Thanks

    • I’ve seen some heavy bags being lugged around, too. I suppose it depends on whether you’re going to sit in one place for hours, too. I’m more inclined to be on the move.

  5. Faded and dry, twisted and broken ~and yet I see so much joy and energy in both of these! They’re really wonderful Jean! Will share via twitter very shortly.

  6. Wonderful post! On one of our islands pitcher plants and sundews grow in huge colonies. Very highly protected. Always a pleasure to find if you know where to look. Theyre almost other-worldly. Thanx for sharing

    • Seeing them in the wild is a wonderful thing. They are really spectacular plants. I loved seeing them up close and in large clumps. The NYBG has a boardwalk that passes by them so you can really get close without disturbing them.

  7. Always stunning and inspiring images and comments from your posts, Jean! I love this one.

  8. Your Pitchers are perfect. Such fascinating plants. Your pages, including the sepia inked tree with personality, are beautiful.

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