Lush, Green and Warm

The northern winter can start to feel long about this time of year, so I like to take a trip someplace warm and green to buoy my spirits and provide inspiration. I’m not talking about Florida or the Caribbean or Mexico, the destination of choice for many in February and March. No, I’m just talking about paying a visit to the nearest greenhouse. I met three artistic friends at the Lyman Conservancy at Smith College in Northampton, Mass. and, while snow blew sideways outside the glass, we enjoyed sketching for a few hours surrounded by tropical splendor. It’s enough to get me through another week.

Tips and Techniques– I really learned my lesson this week: tackle what you can handle in the time and space you have. I spent about 45 minutes trying to do a complex negative painting of pitcher plants while standing up in a tight corner of the humid greenhouse. It was a disaster. I kept thinking I might salvage it, but finally cut my losses and began again. I drew this second page in about 15 minutes and gathered enough information to finish painting it at home. Abandoning a painting that isn’t working is hard to do. But sometimes a fresh start is the best way forward.

20 Comments on “Lush, Green and Warm

  1. What a great painting, and great idea to go to a greenhouse! This picture was well worth all your efforts.

    • I’ve never thought of them as creepy– maybe it’s the carnivorous nature you dislike. Out of all the plants at the conservatory, I am always drawn most to these.

  2. This is beautiful! I’m fortunate to be able to volunteer at our local conservatory every Tuesday. I need to take my sketchbook along.

    • Oh, Katie- yes. What a great opportunity you have. The nearest conservatory is 1.5 hours away, so it’s a treat to go there. There’s so much going on that it’s always hard to choose what to focus on.

  3. Pitcher plants are among my favorite exotics! Your 15 minute sketch looks effortless, Jean. I’m so happy you’re sketching outing “inside” what must be a fascinating greenhouse was just the ticket to buy another week closer to Spring!
    But pause and rewind …. it’s hard to believe you ever discard any painting tho, even one as complex as described! Impossible to believe there was nothing salvageable? What an invaluable lesson for those of us bogged down with details that never end. It seems I must learn these lessons repeatedly, and would love to learn more about why the negative painting was abandoned. I do love your tips and techniques about all you share. Thank you so much. Wishing you a speedy Spring arrival.

    • Hi Barb– My main problem with the piece I abandoned was that I found it hard to let the layers dry (which is essential), especially in humid conditions and tight time pressure. So the watercolor got murky and lost transparency. It had interesting elements, but it would never be fresh or appealing. Bad paintings happen to all of us!

      • Thanks so much Jean for sharing your lessons. I wouldn’t have considered drying time, especially inside a humid greenhouse! I’m always learning,

  4. (Comment got cut off earlier, trying again. And having got your reply, I realize I should make the effort and go!)


    div dir=”ltr”>Funny, when I saw the subject line I did indeed wonder where you might be. Turns out you were

  5. First off I get the part about tiring of the cold. As far as the giving up and starting over I get that as well. Often I end up doing a really loose, hardly any detail at all sketch, one I am not even sure is worth posting on my IG account, but I post it anyway and it gets more action than one I worked really hard on, go figure.

  6. I love the funky rhythm of these hanging pitcher plants. I love the Smith greenhouses—especially having my five year old grandson take me through them to find the Buddha and the pond with the large frog. This is “his” place and he is a great tour guide. So glad you got your “hit” of the tropics.

  7. it’s wonderful to have a greenhouse within striking distance – there’s no better place in the late winter. I like this happy tangle of pitcher plants. You were smart to start again!

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