Ink and watercolor in large Moleskine watercolor notebook sketched on site
(Click image to enlarge, select “All Sizes”)
These are some weird plants. We spotted them yesterday on a walk and I couldn’t stop and sketch so I took some photos (see end of post). They look like calla lillies except the part that’s normally white and yellow is nearly black and velvety with bright green stalks. Last night I worked on some thumbnail sketches, trying to make sense of the jumble of leaves and flowers so that I could make a painting of the plant.
Preliminary pencil thumbnail/value study from last night
But I realized I needed more information in order to understand them well enough to paint them. So today, instead of going to the Sketchcrawl in Berkeley, I drove back up to the North Berkeley hills. I found the house and it looked like nobody was home so I set up my little stool in the driveway and started drawing. I was painting when a woman approached me and said, “May I ask what you’re doing?”
“Painting a picture,” I said, holding up the picture to show her. “Is this your house?”
“No, I live next door and I’m trying to get my house out of foreclosure. I get nervous when I see someone studying my house.” (I was sitting facing her house.) She left me alone after telling me the homeowners were away for the weekend but that she shouldn’t be telling me that.
I love the way working outdoors incorporates all the senses. There’s a park nearby and I could hear kids playing soccer and neighbors discussing plumbing and babies, and the whole time I sat there I kept smelling something like fermenting grapes. With the rich purple of the plant, I imagined it was the scent of the flowers, but probably it was coming from a hidden compost bin.
Here’s a photo of the plant. The pink color is a figment of my camera’s imagination but I like it. The flowers actually range from black cherry to black like the one in the foreground with wonderful variations in spring green foliage. I can’t wait to get started on the painting!
UPDATE: I finally found out what this plant is: Dracunculus vulgaris or dragon arum:
“The purplish-red spathe and foul-smelling stench of dragon arum (Dracunculus vulgaris) attracts flies to the base of its erect, flower-bearing spadix. Although it is colorful, this is probably NOT the flower to give to that special someone in a bouquet.”