In the 80′s, Craig and I had a Montessori school in our home. Our own kids attended with the children of friends who came each weekday morning. As Christmas approached the first year, the directress brought to the classroom an amaryllis bulb that she had planted. The class put a ruler in the pot and observed the sprouting and growth of the plant- daily measurements could be as much as an inch!
A remarkable plant that produces blossoms which unfold broad petals from a deep core, I felt compelled by the volumes and structure of the flowers, and I began life-sized drawings of them until one day, in a fit of petty anger, I made the scale of the blossom about ten times its actual size. Working spontaneously with the rich tonal range yielded by vine and compressed charcoal while spontaneously analyzing form and light was simply exciting. I increased the scale of the image to 4′ x 4′ which endowed the drawings with a presence that I had not achieved in my work with any subject other than the figure. I was hooked.
I have done multiple suites of these drawings. What had started as “Black Flowers” came to incorporate a limited use of color. And, while I have always drawn the flowers from life, I came to understand this practice placed a lot of pressure on me. I had to match my drawing pace to the endurance of the blossom. It was when I was at this stage of figuring out the “how-to” of producing 4′ × 4′ drawings that I did a series of daylilies. It was like aerobic drawing! I had to beat the end-of-the-day implosion of the flowers, and though a fun challenge, I decided I might find greater satisfaction in using detailed life-sized studies in tandem with the plants themselves to produce the super-sized drawings. Now, I use my life-sized studies, and the actual plants in conjunction with digital images taken from the same viewpoint that I used for the life studies. Cross-referencing visual information from each of these sources has allowed me to integrate texture and the effects of lighting with greater confidence. And, though I have never admired visual detail for detail’s sake, I am newly amazed by the expressive intensity organic delicacy can wield in large-scale drawings. These drawings evidence an evolution of my sophistication in observing their subject, and I enjoy the results and visual logic in each phase of development.