What inspires me to paint "Days Apart"...

While at the On The Balcony exhibit last weekend a friend and very talented artist asked what inspired me to paint Days Apart. It's a great question since a caterpillar and Pawpaw blooms isn't the typical floral subject.

Lots of folks know me as a graphic artist and photographer. Some know I paint and draw and others seem surprised. I can't imagine being a graphic artist without good drawing skills. What many folks don't know is I have long been interested in plants and gardening. For years I belonged to the American Camellia Society which has a local chapter and the American Azalea Society in order to learn more about hybridizing goals and plant attributes. I'm crazy about azaleas and did some evergreen azalea hybridizing many years back.

Our last move turned my gardening world upside down, loosing the shade and good soil I had taken for granted. So instead of forcing my favorite plants on this plot of land I decided to take my cue from what was thriving naturally. When we moved from our last house we only brought a few specimens. The one original azalea hybrid I moved with us has flourished against the odds. Our current location is an often dry, sandy, pine/oak scrub micro climate which makes a formal landscape high maintenance. Near the studio you immediately see oaks and pines, a few black cherry trees and weedy Mimosa thickets. A closer look, beyond a few common nursery plants, reveals a rather diverse assortment of native trees, bushes, perennials and vines. Something is always flowering or putting on a show of color. Lots to inspire.

Why a Pawpaw? Pawpaws are not well suited to nursery production, not fast growing or easy to relocate with a tap root that can reach twelve feet. They are rather inconspicuous in the wild so few viewers of the painting will find the blooms familiar. Days Apart is an exploration of the color change that particular Pawpaw's bloom goes through over a few days. Those blooms are quite different from the creamy white blooms on the other Pawpaws near the studio (as shown in this photo).

Here's a partial list of native plants I have identified around the studio.
  • Flag Pawpaw
  • Narrow-leaf Pawpaw
  • numerous Oak varieties
  • Sand Pine
  • Longleaf Pine
  • Mimosa
  • Scrub Plums
  • Parsley Haw
  • Flowering Dogwood,
  • Redbud
  • Black Cherry tree
  • Winged Sumac
  • Devil's Walkingstick
  • Blackberry
  • Sparkleberry 
  • Wax Myrtle
  • Beautyberry
  • Saw Palmetto
  • Spanish Bayonet
  • Gopher Apple
  • Milkweed
  • Sandhill Wireweed
  • Blackroot
  • Snakeroots
  • Hair Indigo (non-native)
  • Tickseed
  • Green Eyes
  • Silky Golden-Aster
  • Dotted Horsemint
  • Florida Elephant's-foot
  • Blazing Star
  • Dog Fennel
  • Tread-softly (ouch! Stinging Nettle)
  • Lopsided Indian Grass
  • Saw Grass
  • Hairgrass
  • Cherokee Bean
  • Prickly-pear Cactus
  • Muscadine Grape
  • Butterfly-pea
  • Virginia Creeper
  • Carolina Jessamine
  • Coral Honeysuckle
  • Passionflower
and a few we have added...
  • Sweetgum
  • Fringe Trees
  • Coontie
  • Lovegrass
  • Firebush
  • East Palatka Holly
  • Flame Azalea
Many gardeners might think of these plants as weeds and well, some easily earn that title even in a native landscape. Yearly weather changes have some natives thriving and send others into quick decline. You need to roll with the changes if you want to experience native plants as they naturally grow. I can't say I miss the messy Pokeweed. The Poison Oak, Greenbrier vines and Tread-softly are welcome to leave any time! -pw

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