Archive for Wildflower Illustrations

Bloomsday 2015

Bloomsday 2015 . . .

Catalpa speciosa (Bloomsday 2015)

Catalpa speciosa
(Bloomsday 2015)

“Under the upswelling tide he saw the writhing weeds lift languidly and sway reluctant arms, hising up their petticoats, in whispering water swaying and upturning coy silver fronds. Day by day: night by night: lifted, flooded and let fall. Lord, they are weary: and, whispered to, they sigh.”

– Excerpt from “Episode 3 – Proteus” of Ulysses by James Joyce

Re-Joyce. Today is Bloomsday.

– rPs 06 16 2015

Postscript: I again refer to my definitive narrative on the significance of Bloomsday to Wildflowers of the West Village: “Bloomsday”

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Taxicabs and The Easter Egg Effect

Taxicabs and The Easter Egg Effect . . .

Snow Drop on Sunday

Snow Drop on Sunday

Wildflower City Firsts With Full Effect

A colony of dandelions as yellow as taxicabs scattered themselves on a browned hillside. Taxicabs, ironic in the color meets Latin cadence of Taraxacum, the official. Taraxacum Taxicabs.

And groundsel, another daisy Asteraceae and an active commuter, stood firm and flush in full yellow bloom.

Taraxacum Two-Step NYC (01 2015)

Taraxacum Two-Step
NYC (01 2015)

Bright, warmer than the season’s usual early winter face: January on a Sunday afternoon remained mild.

Groundsel Epiphany NYC (01 2015)

Groundsel Epiphany
NYC (01 2015)

A foot of snow covered the scene one week later. A sky grey like actual polished lead hung the air heavy with damp deep cold riding a wind that scoured.

Two and a half months of brown, white, and blue with an emphasis on the white has taken another form in the sustained full sun of March. A very few Galanthus nivalis have appeared. Cautious egg white snowdrop heads shaped like ornamental streetlamps peer from leaf litter soaked with snow melt. Puddles in undeveloped areas, lots and parks, have formed shallow ponds of perhaps a quarter acre in surface area up to one foot in depth.

And on Palm Sunday, Passover and Easter just days away, egg yolk yellow spoke an internal smile set in eyes of palest purple: the croci, feral for the most part in fact. City spots here and there overnight decorated with wild plant life: a park corner, a tree pit, grassy curbsides. The random and sparse spread produced The Easter Egg Effect in my own wildflower city hikes set on random and at the speed of meditation.

Croci Afternoon NYC (03 2015)

Croci Afternoon
NYC (03 2015)

Spring has arrived in the western side of Manhattan.

– rPs 03 31 2015

Postscript: The Easter Egg Effect, The High Line edition –

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Anything but Plain

Anything but Plain . . .

Why mow this pretty lawn . . . It’s in bloom! (photo taken 09 25 2012)

One immigrant wildflower of the West Village arrived on the western hemisphere with the earliest of the European colonists. The presence of this plant along the margins of their settlements inspired neighboring natives to call it White Man’s Footprint. Lawns and sidewalk cracks everywhere today sport the bigfoot oval leaves and stubby green spikes of the common Broadleaf Plantain, Plantago major.

A flowering Broadleaf Plantain displays its distinctive footprint. (photo taken 09 28 2012)

Another relative in the Plantain family is, to my eye, one of the most attractive of the naturalized wildflowers. The bloom of this plant is neither colorful nor large, and it is not rare or secluded. What it does possess is the slender grace of its basic form, the geometry of its flowering, which combined provide the primary source of its beauty.

The species I praise so highly is the Ribwort Plantain, more commonly known as English Plantain, Plantago lanceolata.

The leaves of this perennial plant are, as its Latin name states, long, narrow, and pointed; a spike unlike its curvy broadleaf cousin. Clusters of these form a tight rosette that can be either prostrate or bushy, depending on the surrounding environment. The leaves tend to grow more thickly and upright in consistently moist areas.

The flowers top tall, smooth stalks that spread outward on a slightly curved trajectory. A brownish spike resembling an inverted sugar cone shoots out miniscule white stamens that look like a lit sparkler frozen in time.

The subtle, yet beautiful, bloom of the English Plantain is carried by the white stamens. (photo taken 09 25 2012)

The sight of one of these plants always reminds me of Albrecht Durer’s intimate watercolor: “Das Grosse Rasenstuck” (The Great Piece of Turf). The blooming English Plantain creates a pretty still life wherever it grows, the reason why I love this plant so, and why my lawn will always be left to nature.

A great piece of turf: English Plantain. (photo taken 09 11 2012)

–  rPs 09 28 2012

Postscript: view an image if “Das Grosse Rasenstuck” by following this link:

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Seaside (Goldenrod) Still Lifes

Seaside (Goldenrod) Still Lifes . . .

I took a walk along the Hudson River shortly after completing my preceding post – “The Quest for the Goldenrod” – and discovered the pilings of Pier 45 and Pier 46 are supporting numerous boughs of Seaside Goldenrod  (Solidago sempervirens) gone to seed. The sight of these graceful stems sporting cranberry-tinted leaves tipped with fluffy ash gray cypselae, the distinctive seed parachutes of Asteraceae family members, provided me with several new studies for future still life drawings. Here are a few of my favorites:

Seaside Goldenrod study #1 (photo taken 10 28 2011)

Seaside Goldenrod study #2 (photo taken 10 28 2011)

Seaside Goldenrod study #3 (photo taken 10 28 2011)

The above images are similiar in composition to the scene that inspired my post “Wildflower Art: The End of Summer” back in September. The progression of the fall season is now well underway and each of the three compositions display the emergence of warm color and worn texture, signs of another waning  wildflower growing season in the West Village of Manhattan.

– rPs  10 31 2011

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Wildflower Art: The End of Summer

Wildflower Art: The End of Summer . . .

There is a beauty in the forms and colors of nature that can rarely be equaled by conscious human efforts. Take for example the following composition:

Seaside Goldenrod (Solidago sempervirens) flanked by Calico Asters (Symphyotrichum lateriflorum) beside the Hudson River near Pier 54. (photo taken (09 17 2011)

Here a single stem of Seaside Goldenrod (Solidago sempervirens) stands fully budded, gracefully curved, flanked by two strands of Calico Aster (Symphyotrichum lateriflorum) already beginning to bloom. The two pilings encrusted with barnacles at the top and the slate gray strip of sea wall along the base frame the photo in an artful way, perhaps, and add contrasting cool colors, certainly, yet it is the natural symmetry of the living things growing together that held my eye long enough to inspire me to photograph the scene. The image was taken beside the Hudson River near Pier 54 as the sun was setting on September 17, 2011.

Both wildflower species I found rooted on the western edge of Manhattan are bellwethers of autumn, which begins in just a few days. Signs of summer’s passing are already visible in the fine details of the big city picture: the tangled undergrowth of courtyard gardens has begun to thin out; brick walls are beginning to show through the ivy; a few tree top leaves are tinged with savory sanguine color. What I discovered on an evening stroll is an especially vivid living symbol of that temporal change in progress: the city and nature intersected, composed by coincidence in a symmetric, aesthetic way emblematic of the season. Separate elements, which when combined transcend the individual and fulfill a working definition of . . . (wildflower) Art.

— rPs 09 18 2011

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floral works of the West Village

floral works of the West Village . . .

The artist Marcus Fletcher stands before his "Sunflower #2" and "White Orchid" at Grounded, 28 Jane Street, New York City. (photo taken 06 11 2011)

Café culture has always been one of my “favorites” in the social networking sense of the word. The bohemian coffee shop with wood or concrete floors, a worn bookcase stocked with paperbacks, eclectic music on the sound system, and a few potted plants placed in various corners has always welcomed me, inspired me, and in many ways served as my public living and reading room.

The advent of laptops and personal digital devices has largely replaced actual social interaction with virtual communication. A café is now often a sterile, or at least standardized, space filled with wired people interacting with no one in the immediate room, yet there are some traditional aspects that still thrive: poetry readings, for example, and art openings.

So it was in early June when I noticed an attractive postcard announcement placed at the counter of my favorite neighborhood coffee shop, Grounded organic coffee and tea house, located at 28 Jane Street in the West Village. The card read:

Marcus Fletcher floral works

The green stem and golden petals of a sunflower still life hit me like a shot of espresso. I sat down with my drink, contemplated the reproduction of Mr. Fletcher’s painting, and began to think of myself in the third person for a moment. The coincidence of artistic subject matter, flowers, to be displayed in the favorite coffee shop of a neighbor, me, who has a writing project in progress, one devoted to wildflowers of the West Village, created one of those incandescent moments some call inspiration.

The event was added to my “must see” list and I attended the opening on June 11th. There I introduced myself to Marcus. He is friendly, relaxed, and fluent in the art of cafe conversation. He was born in Cincinnati, teaches the Spanish language when he is not painting.  As for his artistic philosophy, his creative perspective, I think it is best to let his Artist’s Statement for the floral works show speak:

“These pieces came about while working on some abstract pieces and looking at an iris that I painted in 2008. So, I wanted to do a series of them as a study/challenge and a change in subject matter. Working on these flowers has given me a contrast to the abstract pieces that I’m working on currently. However, I also feel that they also lend a needed patient approach to abstract work. And I feel that because of that patience, I’m achieving more balance and a little more movement in them (the abstract pieces) if I didn’t have the flowers to view as a contrast.”

Fletcher’s floral works series offers a moving take on the still life. His compositions rest on a base of flat color that contrasts with the nuanced depths of the flower form. The blooms themselves are no mere stiff and still portraits; he often paints stem and petal from odd angles – the rear, for example – sometimes with foreshortened perspective. These subtleties combine to create innovative images from a traditional subject; a new view that can be called Art with a capital A.

Grounded co-owner, Jen Greenberg, and her partner, Mark, can be credited for fostering a fine venue for organic tea, coffee, and sustainable local culture. Their ninety-minute seating policy, designed in part to dissuade virtual office workers, keeps things happening in the actual world. Come by, have a cup, and take a look.

Front and back view of Grounded coffee house's announcement for floral works by Marcus Fletcher. (photo taken 07 26 2011)

Artist inquiries:

Grounded and Sullivan Street Tea & Spice Company:

– rPs 07 26 2011

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The (Impending) Winter Season

The (Impending) Winter Season . . .

Goldenrod gone brown and turned to seed beside the Hudson River. (photo taken 11 17 2010)

December 2010 has been consistently cold with daytime temperatures below freezing. This weather has brought to an end the first growing season documented by Wildflowers of the West Village. The flowering species of late summer and autumn have all at last surrendered to the impending winter. Even the Common Plantain, Plantago major, has succumbed; its lobed leaves now resemble deflated green balloons resting prostrate on park lawns and pinched between the cracks of red brick courtyards.

A few of the cold weather species have reappeared despite the frosts and fine layers of snow that have marked this festive garland string of icy days. One of these is chickweed, profiled back in June, which has begun to green the borders of sheltered lawns and tree pits in the neighborhood. Life endures, even thrives, even within the checkered microcosm of urban corners. The American city may not possess the wide swaths of indomitable nature like Montana, but Manhattan, as my own little investigation of the West Village has proven, has just as tenacious a natural world. One need only substitute a magnifying lens for a pair of 7×50 binoculars to see it up close.

My daily hikes in search of wild plants have been put on pause as other nature activities engage me. One is botanical illustration of the wildflowers I have written about during 2010; images rendered in colored pencil I plan to post during the winter months. A second branch of activity is a series of book reviews of the print resources I have used in my ongoing wildflower research and writing. The third is an archival project. I have taken close to two thousand photos since I began to research and profile the wildflower species that call the West Village of Manhattan home. Some sort of order is called for here, so I have begun to file images by specie and by type (bloom, leaf, so forth), no small task. During this weeding out process (pun intended), I have already found at least six additional species that I have yet to write about. There shall be additional new profiles as well as some book reviews and essays on subjects taxonomical during the upcoming winter months.

So . . . Stay Bloomed!

Wildflower guides and other print resources to review. (photo taken 12 17 2010)

– rPs 12 17 2010

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