45 x 36 in | 114.3 x 91.4 cm
This mass of Black-eyed Susans held my eye for a long time. Friends who were walking with me also seemed captivated by them. I have often wondered why flowers in a natural setting can hold our attention for so long. One of the reasons surely has to do with their complexity. The longer I observed them the more a saw. I noticed that not all of the flowers were in their prime. They were at various stages of growth. And not all of them were in clear view. Some were hidden behind stems or leaves. Finally, I noticed other plants growing among the Black-eyed Susans, which I had overlooked at first—Daisies, Sorrel and Milkweed. Such “weeds” would be torn out by a diligent gardener, but in a natural cluster they add surprises that hold my interest. I included these in an attempt to capture the complexity. Nature is messy.
The Ox-eye Daisies in the foreground are clearly past their prime. Their petals are faded and drooping below swollen seed clusters. It would have been easy to take a few weeks off of the lives of the Dasies to show both types of flowers in their prime. It might have been pretty that way but the painting would then fail to tell the story. Flowers stagger their peak flowering times so that they can share the bees and other pollinators. As the Daisies begin to fade the Black-eyed Susans take over and I have something to paint all summer.
Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta) are native to Northeastern North America, from Nova Scotia to the New England States, but they are found as far west as Manitoba. This flower cluster lives in a former brickyard that was turned into a nature park in downtown Toronto.