21 1/4 x 22 in | 54 x 56 cm
From a distance Texas Bluebonnets and Texas Paintbrushes present stunning displays of blue and red-orange. But a closer look reveals their complex and beautiful forms. I painted this composition from a close perspective to celebrate these forms.
The Texas Bluebonnet (Lupinus texensis) is no daisy. At the top of the plant, where the flowers are first developing, they are white, tinged with a little yellow-green toward the base. Older flowers lower down the stem, become dark blue, brushed with a deep purple. The flower consists of two distinctly different types of petals. At the bottom, two petals are clasped together like hands in prayer, forming what looks like a little blue football. The upper petal is more like a lacrosse racket. It’s called a “banner petal” in the guidebooks because it’s open like a banner. It sports a white or pale yellow “eye” in the center. I discovered as I painted by first Bluebonnet that these white “eyes” changed color with age. The older eyes, lower in the stem, turn lavender and then deep violet.
The Texas Paintbrush (Castilleja indivisa) is every bit as fascinating and challenging to paint as the Bluebonnets. The bright reddish and pink ovals that look like petals are really leaves (called leaf “bracts” by botanists). What makes them so challenging for a painter is that they are tipped with red, followed by a band of yellow and then fading into green like the rest of the leaves. Protruding out from among these orange leaves are tubular structures, mostly yellow with red or pink tips. But these are really not flowers either. They are what botanists call the sepals, like the little green flaps at the base of a rose. So where are the real flowers? The real flowers are inside this funnel, barely sticking out. I really enjoy painting flowers like this but, as I said, they’re no daisies. After working on this painting for a while my palette looked someone had been painting Old Glory—red, white and blue paint.
The leaves of Bluebonnets are lined with a pale green. To make thin edges with a knife is difficult, so I used a trick. I laid down a pale green leaf followed by a darker green right on top of the first one. Since the second application was smaller the pale edges squeezed out on the sides. This little patch of flowers lives in Ennis, Texas, where my wife and daughter and I stayed at a beautiful B&B specifically to see the Texas Bluebonnets.