30" x 24"
Metro Toronto, Ontario, Canada
This is not the first time I have painted Phlox on a riverbank. Flowers and water in the same composition are irresistible, especially when the flowers grow right down to the water’s edge as Meadow Phlox do. In an earlier painting the flowers are quite distant because my perspective was from across the river. The result was an interesting field of flowers but it failed to showcase beautiful structure of the flower—compactly arranged cylindrical clusters. The only way I could have sketched a close-up of the flowers was to exclude the river. I wasn’t willing to do that because I wanted to show the Meadow Phlox in one of their most common habitats.
Several years later when the Phlox bloomed attain, I revisited the river and found a perspective in which the Phlox were in the forefront of the painting and the river was beyond. By this perspective I could paint the flowers as large as I wanted and still not lose the river because the river would be seen through the Phlox. Indeed, I went even further. I was able to show a bank covered with Phlox on the opposite shore of the river and the willow trees that line the banks, and even the muddy water. This painting tells much of the story of the preferred habitat of the Meadow Phlox, on moist flats beside slowly moving rivers.
This painting is in our family collection for a reason. I had started this painting just before meeting my wife to be. I was so taken up with her for the almost two years that I did no painting at all. One day she saw the unfinished painting and asked me about it. Wisely I didn’t tell her what distracted me from finishing it. What a pity, she said, because it’s a great start and after all this time you probably have lost the momentum and will not be able to pick up where you left off. I replied that while what she said was certainly true of a piece of writing my painting didn’t work that way. There seems to be a separate compartment in my brain for painting which is insulated from other experiences and suspended until I get back to the painting again. To prove it to her I finished the painting.
This plant has been variously called “Wild Sweet-William” and “Meadow Phlox”. The botanical name is Phlox maculata, the “maculata” means “spotted in Latin. The stems have purple spots but the spots are very small. I didn’t attempt to draw them in the painting. It is a native of eastern North America from Minnesota in the west to southern New England in the east, southward to Florida and Mississippi. This river used to be just north of Toronto in Ontario. Now it is in a culvert under a sub-division.