12" x 16"
Forests, Southern Ontario, Canada
At the end of winter northern forests can be dreary. The dramatic shadows of the trees in the snow have gone and no sign of life has yet appeared. At this time of year I can get excited about the appearance of a single new leaf. And this is when Hepatica offers flowers, even before it sprouts leaves. It is as if it can’t wait to celebrate spring.
Sculpting the petals of the hepatica with my painting knife recalled the same strokes I had made while painting buttercups before. Hepatica look a bit like large buttercups and, in fact, are in the same family. These hepatica were decidedly lavender in color but they can also be white, pink or blue. I chose a small panel on which to paint these flowers but still made them larger than their actual size. They barely reached the tops of my boots as I walked through the forest. Each flower sits on top of a very hairy stalk. At first I thought of leaving out these hairs, an unimportant detail in the composition. But the way they caught the light seemed to emphasize the purple stems, so I loaded the tip of the knife with paint and danced it up and down the sides of each stem.
The old leaves that you see at the bottom of the painting have survived the winter under the snow so they are flattened and dull, like the leaf litter around them, providing a striking background for the bright flowers. New leaves will appear after the flowers have gone.
Hepatica (Hepatica americana) can be seen throughout Eastern North America from Southern Canada and the Northern U.S., west to Missouri and throughout the Appalachians. This painting is based on Hepatica I have seen in the forests of Southern Ontario, in the Appalachians, and in my own garden.