23.5" x 20"
When my daughter was little she wanted me to make a painting for her room. I asked her what she wanted. “Something yellow” she answered. What could be more yellow than a field of buttercups? They are the brightest yellow. On the other hand they are very small. The only way to get the full effect of their color is to lie down in the field and put your face right into a clump. Otherwise the grasses and other plants, which are taller, tend to dominate the color of the field, even one filled with buttercups.
This painting, then, was clearly a good candidate for my “Intimate Portraits of Nature” category. The rusty seed heads of the grasses stick out above the buttercups, but from a low perspective they don’t interfere with the yellow. They frame the yellow buttercups with a lacy boarder that serves to keep the viewer from looking at the sky.
The stems of these buttercups were round and tough, like wire. The sun, which was high and to the left in this painting, created an interesting effect on these wiry stems. The ones that were slanted to the right glistened in the sun. The ones that were slanting to the left created their own shadow. And the ones in the middle were a mid-tone of green. I made them all with ridges of paint, using the edge of the knife. The result is striking although you can see it only in the original painting not in a photograph. As you walk past this painting the stems seem to move as the light plays up and down them. I love knife painting.
Buttercup flowers are unusual in that they are very shiny. Most flowers have a matte finish. The only tool an oil painter has to express glare is white. The rest is up to the imagination of the viewer. If I put a fleck of white on painting of a bottle, you will see it as glare because you know that the surface is shiny. The trick doesn’t work when the viewer doesn’t know that the subject is shiny, like this flower. Viewers who don’t know the buttercups tend to see the white flecks as white flowers rather than glare. Even the knife technique cannot overcome this limitation. Some of what we see is in the eye of the beholder. To complicate matters, some Buttercups do have white flowers.
There are too many kinds of Buttercups (Ranunculus) for me to be sure which these are but I would guess, by their size that they are probably the tall Buttercup (acris).