36" x 30"
As an environmental artist one of the important constraints I place on my work is an attempt to paint flora in their natural environments. I have resisted painting the famous Red Poppy (Papaver rhoeas) for many years because I have seen them only in North America, which is not their original home. They originated in Europe and Asia, probably in dry areas like the Eastern Mediterranean and western China.
The Red Poppy is the flower immortalized by the famous World War I poem “In Flanders Fields” that begins “In Flanders Fields, the poppies blow, among the crosses row on row.” It is also immortalized by stories from many other cultures (for example China and Turkey) where it is often connected with war. But these associations distract me from the thoughts that motivate me to paint. I’m not trying to take anything away from the importance of the historical Poppy, loaded with symbolic meaning, but I take a different perspective when I paint. I’m trying to paint the poppy that we know from observation.
What I see are large fuzzy flower buds nodding on gracefully curved necks, like thousands of swans bobbing in a field. They seem so modest at this stage, keeping their heads bowed until they are ready to explode into a blaze of red. The petals are so delicate that they fall apart in your hand and yet tough enough to hold up against desert winds. The color was so vibrant that my cadmium red pigment did not seem equal to the task. All I could do to make the flowers appear brilliant is to exploit contrast and texture. I therefore painted the background stems very dull green and highly textured (with the edge of my painting knife) so that the flat surfaces of the petals would stand out by contrast. This particular field of poppies grows near Ein Gedi, in Israel.