heliconia obscura

heliconia obscura watercolor painting him him

mage reference:

photograph By Justin Lebar –https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=951141


I decided to paint a plant, searched for endangered flowers, and found this intriguing image. The plant is also sometimes called a “lobster claw” or “toucan beak.” I couldn’t find much information about this species, native to tropical South America, where its habitat is disappearing.


I decided to “zoom in” on the image, focusing on the orange blossoms. I began by sketching out the positioning of the foreground leaves and the stems and blossoms. While I was painting, I alternated between background, leaves, and blossoms.

The background was the most challenging for me to paint because of the dark shadows surrounding the trees. Because I’ve been unhappy with using black, I tried dark purple instead. I’m not crazy about that either.

I enjoyed painting the foreground leaves, trying for variegation and dimension.

The blossoms don’t have much dementia in real life, as far as I could see from the photo. They are almost flat packets of color. (I wondered if they grow around the stem, but couldn’t tell from the photo. I also wonder how big they are.)


I recently heard former Pres. Obama’s speechwriter talk about some feedback he received from his boss. “The volume of everything in this speech is at a 10. Listen to some jazz. The silences are as important as the sound.” Everything in this painting is at a 10. I’d rather see the background and middleground fade so the foreground can capture the viewer’s eye.

As I was mining this image for snippets, I realized that it is overworked. Because I painted and repainted areas, the watercolor has lost its transparency. The orange and purple areas are solid blobs. I wonder how a painting would look if I paid attention to creating quality snippets. Each square would need to have a variety of colors and different numbers of layers of paint.

I am grateful for the practice of painting. It requires me to

  • see deeply
  • face the empty page
  • be courageous enough to make a mark
  • move into unknowing
  • be willing to experiment
  • forgive myself
  • find beauty

 Each of those skills is something I seek to strengthen.


Posted on

October 28, 2022

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