Lady’s slipper orchid

Watercolor paintings of lady's slipper orchid


I thought it was about time to paint a “vegetable,” rather than an “animal.” I spent some time searching “endangered flowers Minnesota.” The Lady’s slipper is the state flower of Minnesota.

The source photo I found is

I was a little girl (I’m guessing 1967) when my brother, Charles, brought home an unusual wildflower after a walk in the woods near Siren, Wisconsin. My mother often brought home flowers picked by the roadside and put them in one of the glass bottles she kept for that purpose. We checked the flower in our reference book and discovered its name and that it was illegal to pick. The plant is rare and picked flowers will not rejuvenate themselves.

The plant is a symbiote; it requires the presence of a fungus in the soil. The fungus breaks the lady slipper’s seed and attaches to it, providing nourishment. (New England Today) Sometimes I am so busy holding myself intact that I forget that allowing myself to be vulnerable and cracked open maybe the road to nourishment and growth of my soul.


First, I made a simple pencil sketch.

Issues of note:

  • portraying the volume of the flowers (especially the “white” petals)
  • showing the woods in the background, including the ferns
  • striping of the leaves

I alternated between painting background and foreground elements.

After one session of painting (during which I worked on the background), I realized that the print I work from is quite different from the online photo. Leaves in the background, for instance, are lost in darkness. I reprinted the photo after adjusting the contrast.

I alternated between painting background and foreground elements.


I need to use smaller brushes because I can’t lift bigger ones. This means more brushstrokes. I admire watercolor paintings that are made with loose brushstrokes, but that’s not something I can do. I needed to make my peace with many small brushstrokes.

I used light blue and light maroon to add depth to the white petals. The finished painting lacks depth in general and looks more purple than I expected.

Creating paintings snippets still serves as a good check to remind me that beauty is created even when I’m not fond of the finished painting.


Posted on

July 28, 2020


  1. Lee

    To me, the volume of the petals comes through beautifully. I also have to say how much I love the patterns of blues and purples in the background. This image really draws me in. Thank you for this!

    • Kate

      Thank you, Lee. I feel a great affection for these orchids. It’s good to hear that I captured the volume. That’s one of the sweetest things about this flower. Your comment about the background helped me see my work with new eyes. Thank you!


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