Only in the past fews years has there been much colour left in our shady garden by the end of June. The rhodos are at their peak today and as I write this, their pink heads nod outside the studio window, but they too will be reduced to their dark glossy leaves very shortly. The last of the showgirl flowers - peonies - are just starting to fluff their skirts but they too will be gone in a week or so. For decades I have had to count on variations of green to satiate my hungry eyes in July and August.
This is a long preamble to admitting that my panic about the loss of garden colour is assuaged only by taking at last one photo - preferably more - of everything that passes for a flower around here. I comfort myself by knowing that these warm weather delights can be enjoyed in January by being painted. Because our own peonies are only several years old, I used to stage annual hunts for these blowsy beauties. This miss was living downtown and we met when Jewell and I went to Woodstock; I said hello, Jewell sniffed the air with unusual interest, and Miss P preened and fluffed, clearly hoping to be immortalized. I obliged.
Taking the reference shot is the easy part. For painters, complex white flowers have their own special condo in Hell. The rendering, to begin with, leaves me cross-eyed. Assuming I persevere further, the painting is even tougher. The only way I can make it work is to identify and exaggerate the shadow variations. This gal offered me only the transparent blues of her skirts, and hints of her golden throat.
Foreseeing the end of spring’s bright notes, I planted far too many pansies as usual, suckered by their cheery faces; now I spend my days beheading them like so many little French aristocrats. Last season they bloomed (and I dead-headed) until mid-October so I have hope that the effort will rewarded again this year. Because only my friend and dental hygienist, Anna-Louise, admits to finding pleasure in this activity, I have lately been absorbed trying figure out how to lure her to this paradise of dead heads. I have suggested that she give up her day job, but so she’s not biting (Get it? dental joke!). So if you call me, let it ring. I will be outside, beheading pansies. Frankly, I'd rather be Mme. Defarge.