Saturday, February 12, 2011

Pansies, Petals and Primulas

For my watercolour classes this week I bought little pots of primulas, one each of white, yellow and pink blossoms. After some general and specific recommendations for colours and composition the real drawing and painting began (two of my quick demo paintings in progress above) and I made a discovery about the primulas. They had six or seven petals, every single of them, confounding a rule that I have been presenting to my classes as a reliable and unvarying truth:

Whenever we are painting flowers I point out the difference between monocots and dicots, a handy thing I learned in first year biology. The number of petals in spring bulb flowers is usually a multiple of three and the leaves have stripey, parallel veining. These two features are typical of monocotolydenous (one seed leaf) plants. Dicotyledonous (two seed leaf) plants have leaves with reticulated veining and their flowers usually have petals in multiples of four or five (and it is all well described at this page.) "Usually", and up until this lesson, unvaryingly, but these flowers hadn't heard of the phenomenon or read the text books and instead flaunted their pretty seven-petalled heads at me. "Paint what you see" is a good rule too and the one to follow when theories don't seem to fit.

Last year's pansies were much more obedient!
The important thing is to keep painting, whether following familiar trails or breaking a new path.

"Under the snow are next year's flowers, and always ahead are the happy hours."


  1. Thank you! Good to remember in life as well as in painting!

  2. You've made me smile at the thought of beautiful and bright primulas also being sort of rule breakers! I am always awed by their fabulous colors and variations.

    Aren't they wonderful watercolor subjects!

    Your "quick" studies are quite beautiful. I am sure that your students benefit so much from your guidance. They are very lucky folks.

    Love that photo of noble pup studying shadows on the snow. xo

  3. Isn't it strange the way nature seems to break the rules and yet that too looks natural? You have made the delicate veining look easy, which of corse it is not.

  4. I never remembered any of that information from biology until you mentioned it. Thank you for re-awaking old memories of monocots and dicots. The primulas are such great harbingers of spring aren't they? Besides composing beautiful watercolours of primulas, do you know of anyway to help them last. Whenever I purchase them, they die rather quickly, indoors or out. Maybe I do not water them enough. It's been such a pleasant visit to this spring filled blog full of fairy folk and flowers! =D

  5. Your water colours are delicate and beautiful.