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Legacy of the Land Through Art Exhibit – Artwork Finished! Part I – Jack in the Pulpit

Update 10/11/13: Auction Site for Legacy of the Land Through Art is up!  
Visit the site to view, bid on and/or purchase artwork from the exhibit!

It has been quite some time since I updated you on my pieces for the Legacy of the Land Through Art Exhibit (via Legacy Land Conservancy) coming up next month. I spent a good deal of time working on sketches this summer and ended up with two final pieces for the exhibit by the September 9th deadline. This post covers the process for finishing the first of the two, my Jack in the Pulpit portrait in ink and colored pencil.

Jack in the Pulpit is a woodland perennial that I encountered quite a bit in my forays to Creekshead Nature Preserve, my assigned project property. Creekshead is known for its spring wildflower display, and I made a number of trips out there in April, May and June to explore the area.

Ironically, due to some tight scheduling in the spring and weather-related delays, I actually missed peak bloom! Luckily, my focus is on plant portraits and details. There were still a number of individual plants blooming during my explorations that I was able to get a broad picture of what species were in the preserve and which I might want to depict on paper. Jack in the pulpit was one of the species that was present in great numbers, right alongside the trail, each time I went to the preserve. Its distinctive flower, a large, cylindrical, hooded flower with beautiful maroon/brown stripes, made it top on my list for a plant portrait.

I was able to observe and photograph the jack in the pulpit through early spring when the leaves were just starting to form and unfurl through mid-late summer when the berries were present in green, before the fall turn to bright red. I worked mainly from my photographs as my time in the field was very limited.

Studies and Sketches

Here are some of my initial sketches and studies as I began to get a feel for the plant:

Field study – sketches and notes.                             Graphite study from reference photos.
  Color study – using Faber-Castell Polychromos colored pencils.  

I struggled with what exactly to show in my finished piece. I wanted to depict the different stages of the plant as I observed it, but also wanted to show both the male and female of the species, the former with one set of three leaves, the latter with two sets of three leaves, each with one of the unique, pitcher-like flowers. I played around with sketches on tracing paper and also printed and cut out sketches so that I could move them around, trying out different layouts.

I played with the idea of making more of a composed floral piece vs. showing the plants in a more linear fashion in order to better see the features of the striping on the flower and hood as well as the mottling on the stems. 
Above is a test composition that I liked as it shows the broad, mature, umbrella-like leaves above the flower, as well as the female plant and some of the early spring versions of the plant with leaves unfurling. However, I felt like the composition was hiding some of the details of each of those and I also thought that if I rendered them all in color, they might blend together too much.


Here is another composition that I felt showed the plants more clearly, but it seemed to be a bit too busy, without a clear path for the eye. I also started running out of time and with the level of detail I wanted to give each plant, I wasn’t sure I could complete it by the deadline!

Ultimately, I decided on a more linear composition with fewer plants – just one male and one female. In one of my last trips to the preserve, I did get a chance to photograph the fruit directly, so I used that to fill in the last bit of the portrait, showing more of the life cycle of the plant, which is what I wanted to achieve.

I worked with a local gallery, Dexter Picture Frame Company, to get both this and the other piece framed professionally for the exhibit. I chose to go with a natural wood frame, in keeping with the organic nature of the piece. I also kept the ties local by choosing a Paul Hickman frame from his Urban Ashes line which uses salvaged or deconstructed wood from here in Michigan. This is the clear cherry wood, and I thought it complimented the colors in the stem very well.

Stay tuned for Part II for details on the second piece that I completed for the exhibit!

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