Carol  E. Hamilton's Story Behind the Art

 
Nuphar lutea
 
When a themed exhibition is announced by the ASBA or any sponsoring organization, I ordinarily set out to explore potential subject matter.  I seek plant material whose appearance, history or purpose fascinate me.  You will be intimate friends with this plant for a very long time so I recommend choosing carefully.
 
Once chosen, I research the botanical particulars so that I know what plant parts to look for when I make my initial sketches and photographs in the field.  Ideally, I will also have the chance to observe or acquire a specimen of my subject.
 
Bartram Garden has made available a thorough catalog of the plants in their collection and this has probably been the starting point for most of the artists.  Prior to painting the Nuphar lutea, I had never studied water plants.  At first, I found it impossibly difficult to portray a plant living in the air, the water and in the mud.  I particularly wanted to suggest the water without explicitly painting it.
 
I was extremely fortunate to have botanist friends who most graciously provided me with specimens – not once, but twice.  I thought I would be able to use a kiddie pool to hold my pond lily for reference while I worked.  The first specimen took me only so far in identifying plant parts. As my initial water lily wilted it took a fresh specimen to answer questions I missed in the initial research.  This time I filled a bathtub with plants, desperately trying to keep the water fresh. This worked until we noticed a swampy aroma drifting through the house.
 
It is not unusual for me to portray my subject in an oversize format.  Once started, there are many things I want to say about the plant.  I also strive to suggest the motion of the plant as a whole.  I like plants that are graceful and melodic, and I hope that I have captured those qualities in the Yellow Pond Lily.
 
We have been pleased to learn from botanists across time, and equally happy to share our experiences with curious visitors to Bartrams’ Garden today.
 
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  • (C) Carol E. Hamilton