Jeanetta vanRaalte's Story Behind the Art

Turk's Cap Lily
How did you go about selecting a subject for the Bartram exhibition?
I had familiarized myself with the Bartram list.  I was visiting a friend's garden in Rye, New York, last summer, and as soon as I saw it there, an incredible specimen in full bloom, I knew I had to paint it.  When I looked it up, I could not find any recent botanical paintings of it - the ones I found were by artists in the 18th century, so I am happy to add a modern version.   
Why did you choose this specific subject to portray?
I chose it because it was beautiful and had the features which I look for in a subject.  It is structured, almost architectural. It is a very well constructed flower with hard petals, not floppy like a peony, and I find that easier to paint.  Even the polka dots are structured and they are interesting.  The colors are vibrant and varied in each flower. 
How would you describe the artwork so that someone who hasn't seen it could visualize it?
It is a tall, single stem plant that has lots of beautiful, full flowers flowing out from the central stem.  Almost all the flowers are in bloom, except for a few buds at the top, because this is at the height of the season.
Is there anything you'd like to comment on about the color, composition, media or technique you used in the work?
I always take a pad and pen when I go anywhere and when I saw this lily, I made sketches in the garden.  I wish I could have done the whole painting outside in the garden, but it's too hard - you know, bugs get in the way and can stick in the paint.  My husband, who is an excellent photographer, took photos for me.  Then I worked on it at home, making a detailed drawing on tracing paper before painting on my paper, Fabriano Artistico 300 lb.  I paint with watercolor in an opaque fashion, adding gouache when needed.  
In terms of color, I love color.  Color is really natural for me, an intuitive thing, coming from years of designing textiles and making colorways in the old days, before computers.  When I see a color, I know what to do to get that color, I know how to mix it and I can match it dead on.  I don't rely on the photos for color.  I have a very visual memory of what that plant looked like.
What would you hope people would notice or appreciate when they view this work?
The beautiful flower and colors.
How does this piece relate to your body of work?
Most of the time, I do not choose flowers as subjects.  I usually go to the supermarket and choose vegetables as subjects.  I paint radishes and peppers.  Two of my paintings were chosen for the Hunt exhibition in 2004, and they were variegated corn and ginger.
Anything else?
I learned how to work quickly when I was a textile designer.  I paint quickly.  This painting took me a few weeks.
  • (C) Jeanetta vanRaalte