The green challenge and the elephant ear plant

Continuing my self-audit of artwork created versus art pieces blogged, I find myself missing yet another of last summer’s art challenges, the green challenge. I meant to write about these last autumn, but apparently it just slipped my mind once “new project fever” swept up my last two working brain cells. I tend to get the new project fever in some rather big doses.

So, let’s travel back in time to July of 2021, which would put us after the flamingo series but prior to the blue-feathered bird series (which starts with the hyacinth macaw painting – I really need to do a roundup of that series and revisit those paintings with a fresh eye). It was another short challenge, with the theme “green,” and I just happen to have the perfect plant model that regrows each year in the goat pasture. Before the challenge started, I was out back with my old Kodak EasyShare digicam (I certainly got my $109 USD worth out of that thing!) to get reference photos of what my husband and I call the elephant ear plant for obvious reasons.

my elephant ear plant in midmorning sun in the pasture

Since I was curious what its real name is (the plant was already here when we bought this place) I posted in a local Facebook group to see what it might be. Answers came in ranging from colocasia to taro to a xanthosoma species, and when I went researching what the differing names, I decided my specimen looks most like Xanthosoma roseum. (Edit: it may be Xanthosoma sagittifolium, which is native to the south of us and this one might have been brought up a county or two.) The largest leaves are often 18-20 inches long, and we sometimes joke about it being an escapee from the set of Jurassic Park.

The first piece I did is similar to the above photo/snapshot, and I worked it in soft pastel (aka my “dusties”) on a blue sheet of Canson Mi Tientes paper, which I am still not enamored with except to use with colored pencil. Overall, I feel I got the shape right, but was hoping it would be brighter in the high key values (highlights) than it turned out. It isn’t awful, but I was hoping for it to be a bit more … just a bit more. The original is 9 by 12 inches, heavy paper, and lightly sprayed with fixative. Prints in larger and smaller sizes are also available at my Pixels store, and here it is on RedBubble apparel and accessories.

Xanthosoma in Morning Sun, 9 by 12 inches, soft pastel on paper, $100 USD original available

For the second day of the green challenge, I decided to zoom in on one leaf of the plant, because it really is a fun-to-draw shaped leaf (like Monstera species). I also decided to switch media and pulled out my oil pastels and the oil-primed practice paper, also a Canson product and one I like using. This piece captured the brightness I was hoping to achieve, and honestly it looks almost as if it is glowing. I so enjoy that about oil pastels – if you want serious, saturated COLOR, you can do it with the oilies. The original is also 9 by 12 inches, which is my favorite size for drawing and sketching, and it is sealed with ModPodge, which really works great for oil pastel work. Prints in larger or smaller sizes are available at my Pixels store, as are 500 and 1000 piece puzzles for those who love a good challenge and don’t have cats to “help” them with all the pieces. RedBubble swag is here.

Elephant Ear Leaf, 9 by 12 inches oil pastel on primed paper, $100 USD original available

For some reason that I cannot recall, I dropped out of the green challenge after this second piece, despite having a good half a dozen more reference photos already chosen and cropped and still in a folder on my computer labeled “green.” Since yellow fly season has started here, I will be spending the majority of daylight hours hiding in the house from those vicious biting monsters that seem to wait outside my door for both of us, which means I will have plenty of time to “art it up,” as hubby says, and maybe this summer I’ll blog more of the results.

In the Easel: Red admiral butterfly in acrylic

I felt motivated to paint today, and this one has actually been on my easel for a few weeks without progress. I originally picked out the subject and reference photo back in November for the red challenge that I didn’t finish. In fact, I had even done up an acrylic sketch on paper. You can even get a print of the sketch, though once I complete the final painting and scan it in, I will be replacing the image that is there now.

rough acrylic sketch for red admiral butterfly, 11 by 14 acrylic on paper

I did it quickly, and in the evening after running errand around the county and was tired and my back hurt … yet when my friend Keashia saw it, she immediately said I needed to do it again “for reals.” I didn’t get around to that until last month, and am not setting any speed-painting records on it, but today I’ve managed to make it look like I want it to look.

on the easel: red admiral butterfly, 11 by 14 inch acrylic on stretched canvas

Yes, that is purple where I will eventually be painting black (maybe). I have two sampler sets of Golden brand Open acrylic, which is their slow-drying formula made for the en plein aire painters, but right now I am using the quick-dry acrylics to get the undertones down. I don’t have actual black in the Golden Open sets, but I do have a very traditional work-around: ultramarine blue and burnt umber, along with a convenience mixture they call sap green which I am using in the background of the piece.

When I looked up the red admiral butterfly, all the sources said I ought to have seen this pretty and eye-catching bug at least over the winter season. Alas, I have yet to catch a glimpse of one, though we have plenty of swallowtails and sulfurs fluttering across and around the property. I’ll be painting those as well in the future.