20th Annual International American Society of Botanical Artists & The Horticultural Society of New York


Children's Choir

Solanum lycopersicum

Colorful zebra tomatoes were like jewels in my backyard last early fall.  After scorching and steamy hot summer, my tomato plants looked very tired and weak. Yet, it kept producing fruits till late October. I was amazed that how strong those plants were, and how beautiful the fruits were!


I have been painting heirloom tomatoes for many summers, enjoying the season with tomatoes before me. When I was in New York City, my summer ritual was to go to the Union Square farmers market, annoying the vendors as I checked all the tomatoes to pick "the one." Since returning to Japan, this is my fourth summer growing my own tomatoes in our backyard.  My friends have become accustomed to set meeting dates according to my "tomato well-being," not to our schedules. Once I start painting one, I cannot leave the house. Normally, a tomato changes its color fast, and it goes bad so quickly in the hot season.


These zebra tomatoes were the same. I started with the green tomato on the right. My first plan was to draw several tomatoes placed in the order of color shift - from green to red. The first green tomato stayed well. Then I picked a light green one for the next color shade, but it quickly turned more yellowish than I expected.  The middle one turned into red from subtle, slightly orange, yellow while I was painting, and it destroyed my carefully planned composition! I went down to my backyard and looked for one which was really red. Unfortunately, no tomato was deep red color because the chilly season had come.


So, reluctantly, I picked a light, yellowish green tomato, hoping it would turn reddish while I am painting. But the twin tomato changed its color beyond my expectation, partially staying green and getting little red spots. Well, I liked it! Suddenly, I felt those small tomatoes started singing like "do re mi fa sol la ti do!" I had no trouble picking the last one because they were singing!


My thoughts on color: I admire the color of plants. No green is the same, and we have to have infinite color palette to recreate a single leaf!


To me, color is like a cloud. If I see it in distance, I feel like I understand the shade of the color and how to make it. As soon as I get close to it, as soon as I mix paints with a brush, it melts away leaving me in dark. I do not have " perfect pitch " in color. Perhaps there is no "perfect pitch" in color. We do not see color without light, and, depending on the condition of the light, it looks different because what we capture is just a refraction of the light. Color is not there. Color is in the light, not in the plant….


I started to learn "how to draw" seriously when I was 15. Since then, my endeavor to find "color" is still on. I do not have a solid and concrete method to mix the color my eyes capture. I always feel like mixing is like doing arithmetic. Adding and subtracting eventually finds the color. Yes, watercolor is not easy to remove, but actually you can scrape and lift the color, not completely of course, but it is enough to add more. The color shade can even be shifted. I am often asked how I mix the color, and my answer is 'I am not sure." I do not know what I am doing when I am mixing the color. Yes, I have my ways to get those colors, but achieving the exact color is always an unknown journey to me.


But at the end of the day, standing in front of my finished work and half-gone tomatoes, I thought my journey this time wasn't that bad and smiled.

Read more about this artist’s work: 19th Annual International
  • © 2015 Asuka Hishiki
    Children's Choir
    Solanum lycopersicum
    Watercolor on paper
    8" x 13 1/2"