STORY BEHIND THE ART OF Olga Ryabtsova

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

Bird of Paradise

Strelitzia reginae
 
Having grown up in Russia, I was totally captivated by the Bird of Paradise , Strelitzia reginae, that is so common in California, my new home. When I found this specimen, there were no new tepals on this plant, just faded brown tepals and glossy green seedpods. I had never seen a Strelitzia flower with seedpods and was intrigued by its dry sculptural qualities. I decided to paint it as it was, instead of looking for a fresher specimen.
 
 
I began my sketches of the dried tepals and seedpods. In hopes of preserving the cutting for painting, I put this gorgeous flower in water. Two days later, I was surprised by a fresh and bright flower that had popped up from the leaf sheathing. The contrast between the fresh growth and faded bloom was so beautiful that I revised my sketches immediately. I started with the fresh parts since they would change and fade first. I knew I had to paint quite quickly. The faded parts were most difficult to paint due to the subtlety of the colors and the complexity of the form.
 
 
I portrayed the bloom in profile because it was the best way to emphasize the relationships between all parts of the flower. In profile, this flower has the graphic qualities of a modern logo, perhaps illustrating windy movement from the fresh tepals to faded tepals and seedpods. This flower is gorgeous with so much individuality! The multitude of hues in every part of the flower and all those imperfections and spots are fascinating.
 
 
I chose a large format paper to show as many details as possible. This was a challenge for me because I had never worked this large before. Since completing this painting, Strelitzia has become something of an obsession for me. I stop and examine every plant I see. I have discovered there are only five species of Strelitzia. I have seen four, and I hope to see the fifth soon.
 
 
 
 
 
 
  • © 2017 Olga Ryabtsova
    Bird of Paradise
    Strelitzia reginae
    Watercolor on paper
    22" x 29"