STORY BEHIND THE ART OF Barbara Oozeerally

Out of the Woods: Celebrating Trees in Public Gardens
The Third New York Botanical Garden Triennial


Lithocarpus pachyphyllus
Caerhays Estate, Gorran, St. Austell, Cornwall, England, United Kingdom

The fruit of Lithocarpus pachyphyllus was given to me in autumn 2016 and it came from the Cearhays Castle in Cornwall, United Kingdom. The Estate belongs to Charles Williams and houses the national collection of magnolias. I am a frequent visitor there, mostly in spring, to gather data for my next magnolia book.

The lithocarpus is a genus of the beech family Fagaceae and is native to East and Southeast Asia. The tree is evergreen with leathery leaves. As an attractive ornamental tree, it is planted in parks and larger gardens in warmer climates.

As soon as I saw this stone oak fruit, I was eager to paint this complex subject. Only when I was well into the painting, I realized how challenging it was. The seedhead is a cluster of acorns; some pollinated and big, some unpollinated and small, all in a shade of green. For a long time before putting brushes to paper, I turned the subject around to decide which side to present to viewers. The painting took me longer that I had anticipated and I went back to it several times to "pull it together".  I used the smallest of brushes to achieve the sharp finish. I hope the viewers will find the subject of my painting as fascinating to look at as it was for me to paint it.

The stone oak fruit, now shrivelled and greyish brown in color, is on display in my studio and never fails to be noticed by visiting artists.


Seedheads of Magnolia x soulangeana ‘White Giant’ 

Magnolia x soulangeana ‘White Giant’
Arboretum Wespelaar, Wespelaar, Belgium 

When we hear the word "magnolia", we all imagine huge, leafless trees covered with, often, big fragrant flowers in spring, but autumn allows the plants to shine one more time. Some magnolias are known for producing interesting fruits both in shape and color.

I came across Magnolia x soulangiana "White Giant" at the Wespelaar Arboretum in Belgium while working on my book "Magnolias in Art & Cultivation". The Arboretum belongs to Vicomte Philippe de Spoelberch and is open to the public. It houses one of the biggest collections of magnolias in Europe and is renowned for producing many well known yellow hybrids. "White Giant", not only produces an abundance of big fruits, but also very colorful leaves. After visiting the Wespelaar Arboretum in autumn 2016, I had no doubt that the seedheads of "White Giant" would be my entry for the forthcoming "Out of the Woods" exhibition. My painting of seedheads of this beautiful magnolia was used for the title page of my book.

The two seedheads are painted at different stages of development. One of them shows the twisted outer case that has changed color from green to pinkish red. The seeds are on the verge of bursting out. The second fruit captures the moment when the seeds are ready to drop to the ground. The seeds are shining with a reddish orange color. The big seedheads are heavy and hanging down from their branches. The leaves are of many shades of yellow, orange and red, also ready to drop at any moment.

It was a complicated subject to paint, the fruits being complex in structure. There is a very distinctive color difference between the two fruits; one being still fresh and vibrant and the other already turning to a dull reddish brown. The colors of this painting fully reflect the autumnal transformation of this wonderful magnolia.
Read more about this artist’s work: 20th Annual International
  • © 2017 Barbara Oozeerally
    Lithocarpus Pachyphyllus
    Watercolor on paper
    10" x 5-1/2"
  • © 2016 Barbara Oozeerally
    Seedheads of Magnolia x soulangeana ‘White Giant’
    Magnolia x soulangeana ‘White Giant’
    Watercolor on paper
    11-1/2" x 14"