STORY BEHIND THE ART OF Jeannetta van Raalte

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

Chinese Elm Bonsai

Ulmus parvifolia
Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Brooklyn, New York

My admiration for Bonsai began while I was living in Japan with my family many years ago. The enormous variety and beauty of Bonsai there were remarkable.  Amazingly, I had never painted one. When the Call for Entries for “Out of the Woods” appeared, Bonsai was the first thing that came to mind as a subject – I could do a whole tree, and full-sized! 


I am lucky to live near the Brooklyn Botanic Garden where there is a marvellous collection of Bonsai. It was a bleak, dreary December day when I visited the Garden.  I was drawn to this particular tree because it was deciduous, unlike many of the others in the collection which are conifers, and chose to paint it because of its incredible, fantastic “bone structure”.  I liked the two contorted, intertwining trunks, and how stark it looked without any leaves. The peeling bark was especially interesting, with beautiful, soft colors inside – orange, amber, pink.  As I painted, I could see images in the tree, a rabbit, or a bird.


The only green in the painting is from the leaves and moss in the soil. I used watercolor and gouache, and because I painted it full-size, and work flat, I had to paint it upside-down at times - a demanding project, but well worth the effort. 

Read more about this artist’s work: 18th Annual International
  • © 2016 Jeannetta van Raalte
    Chinese Elm Bonsai
    Ulmus parvifolia
    Watercolor and gouache on paper
    24 x 20.5