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23rd Annual International

American Society of Botanical Artists at Wave Hill


Kauka Wilder Plumeria

Plumeria rubra


Painting from nature is not copying the object, it is realizing one’s sensations.” –Paul Cezanne


I have always been drawn to interact with the natural world around me. While we most often sense beautiful things through sight, form, color, and light, there is so much more that informs a full appreciation of a plant: texture, scent, habitat, and surrounding sounds.


Living in northern Canada provides an abundance of such interactions with the native flora and fauna throughout spring and summer. Although most specimens here are inconspicuous relative to, for example, big showy tropical plants, my interaction inspires artistic decisions and expression. To paint an object merely for the sake of painting or for its visual qualities has never been quite enough for me. Usually, there is something I respond to deeply. It can be a small and fleeting sensation, but it is still there.


Two years ago I took my first trip to a warm climate, Hawaii. It was not a typical holiday of lounging but one where I immersed myself in the natural history and exploration of a new environment. Especially interesting are native and endemic species of an area. Although Plumeria is an introduced genus it is important in Hawaiian culture, used to make leis, traditional flower garlands given as a token of affection. One place where we lodged had beautiful shrubs and plants in the yard, and we were kindly asked by our hosts to periodically go out and chase off wild goats to keep them from eating the landscaping. Here I discovered incredible branching forms, textures, rich color, and an unbelievable, sweet, spicy scent emanating from several Plumeria cultivars. Everything about Plumeria was engaging to me, as deserving of artistic endeavor as any of the native specimens.


While painting is limited to two dimensions, I wondered if I could portray even a fraction of the sensory experience of the cultivar ‘Kauka Wilder’. Color was obviously important, and I went through several types of magenta, rose, and pink before deciding on one that was vibrant enough to capture that rich velvet of the petals. In fact, the whole color palette was new to me for this piece. Texture and light were also important in planning the composition. I cannot say that any aspect of this piece was a challenge, maybe because my initial interaction stayed with me.


My intention was to capture this beautiful flower and express my experience. I had no idea it would receive this kind of attention and resonate with others, but I am pleased that it does.


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23rd annual-dakin-plumeriakauka-wilder-z9ry5

Plumeria rubra

Kauka Wilder Plumeria

Watercolor on paper

10 x 8 inches

©2020 Charity Dakin

2024 ASBA - All rights reserved

All artwork copyrighted by the artist. Copying, saving, reposting, or republishing of artwork prohibited without express permission of the artist.

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