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Abundant Future: Cultivating Diversity in Garden, Farm, and Field


Charentais Melon

Curcumis melo

My subject came to me by pure serendipity. I had been pondering what to paint for this exhibit. Should I plant heirloom seeds, or should I search for a wild native relative?

We have several vegetable gardens, all of them overseen by my green-thumb brother. My condo-living sister has a habit of adding seedlings to our gardens “just because she can,” much to the chagrin of my brother, who complains that whatever she sneaks in has a tendency to take over. When we noticed this odd, smooth-skinned, softball-sized melon growing in the cucumber-squash garden, we asked my sister, “Just what did you plant?” She answered, “I don’t know, some sort of cantaloupe.” It quickly took over the patch, and when the fruit began to ripen, the garden filled with the sweet scent of melon.

This “some sort of cantaloupe” turned out to be a Charentais melon; an heirloom French melon that originated in the Poitou-Charentes region of France around 1920. It has been described as having a high sugar content, smooth texture and ambrosial fragrance. We can attest to the accuracy of that statement—they smell heavenly and taste even better! It is a delicate melon, and so not one that can be easily brought to market.

My grandmother, aunts, and my mother all saved seeds from flowers, fruits, and vegetables in their gardens; I vividly recall them making little waxed paper envelopes to store them in. We are doing the same now; the Charentais seeds are tucked into their own little waxed paper envelope, completing a circle started long ago.

I especially loved depicting the jaunty, yet elegant curve of the stem. My brother harvested my specimen, so the length and curve of the stem was happenstance.

I loved the quiet colors of the melon, and that is what I wanted to emphasize in both my color palette and composition. Egg tempera is the perfect choice to create a soft, quiet, and luminous painting. However, unlike working in other media and on paper, where a background is optional—a traditional egg tempera on a true gesso panel requires total coverage with paint. So, to spotlight the delicate melon colors, I layered many glazes and scumbles in transparent white or slightly tinted paint to get a background that is muted and veil-like. The melon itself defined the composition, calling for a central position in the picture plane to suggest steadiness and calm. Yet the shape and direction of the stem begged me to suggest, elegantly, a slight tension, positioning the melon as if it is about to fall over with the simple curve of the stem holding it in equilibrium.

I’ve been working in egg tempera sporadically over the last several years. When it became clear that COVID-19 meant the cancellation of most of my shows, art fairs, and workshops, I saw it as an opportunity to deeply immerse myself into exploring the medium. With each egg tempera painting I complete, I become more impassioned with the act of making my own paint, the fluidity of the paint, and the luminous results. I know I am on a lifelong journey with this time-honored medium combining water, egg yolk, and powdered pigment.


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Read more about this artist’s work: 18th Annual

Abundant Future-Radding-CharentaisMelon

Curcumis melo

Charentais Melon

Egg tempera on panel

10 x 8 inches

©2020 Kelly Radding

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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