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Botanical Art Worldwide: America's Flora

Blue Violet

Viola sororia

I learned the how to of metalpoint drawing through an Art School introductory course on Materials and Techniques back in the seventies. Over the ensuing decades I picked it up now and then, but not in any serious or sustained way.

Four years ago the planets re-aligned, so to speak, when the entomologist I worked for at the National Museum of Natural History retired and I transferred over to the Botany Department. I decided to try drawing from herbarium sheets in metalpoint. I have long been interested in what I call 'Abandoned Architecture,' those structures made primarily by insects and birds and left behind after they’ve fulfilled their purposes. Why couldn’t this concept apply to a pressed plant? A herbarium sheet is a portrait of a preserved plant, removed from its environment, arranged on a page by a botanist in often unusual ways, then pressed, and laid away. This made sense to me and I began to experiment drawing various plants in metalpoint.

I was attracted to this particular violet because it includes the root system. I imagined how the violet was dug up from the ground and then how its long root system was lovingly wrapped about it forming an intricate, nest like structure. Usually I draw with pure silver which will develop a warm brown patina over time, but in the case of the violet, I decided to use gold which will remain a grayish tone.  

The violet was loved by the poet Emily Dickinson, and her works are the inspiration for my Julius I. Brown ASBA Grant project “Poetry in Silver.” In fact, she dedicated an entire page in her girlhood violet to violets. In Dickinson’s Language of Flowers, violets meant humility and remembrance. This violet is remembered as a pressed museum specimen, but now also as gold point drawing.


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Worldwide-Phillips Viola sororia Willd

Viola sororia

Blue Violet

Goldpoint, traditional ground on paper

8-3/8 x 3-5/8

©2016 Kandy Phillips

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