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Botanical Art Worldwide: America's Flora

Jack-in-the-Pulpit Fruit

Arisaema triphyllum

For years now, I have been fascinated by the later stages of the life cycle of plants. Drained of brilliant color and showy flowers, plants get down to the business of dispersing seeds, and create a whole architecture for the purpose. I am always on the lookout for examples of this, which, by the way, is what we a call fruit. It is not always the fleshy, mouth-watering varieties that appeal, but their sensually less attractive cousins. However, when my gardening daughter-in-law presented me with this example, with its succulent red berries cloaked in their parchment remains, I couldn’t resist. It kept saying, “Paint me, paint me!”

Jack-in-the Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) is an American native that dots my neighboring New England woods in spring. Its column of tiny male and female flowers known as a spadix are enclosed in a showy bract called a spathe, the top of which bends over to protect its precious cargo. When fertilized, the beautiful bract begins to wither and the pistillate flowers at the base of the spadix transform into berries. It is at this stage that my subject arrived. I am used to seeing the naked stalk of red berries marking the place where Jack grew. As a youngster I called it ‘Indian Chewing Gum” and there is a mean trick here. The berries are violently hot and peppery when chewed, but are perfectly harmless when swallowed whole. Convince a friend they are good to eat and prove it by swallowing some. Just watch the mischief you have created when they bite down.

The piece I was presented had the remnant of the spathe still hanging on, and it provided an irresistible challenge; the juicy crimson berries in contrast to the beige papery bract. The painting is a full straight-on image of this, enlarged about five times. The tan sides of the spathe overlap to cover the stalk of the infructation at the bottom. The spathe enlarges then, to make room for the fruit. The sides open theatrically, like a curtain, to reveal the red berries inside. These are stacked neatly in opposing spirals, another example of mathematics in nature and Fibonacci. The narrow remains of the axis of the spadix, still clothed in the spathe, dominates the upper part of the painting. The painting is enlarged so that the details that are apt to be overlooked, or minimized one to one, are made to stand out. The form, texture and architecture of the sample are easily seen and easier for me to paint.

Here was a chance; too, to open up my palette and reach across to include the cadmiums and magentas that are mostly ignored in my preoccupation with the browns as I document the dry fruits I love. First, I do measured drawings on tracing paper at the exact size of the model, then create a rectangle around the drawing which I break up to equal squares, so I can enlarge. The enlarged drawing is traced onto my full sheet of 300lb watercolor paper, and I am off. Tea tints, per my mentor Anne-Marie Evans, define edges, going from dark to light creates form, and then using a dry brush technique, I revel in defining texture and surface detail.

It is my hope that my work encourages the viewer to look closely at the natural world, particularly at those elements that are small or insignificant in their usual state. I hope they find there the order and beauty that I do.


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Read more about this artist’s work: 20th Annual

Worldwide-Rauh Arisaema 8-300

Arisaema triphyllum

Jack-in-the-Pulpit Fruit


28 x 14

©2017 Dick Rauh

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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