Monday, October 12, 2009


We go to Gretchen's cabin when we can, once or twice a year. We walk around in the woods, unless it's raining heavily as it was Saturday, and we have a wonderful lunch at the round oak table. Then we clear the table and set up for painting practice. This time at the cabin we had three vases of autumn flowers on the table with us, many of them chrysanthemums. Chrysanthemum is one of the four friends of traditional Chinese painting. It is the flower that "braves the frost." Below is a footnote about painting the four friends:

As with orchid, bamboo, and plum, painting the chrysanthemum as an independent subject was a fairly late development (about the x century), inaugurated and influenced by the literati. The associations of the chrysanthemum as the flower of late autumn, announcing the coming of winter and able to blossom in the cold, were developed through the xiii century.

This footnote is on the first page of the chapter on Chrsyanthemum Painting in The Mustard Seed Garden Manual of Painting, which was first published, in stages, in the late 1600s. Besides bravery, pride and dignity are ascribed to the chrysanthemum in the chapter. My sketch is quite simple. I used charcoal and zinc white with a touch of grey green. The stem is darker green. The sketch needn't suceed; I was just spending time with the upright-graceful bloom. While I was at it, I did two quick watercolor sketches of thin branches outside the oak table's window. Here is one of them.

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