The delicacy and detail of botanical paintings is astonishing. With six days at their disposal, the artists still claimed they were pressed to finish by the end of the week – but their artwork was of a very high standard. Delicate heliconia, robust ginger, and the intricate lacy petals of a hibiscus were all on display as the painters bent over their boards in the classroom set up for them in the yoga shala. It is a beautiful spot to spend your time: a lovely view, a tranquil space and the companionship of all the others, chatting quietly, offering tips and giving support. Plus tea and coffee and cakes brought up during the morning! And of course the excellent teaching of Leonie Norton, who manages to squeeze unsuspected genius out of everyone.
It is unfair to single anyone out but……a special mention of Jeannette who has never done any painting before but produced a really stunning picture of a flowering ginger (Alpinia purpurata). She was there with her daughter Helen who had come to us as prizewinners of a competition run with Eckersley’s art shops: Helen painted a hibiscus (Hibiscus schizopetalus), with immensely delicate petals. Leonie taught her the value of painting in the petals in the foreground, but leaving those in the background half- coloured so as not to overwhelm the eye with detail.
And another special mention: this one of Alva, who was back for her second week at Daku. She commanded a table to herself as she painted her heliconia and the tiny lines on the curled leaf beside it. On the next table Helen and Jean (yes, another Helen, with a Jean not Jeannette) concentrated on another variety of heliconia (Jean) and a red hybrid hibiscus Hibiscusrosa-sinensis (Helen) which she examined minutely through a large magnifying glass so as to capture every fold of its petals.
At the front table sat Mary and Kathryn, both of them tackling large plants – Mary a Heliconia rostrata, commonly known as the Lobster Claw, which you grows prolifically at Daku, and Kathryn a Heliconia caribaeaux x bihai. This was Kathryn’s first attempt and despite being anxious, she was thrilled with her beautiful final painting, which will be the first of many, I am sure. They patiently laid down their washes, sat back to let the paint dry, then bent over again to apply the next layer.
Behind them Dawn plugged herself into her iPod and was in another world of her own as she built up her picture. She completed a strong confident painting of a Heliconia psittacorum ‘Andromeda’, the Parrot Heliconia. Robyn was one of the only ones not using the colour red as she painted the delicate contrasting violet flowers and long dark green leaves of a plant growing profusely on the resort.
Marlene and another Dawn sat at the table at the back; more large, sturdy heliconia – one in dramatic reds and the other in pinks and greens. Marlene’s pendant Heliconia collinsiana ranged in colour from vivid orange-reds to deep maroons, with a light blush covering the bracts and huge leaves, which she also painted. Dawn’s painting was of the quite rare Heliconia wagneriana. The bracts are a delicate salmon-pink with soft lemon edges lined with vibrant green.
And so there’s everyone accounted for and special mentions all round. At the end of the week we pinned all the pictures up in the big bure and enjoyed the beauty and professionalism of all the work on display before our final dinner and reluctant goodbyes to a week of flowering talent.
Leonie Norton returns to Daku for her next course in March 2012.