It has been a very hot summer here in the United States. The kind of burning sunshine and sticky humidity that makes you run for the closest shade and iced lemonade. I have been staying inside most days but I long to take a walk and be in nature. However that longing is not stronger than my comfort so inside I stay.
As I look out my studio window I see my neighbors volunteer hollyhocks have sprouted again. Planted by a bird years ago it is beautiful in this heat. Tall strong stalks with large lush green leaves at the bottom. I notice the blooms have come up a pink color this year. With bees cross pollinating you never know what color they may be. The flower is a soft pink but not a pastel. The bloom has almost a cone shape that flares out at the opening with a ruffled edge. I see a yellow staemen contrasting the pale pink of the flower.
The stalks rise high with more leaves that are smaller now along with distinctive buds ready to replace spent blooms. I have always been fascinated by the leaves of the hollyhock as they begin to dry and yellow. They dry with holes across the surface making them lacy and delicate. Reminds me of the lacy florentine cookies I ate as a kid. I decide that these flowers will be the inspiration for my latest piece so I start sketching some ideas.
I decided to place the flowers in front of a garden gate. I want to have a bright green door with a pale gray fence, light foreground and perhaps some green leafy branches overhanging the fence. Using one of my small wrapped canvases I lay out fabric in a medium blue for sky, the gray boards for the fence and a warm gray for the ground. Out come the colored pencils to add shadows, depth and contrast. I add bright green fabric for the gate and sketch in a whimsical crescent moon shape at the top of the door. Lastly I locate some fabric printed as bricks to anchor the door to something.
I really like using various colors of green silk ribbon for leaves. Makes it more realistic and interesting. I then used cotton embroidery thread to establish the stalks of my hollyhocks. A large French knot works for the buds. At the top of the stalks I wrapped these knots with silk ribbon. The ribbon was persnickety so stopped after 4 or 5 were done.
It seems silly to worry about these details that will just be covered up with leaves and flower petals but I believe they add to the depth and reality of the piece as a whole. I bought a bit of fabric with printed leaves in the scale I needed at a quilt show. Cutting the leaves was a bit tedious but well worth it. I attached the leaves with a silk thread allowing most of the fabric looseto hang loose giving them demension.
Now to tackle the flowers. I had bought some pink silk thinking they would make beautiful flowers. Cutting strips I then gathered them into a circle, adjusting the gathers so the flowers would lay the direction I wanted. I then added some darker shades of red with a fabric marker in the center and a bit on the outside edges. A loop or two of fuzzy yellow thread works for the stamens. I love the way this came out.