Poppies seem to have a particular appeal for artists.
Monet certainly painted them several times but he's not the only one; they seem to be an 'easy' subject for amateur artists too, maybe because those vivid red splashes of colour are so easily identifiable and make such an immediate impact?
Then again, in close up, they are, to my mind, the unbeatable champions of 'gesture' in the floral realm and it's for that reason as much as their colours that I love painting them.
But I grew up believing that all poppies were a pale orange colour. They seemed to grow everywhere - in our garden, in the paths, on bombsites and waste ground. And I always loved them, not so much for their colour as for their graceful curving stems and nodding heads, that made them seem somehow more alive than other plants. I never really associated those poppies of my childhood with the flat red artificial Flanders poppies that we wear on Remembrance Day.
But in Norfolk I was introduced to red poppies, sometimes called Shirley or Corn Poppies, in all their glory! And I painted them. But unfortunately, my pastel painting of poppies and daisies on the edge of a North Norfolk cornfield, was framed and given away long before I had a scanner so the best I can manage is a scan of an old pre-digital photo of it -
As you travel towards the North Norfolk Coast, outside Cromer and Overstrand, you really can't miss the red swathes of poppies growing wild in the cornfields! In fact a 19th Century London journalist, Clement Scott, came to Overstrand in 1883, fell in love with the poppies, as well as the local miller's daughter, named the area 'Poppyland' and wrote about it in the Daily Telegraph.
A friend in Hereford is lucky to be able to grow these black-centred, scarlet poppies in her flowerbeds -
- which gave rise to these:
And a local neighbour's large, oriental-type poppies have been immortalised in this oil pastel painting, as greeting cards, mugs and even shoes!
I've tried to grow poppies from seed in my garden in Abergavenny with no success at all - the same goes for cornflowers which have thrived in my previous gardens so I suspect the soil is too heavy. My only success has been with the Californian variety, which I'm very fond of,
- so last year I raised some Icelandic Poppies from seed indoors and planted them in tubs and pots outside my kitchen door, where they flowered cheerfully and resulted in my most popular watercolour greeting card -
It would have been far cheaper to have grown my poppies myself but time has been short this Spring so I dutifully paid the price with my voucher and we carried them in carrier bags for the rest of our walk, trying not to damage their fragile petals.
They survived and once they'd settled in to their new homes in the pots by my door, they've begged me to photograph them daily!
It's not always been easy to capture their brilliant, almost translucent colours - I'm sure that a more professional photographer would have found a way - but these are just a few that came out reasonably well -
I think I'm going to try following this advice and, if the seeds are still available in the shops, I'll sow some in pots, ready for next year...
These are some of the greeting cards in which I've tried to portray the 'daintiness' that is part of their charm -
As for these, they show a different, more flamboyant aspect of the poppy's personality, I think!
And, by the way, if anyone would ever like to use any of my photos, flowers or otherwise, as a reference for painting or drawing, just send me a message and I'll gladly email you a larger version.