About 5 years ago, while working in my garden, I noticed that I kept getting a yellow stain on my clothes. It came from the pollen of a daylily and was nearly impossible to get out of the cloth. It then struck me that perhaps this just might make a good pigment to work with. I initially used it on my sculptural work. It seemed to work ok but was very fragile and tended to get on one’s hands. I then thought of working with it on paper. I used the pollen mixed with water as one would use watercolors. This worked well but to my surprise the yellow pigment, when wet, changed colors when it dried: sometimes yellow, sometimes green, sometimes blue or a combination of both along with the yellow. I created a series of simple pieces to explore the range of color possibilities and was happy with the results.
The following year while dead-heading my day lilies I made a small pile of the recently dead flowers on the concrete patio in my garden. When I removed them a few hours later I noticed colorful stain on the concrete. Well, if the pollen worked why not try the pigment directly from the flowers themselves? I had recently discovered a new working surface called Clayboard. It is highly absorbent but also hard enough for me to really work the surface. I began to press the dead, still wet flowers into the surface of the Clayboard. Again the colors that resulted were often different from the color of the flowers. Over a period of about two years I’ve tried all sorts of approaches to working with the flowers and plants from my garden, allowing them to dry then rewetting and drawing out the pigment to apply with and eyedropper or brushes.
I have now begun planting flowers specifically to use in my paintings. Daylily, Gladiolas, numerous Iris, Bee Balm, Dahlias, ferns, and many other types of flowers fill my small but very productive garden. Some have worked, others not. It’s really by deliberate trial and error that I discover which flowers produce the best pigments and resulting colors.