Spring Flowers in a Glass Vase

Spring Flowers in a Glass Vase by Jan van Kessel the Elder (b. 1626)
Spring Flowers in a Glass Vase by Jan van Kessel the Elder (b. 1626)

I painted with the children this morning. It has been awhile since I painted a picture. So there I was with tempera paints and shiny fingerpainting paper, painting the vase of flowers on our kitchen table. The end result was marvelous in the eyes of three certain critics… all age 6 and under:) Today I reflect about flower bouquets. They are beautiful, for a short time. They brighten up a room, both because the flowers are bright and because the occasion for giving them is special. This bouquet by van Kessel showcases the minute details in a flower, and I noticed that while I painted this morning! Flowers are intricate. An artist must either be very careful and exact, or she must find a shortcut for representing flowers. There are other decisions to make: do I include the drooping buds, the brown-edged blooms? We’ve had the bouquet for a week, but I decided to paint it as if it was fresh. Jan van Kessel chose to include butterflies, which reminds me that flowers provide food for some creatures, not only beauty.

Even reflecting on a vase of flowers can be complicated business. I prefer a real bouquet to a painting of one; it’s more about the moment and the occasion, less about what a flower actually looks like.

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