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Quick paintings of fruits and vegetables

Page 135 from John Pechey herbal, and watercolor of lavender by Tania Norris
(Left, page 135 from the 1707 herbal by John Pechey describing Lavender; (right) Lavender painting by Tania Norris, © 2021.

Recently the Culinary Historians asked me to give a presentation comparing an English herbal from 1707, by John Pechey, with today's practicing herbalists. I accepted the challenge!

I took twenty everyday fruits and vegetables we find in our kitchens which were also listed in the 1707 herbal, and found information on the web listing their uses today. The comparisons were most interesting.

I decided I should paint them. I discovered that quick paintings can be fun and far less stressful than paintings that take one day, three days, ten days or months.

I chose twelve fruits and vegetable for the presentation knowing I had very little time for the project. The first one I tackled was a cabbage. All those leaves and all those greens! It took me an hour and half. Done. Alright, it wasn’t a masterpiece, but it wasn’t intended to be—it was intended to depict a cabbage and it gave the essence of a cabbage. On to the next.

Watercolor of garlic, Tania Norris, © 2021
Quick painting of garlic, Tania Norris, © 2021.

Garlic. That took under an hour; a raspberry, about twenty minutes. I was having fun. Lavender, dill, watercress, mint (ugh), an onion, endive, rosemary, etc. All under an hour each.

What I discovered is that it really doesn’t matter how fast you make a drawing and paint it, it still takes just as much observation to make it accurate. The items I painted aren’t the usual botanical subjects I paint, so I had never really looked at a rosemary flower. I discovered that, although tiny, it looks very like a miniature orchid and is quite beautiful.

Painting of rosemary by Tania Norris, © 2021.
Sprig of rosemary, quick painting by Tania Norris, © 2021.

Each of my quick paintings could be a maquette for a better painting, but, on the other hand, I rather like the fast and furious results. I certainly had fun and far less time and stress than when I try to make a masterpiece.

Try it, I think you’ll find a whole new way of looking at a plant.

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