Helianthus annuus

Helianthus annuus 



29.7 x 42cm

Watercolour on Fabriano Artistico Extra White cotton rag 300 gsm

SOLD - Private Collection

This fabulous, showy flower has a strong, hairy stem.  The leaves are broad, roughly toothed and alternate off the stem.  Its agricultural cropping form can reach enormous heights.  Happily the artist sourced a florist variety of Helianthus which could be painted on paper of reasonable size...

The artist was originally attracted to the sight of fields of sunflowers during a visit to Tuscany in the summer of 2011.  Acres of swaying, yellow-framed ‘faces’ were a delight to see.  On closer inspection, the architecture of the bracts to support the heavy flower heads was compelling, being built on a strong curved ‘neck’ on which the bracts were supported, to allow the head to hold many hundreds of heavy seeds.  Superb construction. 

Not only this, but the cleverness of the seed arrangement in flowers of this kind is one of the wonders of botany and the natural world.  The seeds are arranged in a sequence which allows the tightest possible packing into the flower head without either cramping growth or wasting space.  There are two sets of interconnecting spirals in such seed-placement patterns, which are successive numbers in the Fibonacci sequence, perhaps 34 spirals clockwise and 55 anti-clockwise.  For further explanation of this brilliant natural phenomenon, click here.

It was the strength of the architecture that stimulated the composition of this piece – the artist wanted to show the back of the plant, and to do so without the distraction of colour, using graphite.  It was also important to show clearly the seed pattern in the thick pad at the centre of the flower.

This flower study was published in 2013 alongside the author's critique in Handbook of Plant Forms for Botanical Artists, Clark, E and Stevens, M, Pavilion, London 2013, pp 44-45.  For more on this, click here.