First Hydrangea – Remembering My Grandmother’s Garden

A week ago, I bought several pots of flowers to serve as subjects for new paintings.

Consider the Lily – Jacki Kellum Watercolor

I bought a pot of Asiatic Lilies, and I painted one of those flowers.

Early Morning Lilies – Jacki Kellum Watercolor

I bought a pot of Calla Lilies, and I painted some of those blooms.

First Hydrangea – Jacki Kellum Watercolor

I also bought a pot of blushing, lavender-blue hydrangeas, but until today, I could not paint my hydrangea. I was afraid. Since I was a toddler, I have been in awe of blue hydrangeas. My grandmother had a row of them planted against her white garage, which stood toward the back of her property. My house was on the street behind my grandmother’s house, and at least once a day, I would pass through someone’s backyard and beneath the tall stand of hollyhocks that ran along the very back of my grandparents’ property, past the irises, past the poppies, past the blue hydrangeas, along the rows of snapdragons, and to the steps of her small, glassed back porch. Several years ago, I wrote a poem about how I felt, as a child, when I reached my grandmother’s porch.

Grandma’s Porch
by Jacki Kellum

I’ve reached the shore of my grandmother’s door,
The one from her garden yard.
Oh, sunny-sweet room of my grandmother’s loom,
The one in the dirt of my grandmother’s skirt,
The one just inside, keep me warm, by your side.
At my grandmother’s hearth,
Let me hide.

My grandmother’s only daughter had died as an infant, and I was her only granddaughter. I absolutely adored my grandmother, but in many ways, I am very much unlike my grandmother. She was quiet and meek, and I am certainly neither of those. But I did inherit my grandmother’s love of gardening and of creating with fabric.

I often tell people that my first art happened as I sat at my grandmother’s quilting table, admiring all of the beautiful fabrics that she was piecing together to become quilts. She would allow me to use her big, silver scissors to cut some of my favorite pictures from the cloth, and then she would make glue from flour and water and allow me to place my images on a piece of paper. Finally, she helped me cut narrow strips of a solid fabric, to serve as a frame. I distinctly remember a dark green flannel-framed picture that I made that way.

Everything about this activity was meaningful to me. It was a quiet time. It was a safe time. It was a time that I was allowed to select visual stimuli, and it was a time that I realized that someone that I loved appreciated my choices. My grandmother is one of the greatest influences in my life. I cherish my memories of her. Perhaps that is one of the reasons that I was afraid to paint the blue hydrangeas. Perhaps I felt that I could not paint well enough to sing the song of my grandmother’s blue hydrangeas, but I don’t believe that is fully the case.

Hydrangeas are busy. Their blossoms are complex and filled with lots of little florets.

Red Hibiscus – Jacki Kellum Watercolor

I prefer to paint large, simple flowers. They don’t confuse me. I don’t get lost within them. But hydrangeas are an entirely different story from the hibiscus flower. Yet, this is my season to claim my courage, and today I decided to at least try to paint my lacy, lavender blue hydrangea plant. All of the other pots of flowers that I bought when I bought my hydrangea had withered and gone, but the hydrangea today looked more beautiful and inviting than ever.

First Hydrangea – Jacki Kellum Watercolor

As usual, my title First Hydrangea alludes to several things. This is the first hydrangea of 2018 for me. It is the First Hydrangea that I have ever painted. And because I have finally allowed myself the courage to pursue art as a  career, this is the First Hydrangea of the Rest of My Life.


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