Tulips and Watercolors, i.e. Nature and Art

Natalie and I discovered the pleasure of painting with watercolor pencils when we focused on nature studies as part of our science curriculum at Applewood School.  Natalie kept a naturalist notebook, which included lists of birds she saw on nature walks, notes on plant specimens, detailed pencil drawings of pollen, seeds, and other tiny things she studied under the microscope, and watercolors of various plants.   Here is a tulip she painted.

by Natalie '11

Have you ever taken a look inside a tulip?  It’s like finding a surprise inside a package.  You’ll find unexpected and exquisite color combinations.   A month ago, I took these photos of my final tulip bouquets of the season (late fall thru early spring).  Did you know that tulips continue to grow when they are cut?  I usually end up trimming a couple of inches off the stems (twice!) as they grow too tall to stand up!  I still find that amazing.  During tulip season, I buy one or two bunches at the farmers market and place bouquets at eye level both indoors and outdoors so that I can watch the tulips open during the day (they close up at night) and display their surprise colors. Each time I see the middle of a tulip, I am delighted.  Perhaps one of the best things about stepping outside the conventional school setting for two years was that it allowed Natalie (and me!) non-harried time to enjoy nature and art, not squeezed in every once in awhile, but as a daily delight.   It felt good.  It was fun.  It enhanced learning.

Since Natalie and I discovered that painting with watercolor pencils is fun and relaxing, we still like to do it.   Last weekend, we pulled out our pencils and sat down at the kitchen table to paint in drawings of Yorkshire, England landscapes we purchased a year ago in a crowded little art shop in York.  Natalie is now showing me some new techniques that she is learning in her two-dimensional art class in high school. She will continue taking an art class in 10th grade because she can’t imagine not having this quiet, creative time in her day.  Not only does it balance out the brainy rest of the day, it helps her concentrate and focus in math, science, humanities, spanish, and economics.


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