Wild Beauty in Winter Dark

Prairie Dock, Silphium terebinthinaceum (detail), © Heeyoung Kim
Prairie Dock, Silphium terebinthinaceum (detail), © Heeyoung Kim

I used to be a happy camper when I was painting a Shooting Star in spring, but soon I realized that I could paint only one plant during that time, missing all others, because I only had limited time. After agonizing over the issue, I came up with a solution: just drawing and keeping color notes in blooming seasons, and finishing up the paintings in winter. How perfect with Chicago’s long winter!  At this point, more than 70 finished and unfinished drawings are waiting for their turn. New ones are added whenever opportunities arise. Even exotic plants like Ginseng and Titan Arum have found their place in my flat file. Of course, I should paint Ginseng, an Asian cure-all, to honor my father who was an herbal medicine practitioner.

image of sketches

Often people ask me what I do in winter. I am in heaven in winter! Thanks to being a physically fragile girl with overprotective parents (my nickname as a child was “greenhouse orchid”), I didn’t do any physical exercise. Even my PE teachers gave me other assignments (usually paperwork for them), during PE classes, instead of letting me participate in the fun activities. When I ended up being a wildflower painter, I faced a big challenge: working outdoors can be very tough for me. Carrying my drawing equipment, or sitting in prairie or woods for hours and hours fighting sun and bugs is exhausting work for me. In winter, on the contrary, I am indulged in luxury, adding colors and finishing drawings in graphite or ink—in peace!

large yellow lady's slipper orchid

With live specimens in front of my eyes, I strive for accurate drawing and color matching. When they are gone, my imagination takes over their colors and shapes. A dead leaf turns into dark night sky. Tiny venations become mountain ridges, small cells in between are darkened to become valleys and creeks. A bug-eaten hole dreams of exploding like a powerful volcano! It goes on and on. Ocean and fields are created to add tranquility to overexcited scenes. Beauty is everywhere in all seasons. It is only captured by the one who has a heart for it.

Prairie Dock_Silphium terebinthinaceum, Heeyoung Kim

Heeyoung Kim, Botanical Artist

To view more of her images of wildflowers of the prairie and woods, click here.


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