Texas Wildflower Series: Mexican Hat and Texas Thistle


Texas Thistle, 7×5″, oil
These are part of the Texas Wildflower Series of paintings (oil, 7×5″). They are painted on location and, if needed, finished back at the house. To select posts of only this series, click on the “Texas Wildfower Series” in the category links either above or below this post.

The first of the day was the Texas Thistle. It grows to about three feet and you may notice a huge white, fluffy ball about the size of a baseball when it’s releasing its seeds. While painting this, a hummingbird flew in and spent a minute or two checking out all the little florets, so if you’re one of those that like the hummingbirds on their spring migration, you might wait to chop this plant down until they pass through. 

These are pretty easy to paint, being just a poof of purple-pink with highlights in the sun’s direction. Great flower to start off with if you’re wanting to paint wildflowers. I was lucky to find these with a huge clump of vines on a fence behind it, providing a dark background to really make the light of the flower stand out. It has prickly leaves, like those on a Holly Bush, but if you just make sweeping brush strokes to points along the leaf, it’s not hard at all and there’s very few of them near the flowers. By the way, if ranchers drive by looking at you in bewilderment, it’s because these are a pest in their fields and they won’t understand why in the heck you’d want to paint it. 

Mexican Hat, 7×5″, oil

The second of the day was a “Mexican Hat”. I was hiking down the road to find a ranch scene with distant views, huge oaks and cattle, but this flower was backlit from the sun in tall grass and really caught my eye. The unexpected surprises are the best ones. I’ve been having trouble getting the transparent yellows and reds to show up bright over a dark background. It ends up dull and muddy. I finally figured out I can wipe off the dark background to the white of the gesso and lay the red/yellow over that like a glaze. The light hits the pigment from the back and front making it appear to glow. Very cool effect! It must work, because another hummingbird flew in and only realized up close its not a flower. Best compliment I could get! Oh, and for the fun fact about this plant (odd), the “Zuni” people made a syrup from it to induce vomiting. Thanks, Wikipedia. 


3 thoughts on “Texas Wildflower Series: Mexican Hat and Texas Thistle”

  1. Oh I love these! I am not sure which is my favorite. With the thistle the glow and lighting is very sensitive and I really like how you worked your mid tones. People seem to forget that mid tones are so darn important. We also have bull Thistle but I have never seen pink, only blues and red. I know that cattle and horses love to eat them believe it or not, they work it to avoid the thorns and eat the center of the thistle. I like how you used your brush strokes to build your background and brought a nice sense of depth.

    I don’t think we have the Mexican Hat in my area, I need to find that out. I love how your yellow now glows, probably because you have learned to scrape down to white gesso to help bounce back the light. I really like those touches of light on the petals strategically placed. What a neat compliment! the best ever and from a bird that should know! I had to smile at that. 🙂 I am looking forward to your next painting session. I haven’t been able to get out to paint either because I am too busy or it is raining. But I hope to in the next week (crossing fingers).

    1. Thanks, Margaret! I didn’t know that about the cows liking the thistle. Wonder why the ranchers hate them so much? I’ll have to ask my uncle. Maybe it makes the cows sick? Curious.
      I really enjoyed playing around with the mistimes. Next time I think I’ll concentrate on warm-cool contrasts. That can really make a painting pop. Daniel Gerhartz does this well.
      Hope you get a chance to get out soon!

      1. I do know that when we had a horse, she loved them. Perhaps I am wrong about the cows? Interesting, we have thistles everywhere and quite a few cows here as well. I never hear about the hate from the ranchers. Oh yes, that warm-cool contrasts would make it go pop. I love Daniel Gerhartz work very much, I will have to go look at his paintings to see his take on this. Oh I am ready and willing to get out there!

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