Grandmother Lela, she of blue glass, strawberries and cream (literally - in front of game shows with our feet propped up on the recliner) and lilting laugh, loved amaryllis. I remember the shocking reds of the blossoms and the impressive size of the fast-growing stalks. I let the ancient bulbs she brought with her when we shared housing go long ago, but revisited the wonder of the flowers when the bulbs showed up in hardware stores in the fall. Seven weeks is a long time for a short person (or for me, for that matter!) but I potted a good-sized bulb in a bright ochre pot on top of a filing cabinet and began watering it in early November.
Right on schedule, I had a tall, impressive stalk and two promisingly fat buds when we came back to school in January. Responses from the kids ranged from, "Hey - is that real?" to "My auntie grows those things. It's gonna die and you'll have to throw it away." to "Is it there so we can paint it?" I love it. They immediately see the possibilities. One of the ongoing themes in our studio is answering the question of where do artists get ideas from so I like to provide the bizarre and beautiful as options. We talked about what struck us the most about the blooms as they opened over the space of several days. We measured the height of the stalks and curved leaves with our hands and guessed how big the blossoms would be. Our flower didn't disappoint and neither did any of the students' renderings. Media included watercolor, tempera cakes, melted crayon, colored pencil, crayons and markers. With some classes I sat and sketched my own renderings and painted a little, but I'm careful because I don't want my ideas to overpower their own wonderful concepts.
We had as many different approaches as we had artists "taking on" the amaryllis challenge. I think they're incredible, and some of the smiles suggest that their creators do, too.