About a week ago, while running errands with my family, on a persistent whim I decided I wanted one of the several thistles scattered along the shoulder of the road. As with most “whims,” there was not much reason for it…I just saw a tall, spiky, blooming thistle and became briefly obsessed with pulling one out of the ground. Partly driven by nostalgia, remembering a trip from my youth when my parents pulled over and showed my sister and I a thistle, partly driven by an “educational opportunity” for my own children (and humor at hearing my daughter say “thithle” with her slight lisp), and partly driven by an artistic impetus, I cajoled my husband into making two loops on a busy road so I could pop out of the car and pull up my coveted thistle.
It was one of my finer moments: dressed in nice clothes, climbing out of a little mini van, carrying a brightly striped child’s pullover (for spike-protection), dashing down a weed covered hill, watched by a whole intersection of onlookers merging off and onto the interstate, I quickly yanked up a thistle before scurrying back to the car with my strange prize. I’m sure I looked totally normal…
When I got close to my chosen thistle, which was much larger than I expected, I had a moment of panic that after all this trouble, in front of all these anonymous commuters, I wouldn’t be able to pull it up, and there I would be tugging in vain before retreating to the car in shameful surrender. To my relief, it came up with a quick snap.
My thistle has been blooming steadily all week in it’s little jar of water and giving me lots of opportunity to draw it, observe it, and reflect upon why I am fascinated by this odd plant.
At once both soft and jagged, with downy coverings and serrated thorns; both beautiful and dangerous, with soft red tufts of flower tempting the touch, while fingers must weave cautiously through the plentiful thorns. Strikingly harsh with it’s stiff, sharp leaves, and artistically intriguing with it’s curving, striated stems and colorful urns of flower. An unlikely place to find beauty, grace found among thorns.
Here are my impressions/studies of the thistle; I plan on trying it again soon with some different techniques.
3 Studies of a Thistle, 5×7 soft pastel on card coated with pastel ground