Two mallards and three lemons

Mallards with lemons, oil on panel, 14x11 in
Mallards with lemons by Jean Reece Wilkey, oil on panel, 14×11 in. Available.

I recently finished this painting of two mallard duck planters with a bird nest on top.  Much of my work revolves around looking at material representations of the natural world, one aspect of how we relate to and represent nature in our culture. Lately I’ve been working with ceramic animal planters, mostly because it’s easy to prop a nest on top of them. I rather like these mallards and their bent heads make me want to reach out and touch them. I painted the lemons with them because I liked the color and like painting lemons.

These planters were quite popular in the 1950s and I recall my mother having several of them with philodendrons in them. They were the height of cool back when modernist furniture and the color chartreuse were all the rage. Now they’re rather kitchy and that’s in part what I like about them. We either prize or despise these cultural relics; think they’re cool or low-brow. Regardless of what we think of them they helped shape our view of the natural world. Do you think these manufactured versions of nature help to draw us closer to it or distance us from it? Let me know what you think in the comments.

I’m posting step-by-step images of my paintings, including this one, in my newsletter. So if you want an insiders look at in-progress images please sign up to get it. It’s a quick read that comes out monthly. You can see the August issue issue here. 


8 Replies to “Two mallards and three lemons”

  1. Cara Smoley says:

    I thought a bit about this. At first I thought it distanced us because it was artificial. But then I thought at least it reminds us to look at nature. A Gemini to the core.

    1. Jean Wilkey says:

      Good point Cara. I think you’re right.

  2. Your mallards are a joy to look at, vivid, and that reminds me that birds in particular and animals in general have such striking features, including colors but also shapes and behaviors, that we should observe and enjoy them in all their beauty.

    1. Jean Wilkey says:

      Thank-you, John! I do think the motive for re-creating the natural world in ceramics is often from admiration of it.

  3. Well, today I am optomistic, so I am going to say bring us closer. Afterall there are a lot of people who have never even seen a duck and this may be the only way they experience one.

    1. Jean Wilkey says:

      Too true. Like the kid that when asked where milk comes from says the grocery store. We are somewhat removed from nature in our constructed environment so if it does bring us closer that’s a great thing.

  4. Ahh! I love this painting! The first thing that grabs me is just how incredibly carefully yo have painted this (look at the light shining on the duck’s heads!!) but once I get over your technique, I just love ‘what’ you’ve painted ~ these ducks are the epitomy of kitchen cool for me 🙂 xxx

    1. Jean Wilkey says:

      Bunny, thanks so much. What a nice comment. I really had fun doing this one.

Comments are closed.