top of page
  • Jennifer Gillen

An Unpopular Favorite Painting

Many artists say that their favorite piece of their own art is not the piece that others tend to like. This is true for me as well. It seems like people are drawn to some of my least favorite creations rather than my favorite. This thought leads me to think about why this is true.


Botanical Painting of a Canna
Cleopatra 22"x30" Created in 2020

Of my own work, my favorite painting depicts a grand canna lily. It is a strange composition with dense leaves in the background. The colors are intense, maybe even a little overpowering. To me, it has a sense of maximalism and dramatic power. That’s part of why I chose to name it Cleopatra.


This painting marked a change in direction for my creative practice. It’s the first painting for which I chose to fully render the background. It’s big, a full sheet of watercolor paper (22”x30”). Every inch of the painting is carefully considered. When I started the painting, it seemed like a giant undertaking to paint every detail. It actually did take a long time to finish. At the time, the hours after my day job were all I had to work.


watercolor botanical painting in progress
Cleopatra in progress.

Maybe the reason I love the painting so much involves my encounter with the flower rather than the actual painting process or the finished piece. It was one of those chance meetings when a perfectly centered moment of beauty occurs. This canna was part of the Dallas Arboretum’s experimental gardens. It’s vibrant bloom stood as tall as me. I felt an immediate attraction to the flower. Standing among her lush leaves, I marveled at the unusual colors in the bloom for a long time before I started to photograph. There was something clear and calm about that flower. It also had a feminine confidence that really spoke to me.


It might be that artists prefer certain pieces of their own work because of the initiating experience of creating. The art is more about the experience of knowing the subject and the connection. I know that my best work only comes from moments like these. This is when an artist’s soul really unifies itself with the work. The painting becomes an extension of the experience. In my case, the painting practically created itself.


When people look at art, they connect with things they know. For instance, if I painted a certain mountain scene that certain people know and love, it would appeal to those people. Or if a certain color really resonates with someone, there would be a connection with a painting featuring that color.


Cleopatra doesn’t seem to resonate well with others. It’s been rejected from a few art exhibitions and hasn’t won any awards. All of this makes sense when I consider the solitary moment of connection I had with this flower. Maybe beauty isn’t in the eye of the observer but in the soul of the observer.



10 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page