Thursday, December 31, 2009

Closed and Round, Positively Bulbous

After several hours with Lionel, pointing out the kind of artichoke that needed to be in the painting, we headed out of the fields. Before the road, Lionel pulled over, hopped out, and freed a few artichokes from their stems with a swift slice of his knife. Ironically, he selected sizes and shapes similar to Jacob's original painting.

When I asked Lionel why he picked those, he answered, "Oh, I like those better."

So do we which is why Jacob painted that kind of artichoke in the first place. But, Lionel claims, people like the round ones better.

What people?!?

Still, a good rule to thumb: give people what they want, especially when they are paying you.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Meeting the Artichoke Man

One bonus of the commission wanting Jacob to change the artichoke: we were invited into the fields to look at the different stages of growth. One afternoon we met Lionel, the Artichoke Man, who has cultivated and marketed artichokes for almost three decades and spent several hours exploring and photographing.

This is definitely NOT the specimen Lionel wanted to see in the new painting. He was adamant that the choke be closed and round, bulbous. But I loved this choke for showing its floral-side.

And then they called...

A few weeks after Jacob submitted his painting, the commission called and requested a meeting. And after almost three hours in a room with five people, Jacob finally sent me a text message: I got it!

They loved his painting, but required some changes - he had to change the choke, from a summer choke to a harvest choke; he had to put some more details in the fields; and he needed to paint the lettering on the painting itself.

It was going to be a lot of work, requiring him to redo the entire painting. Still we were thrilled that Jacob was awarded his first commissioned painting! Woohoo.

Artichoke Appetizers...

Our culinary offering for the New Year's Eve bash we're attending tomorrow evening will, naturally, involve artichokes! I'm thinking a piping hot, cheesy artichoke dip with asiago crisps and steamed artichoke quarters with a citrus caponata. Any other suggestions?

Hours and Hours Later

So, after doing the color study, Jacob set to work on the actual painting submission. And when it was completed, this is what he submitted to the Artichoke Festival Commission:

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Did You Know...

Globe artichokes are the large, unopened flower bud of a plant belonging to the thistle family. The many leaf-like parts making up the bud are called scales. Peak season is in April and May.

Artichokes are actually a flower bud - if allowed to flower, blossoms measure up to seven inches in diameter and are a violet-blue color. Artichokes are a close relative to the thistle.

The artichoke was first developed in Sicily and was known to both the Greeks and the Romans. In 77 AD the Roman naturalist Pliny called the choke one of earth's monstrosities, but many continued to eat them. Historical accounts show that wealthy Romans enjoyed artichokes prepared in honey and vinegar, seasoned with cumin, so that this treat would be available year round.

It was not until the early twentieth century that artichokes were grown in the United States. All artichokes commercially grown in the United States are grown in California.

In the U.S., Artichokes were first grown in Louisiana, brought there by settlers in the 19th century.

Castroville, California is known as the Artichoke Capital of the World. And it is where Norma Jean (Marilyn Monroe) was crowned Artichoke Queen in 1947.

Cynar is an artichoke flavored aperitif made in Italy.

A Color Study

After taking several photographs, with Riley wearing different shirts and standing in different poses, Jacob finally settled on the composition he wanted to produce. Here's the first "Thistle Be Fun."

Our Muse

I love the immediacy of electronic interactions. Within half an hour of posting a call for a theme on facebook, friends had emailed creative, corny, and inspiring phrases. But one of those suggestions - from Seth Karm - became the basis for Jacob's painting submission to the Artichoke Festival Commission: THISTLE BE FUN.

Thanks, Seth. Those three little words changed our lives.