Cardinalflower in Shade


$42/month to rent
$950/to purchase

Aleta Karstad

20″ x 10″

Item ID: 51131

1 in stock


Born in Guelph, Ontario in 1951, Aleta learned her love of nature through helping her wildlife pathologist, Lars Karstad, with travels and field work. After the three-year Fine Arts course at Central Technical School, Toronto, she began to work in biological illustration at the National Museum of Canada, and in 1973, married biologist Frederick W. Schueler. They have been residents of the Bishops Mills since 1978, and are very involved in recording local natural history. In 2002, they opened Bishops Mills Natural History Centre in the old General Store building. Aleta’s books have been drawn from her illustrated natural history journals, and since 1995 she has been teaching her method.

Aleta and her husband Fred are currently travelling on the maritime leg of the 30 Years Later Expedition ( She is painting full time on this expedition and producing five paintings per week, which she uploads to her blog ( from which she runs a week-long e-mail auction for each piece to support the 30 Years Later Expedition.

About Cardinalflower in Shade:

6 August 2016 found me rejoicing over flaming spikes of Cardinalflowers in bloom on a steep creekbank thick with Buttonbush and Decadon, near its outlet into Upper Rock Lake at Opinicon Road, 8 kilometres northwest of Battersea, Ontario.

As the creek bank was steep, and the bushes impenetrable, in stead of painting onsite, I photographed the Cardinalflowers for a painting. Photographing them in direct sunlight did not work. The red was too bright for the camera, and glared out to orange, so the shade would have to do.

When I painted a watercolour of Cardinalflower in Tobermory Ontario in 1983, I had to buy a special tube of “Windsor Red” for it. This time, in water-mixable oils, I used three colours of Cadmium Red, and also Alizarin Crimson – but still I needed the deliberate colour contrast of blue sky reflection to make those bird-flowers fly…. Yes, they do look like scarlet cranes, or flaming angels, spreading their wings to take off, arching their ribbed gray necks and jutting their little white beards – as if flowers could dance or fly!

In this painting I departed from my usual oil technique of doing an initial solid underpainting of the entire canvas – the red painted petals needed white canvas for the red to glow brightest. So first I painted the flowers on the white gessoed canvas, then painstakingly filled all the negative spaces with a blue underpainting, taking care to leave a thin electric glow along the edges of the petals, to produce a kind of “dazzle” in the eye of the beholder. Then I worked the pondweed and tree reflections into the blue of the creek at the bottom, grading up into sun-bleached green-golds on the bushes of the far bank – creating a tonal contrast for the heavy, unopened buds at the tip of the spike. My idea was that this vertical counterchange should help you to see that although brilliant, the plant is actually in shade…. so imagine how vivid the Cardinalflower must be in full sunlight!” – Aleta Karstad

Additional information

Dimensions 18 × 1 × 15 in
SKU: A-51131 Categories: , ,

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