You're probably familiar with bioluminescent organisms: creatures that posses the seemingly magical ability to glow. This remarkable trait is seen in a range of organisms: algae, jellyfish—even the fireflies that flit through our northeastern nights in the summer. Well, this year, we chose as one of our 2020 Art Pack Collection a luminescent flower! No, Silverleaf Sunflower doesn't glow in the dark; it doesn't sparkle in the seas like some kinds of plankton—though this land-bound variety is native to the Texas Gulf Coast. The radiance of this rare flower stems instead from light playing on the Lamb's Ear-like hairs of its gray-green leaves, and the contrast of those with the bright yellow flowers.
We grew Silverleaf Sunflower for the first time on our farm this past season, and had to work hard to protect the seeds from the birds. The plants grew into a whole field of shimmery gold and silver. After all that work, and because of our adoration for the variety, it was very important that we found a pack artist who could truly convey the effects of light. That's why we were thrilled when Lachlan Herrick applied for our Call for Art. Lachlan, a Philadelphia native with a degree in illustration from the Savannah College of Art and Design, is a magician when it comes to capturing the subtle yet compelling impact that light has on her subjects. We learned more about her techniques and inspiration at the end of 2019.
How do you approach art? What inspires you to start a piece and what do you try to convey in it?
As a visual storyteller, I seek to illuminate compelling and unusual stories that deserve to be heard, and to lend diligent observation to simple subject matter. I draw from international sources—myths, tales, and traditions—as well as a love for works of the past and items of antiquity. I also look to show the quiet beauty found in the unexplained—and how mystery can intrigue and excite the viewer’s mind to make their own conclusions. I visualize narratives often in solitary, centralized subject matter, and often through portraiture. My work is often a hybrid process, largely started in graphite, placing a focus on delicate renderings of value and light; in the interest of time for this piece I completed this step digitally but with the intention to mimic a traditional quality. I then apply color digitally to preserve the nuance of textures—or to intensify them—and maintaining a limited or subdued color palette.
What did you want to convey in this piece, and how did your techniques inform that?
My main intent was to capture the right lighting scenario for the piece. It can have a remarkable way of harnessing moods, and here I wanted to convey the warmth that these flowers made me feel, and had the potential to bring to others.
I focused on a setting that would accentuate the plant’s gold and silver scheme. I visualized the sunflowers glowing against a dusky blue background at dawn, gold sunlight illuminating them from behind as the silvery leaves are represented in a bluish light in the shadow. I also couldn’t pass up the chance to incorporate the armadillo to reflect the region in which the variety originates.
The round shape of this piece is unique. How did you make that choice?
I love circular compositions and the sense of calmness that they bring in contrast to pointed edges. I saw the packet design as a way to utilize a different shape to better fit the usable space.
Why did you apply to be an Art Pack artist? How do you think about the value of combining seeds and art in this way?
These art packs are what drew me to the company, and likewise what drew me towards a greater appreciation of gardening and the general significance of heirloom varieties. I feel that visual arts can often be utilized to convey what words alone sometimes can’t appropriately communicate. In this case, not only do they ignite curious minds, but they reflect the enthusiasm for the team’s purpose in such wildly imaginative and diverse ways. ■
When you grow Silverleaf Sunflower this year, we invite you to admire not only the plants' beauty, but the insects and birds that flutter around the flower heads, and the creatures that crawl up or between the tall stalks. While the armadillos Lachlan illustrated may not be dependent on the sunflowers, they represent the connections within the greater ecosystem. With your garden, you're inviting that ecosystem to grow and shine in your own back yard.
To learn more about Lachlan and see her illuminate other beautiful subjects, visit her website and follow her on Instagram @cloverlie.
How To Grow Silverleaf Sunflower
Sow seeds 2-3 per foot, then thin to 12" spacing when seedlings are established. Silverleaf grows quickly, up to 15' tall, and may require staking to support. Plant where it will not shade out other full-sun crops. If seed heads are left on the plant, local birds will gobble up the seeds with glee.