Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Ramps, or Wild Leeks

Jane Davies here.  I've been pondering the fruit and vegetable theme, wondering how to tackle it without feeling like I'm going back in time.  For years, as a potter and then as a freelance artist, I created lots of fruit and vegetable imagery, first on my ceramics, then for manufacturers of fabrics, paper goods, stationery, and so forth.  Here are a couple of designs-from-the-past:

One design in a fabric collection for Free Spirit Fabrics

Leeks!  22"x30"

Another fabric design - I made myself a quilt out of it! It also appeared on a cookbook cover.

Here in Vermont it is close to the end of Ramp Season. Ramps are wild leeks that grow from South Carolina up to Canada in the spring.  They are the sweetest allium (onion family) that I have ever eaten.  [Chop bulbs and greens separately; saute bulbs in olive oil with salt til slightly browned, then add chopped greens and cook until wilted.  Y U M!!! ]  They are abundant around here, so we eat them almost every day during the season, and I freeze some as well.
ramps growing on the forest floor
single ramp, washed, with roots removed

ramps ready for cooking or blanching and freezing

So, what better subject for our Fruit And Vegetable theme?  I started by painting several versions of a single ramp.  Here are two of them:


Inktense watercolor pencils

 And then I decided to try using the ramp colors in some scribble paintings.  Here are a couple of those.

For more on Scribble Painting see my blog post.


  1. when I was in West Virginia, they had ramp dinners. They fry them up with bacon.
    however, the smell of some one who has eaten them is very anti-social. Have you worked out a way to cook them so they don't have that result.

    I love your fabric designs. every time I make a salad, I think of doing something in fabric with those colours. Funny, but they are also colours I don't normally use...colours I never purchase.
    Sandy in the UK

  2. Hi Sandy. Yes to your ramp question: saute them in olive oil with salt SLOWLY until they are almost caramelized. Raw ramps would be like raw onions.

    Thanks for your compliment on the fabric designs. I really loved this collection, but it didn't sell very well. Oh well.

  3. Great designs from the past. I love the colors and the new collages that were inspired by the older designs. Fun.

  4. The simplicity of the single acrylic ramp really speaks volumes. The abstracts have great character. Do you find it disconcerting to go from realism to abstract? I'm finding it hard to change gears smoothly.

  5. Hi Julie-Anne. Nice to see you on this blog! I don't, actually, go back and forth. It's been a few years since I painted Things. This was all commercial work, fun and interesting, but kind of a different set of parameters than doing abstract fine art, as I do now. Changing gears always takes longer than you think, whether it's from one medium to another, or a change of subject matter.

  6. So great! Really inspiring, Jane!)

  7. Funny - these are so unlike what I think about as "yours," but I knew when I saw the first one that I was going to see your name on it. I've seen similar pieces in one of your books, but nothing like these recently. The ramp painting is simply luscious - and what a treat to see the two ramp-inspired scribble paintings explained. The plants in the photos look like something I see routinely in the woods. I'll be pulling some of those beauties up to see what's underneath. Eating them sounds mouth-watering wonderful.

  8. Gorgeous colors! I always enjoy your posts here. They always make me want to paint.

    In my part of the world (not so very far from yours) ramps are currently going for $18/pound at the farmer's markets. Alas, I shall have to confine my studies to leeks and scallions (grin).

  9. I really enjoyed this post, and seeing your process. Also makes me want to paint! Like the leap from actual to abstract.

  10. I've never heard of a ramp. Learn something new every day. I agree with Jill that seeing your shift to the abstract is quite interesting and enlightening. Thanks for sharing.


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