California state’s flower is the golden poppy. Native Americans cherished the poppy as both a source of food and for oil extracted from the plant. Its botanical name, Eschsholtzia californica, was given by Adelbert Von Chamisso, a naturalist who arrived in San Francisco in 1816 surrounded by hills of the golden flowers. Also sometimes known as the flame flower, la amapola, and copa de oro (cup of gold), the poppy grows wild throughout California. It became the state flower in 1903.
I grew up in the country there. On the rise behind our house was a rolling hill much like all of the other soft rolling hills in northern California. One of my earliest memories was of a spring day when I was about 4 years old. I had wandered away from the house drawn by all the beautiful gold that I could see in the hill. I knew the gold was flowers, but I was mesmerized by the color.
I remember sitting in the middle of this thickly-covered field of golden poppies. I was delighted and it was perhaps one of my first joyous experiences. I remember how delicate they were and how some were fully open and some were wrapped tightly. I remember their fragrance. They fascinated me. I have been in love with poppies since that time.
I have been thinking about painting poppies for a long time. Last week I decided to paint that hill and that experience. I started like I have been doing lately with many layers of background color. Before I started adding a field of golden poppies as I had planned, I realized that there were so many poppies in my memories that I would soon have an abstract orange painting.
That is not what I had in my mind. It wasn’t capturing the feeling that I wanted so I decided to limit my poppies to make them and the painting more symbolic to me. The above painting is what evolved. The photograph below is how I remember the hill: