[singlepic id=301 w=460 h=340 float=] Getting back into the studio after a long absence can be a challenge. It's not easy to slow down after summer's mile-a-minute pace, to set aside until spring little booth projects devised during long drives, and just paint. One thing that can really help out in the motivation department is a new batch of reference photos. Lucky for me, I found the dahlias.

Not that dahlias are easy to miss. But if you're as much a creature of habit as I am, it can apparently be done for several consecutive years. Nearly all of my reference comes from visits to the Manito Park perennial garden. Occasionally I'll venture into the greenhouse, but that's just above the aforementioned garden, and together those areas make up a very small percentage of a very large park. This year I determined to expand my horizons a bit.

Having enjoyed my recent work with daisies from the greenhouse, I thought I'd try working with something similar. I expanded my route through the park in search of zinnias. I found a few, but they didn't inspire. So I kept walking. Then, as I crested Rose Hill, I spotted them---a bed of giant dahlias, most of them taller than me, in every imaginable color. Blooms the size of my head were just at that heavy, twisty decline phase that I love. Did I really "SQUEEEEE!" out loud? Probably.

Seven hundred and sixteen dahlia photos later, here's Medusa Study, my first dahlia pastel. I expect it will become an oil painting soon. I also expect to have several hundred more dahlia photos before the frost finishes them for another year.