"There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion" Francis Bacon 1561-1626

Thursday, 31 January 2008

Leaf of the Day: Cabbage Palm Fern and Nature Printing

This little fern frond is from the Cabbage Palm Fern which grows in the 'boots' of the palm trees all over Orlando. The boots are where the leaves have joined the trunk, providing a cleft for the fern to take root in. It grows in crevices and cracks of walls, in nooks and crannies of oak trees and anywhere it can get a bit of nutrient, but is at its prettiest decorating the trunks of the palms. This is again from the border at the bottom of the steps here. There are many beautiful ferns in Florida and its is tempting to make February a Florida Fern month.. maybe I will, but some of them are very complicated to draw!

On Saturday I found a good shop nearby which sells all sort of antiquities from Egyptian shabtis to dinosaur eggs. I picked up this fossilised fern there, embedded and preserved in slate, 310-280 million years old. It¡s from Pennsylvania, an amazing little bit of history for just a few dollars.





Nature Printing
It reminded me of the beautiful fern illustrations in Thomas Moore's "The Ferns of Great Britain and Ireland" produced in London in 1855 by the difficult and laborious 'nature printing' process. Each engraving plate was made from an actual plant then hand coloured. Here is an example from the book and more examples in a article from the George Glazer Gallery here explaining the process. This would be fascinating to try.
I particularly like the way the stem has been just turned up in order to get the image to fit on the page. In a similar way Audubon had to arrange some of the larger birds like the flamingo in awkward poses to make them fit the 'elephant ' format of the pages. Somehow there is a truthfulness here which is very engaging and has no artifice.

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Cabbage Palm Fern


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