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

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Leaf of the Day: Ruskin & the Liberty of Leaves (and the Croton again).

I do like leaves, probably more so than flowers. They are the sort of backroom boys of the plant world, working hard to keep the whole thing going and so often overlooked for the glory-taking showy flowers. And I have always liked drawing trees. This quote from the artist and critic John Ruskin encourages me to keep going.
"If you can paint one leaf, you can paint the world. "
He, like me, didn't like formula painting, but felt that "the artist must ultimately focus on the characteristic of individuals," and must "show the individual character and liberty of the separate leaves, clouds, or rocks" Individuality being more essential than formula.
(It is something I mentioned before in the Norman Rockwell post re Bruegel's beautiful trees.)
So, artists!.. liberate your leaves...

How many times I have seen a " How to Do it Book " with a formula for painting leaves so every tree looks the same. They are excellent guides for starting out and when I was young my Walter T Foster book on "How to draw Horses" was always with me, but we should aim to go on from there and really look at what we are attempting to portray. This morning Amazon kindly sent me an email telling me that because I had bought a book on botanical painting I would no doubt be keen to purchase a " how to paint trees" book. It assures me that "No drawing skills are required. The outlines of five paintings (plus one bonus picture) are provided to pull out from the centre of the book."
Oh dear ..someone at Amazon has seen my blog and is offering, perhaps much needed, help.

John Ruskin Tree study 1847












John Ruskin Ferns on a rock 1875













These beautiful studies and more from the Ruskin Library at Lancaster University

I always try to consider my leaves as individuals and today I return to an individual croton leaf from the ubiquitous Curly Croton plant which I had drawn before in January here. They are valued for their beautiful leaves, come in amazing colours and have different degrees of curliness. This is a relatively plain one as some of the others are brilliant reds and oranges but it does have a full twist to the leaf.
I have decided to start the final coloured pencil pieces for the course so that I can move on to watercolour. We have to do 4 images so I am factoring in some disaster time. It has been interesting but I have come to the conclusion I am temperamentally unsuited to using coloured pencils this way!

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Curly Croton 2


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