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

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Leaf of the day: Intimate Encounters with Plants

Liz Leech's course started last night and it is going to be fun...you could tell, even before we got the razor blades and the microscopes out, from her robust opening remark that "it's all about sex of course ". Which is entirely true. The study we are embarking on, is about why plants, or in particular flowers look the way they do and how to understand what we are really looking at when we gaze in wonder at the beauty of a rose or the complexity of a simple daisy. It is, of course, all about seduction and manipulation ..the design, the colour and the scent of flowers all combining to lure the pollinator in, or enable reproduction in one way or another. It is completely fascinating and really is as essential to good flower painting as anatomy is to good figure painting. We started by taking apart the flowers and examining how they are put together and despite some old memories of plant diagrams in school biology I have a lot to learn.

This first drawing was stripping away the layers of the little geranium to discover its structure and also learn about the floral formulas, shorthand way of describing the structure of a flower. It is based on the understanding that there are 4 whorls or rings in the structures of flowers. The formula for this one is K5 ( calyx x 5) C 5 (corolla petals x 5) A5-15 ( Andoecium ..literally the male house, stamens 5 to 15) G(3) 5 ( Gynoecium female house,aw a 3 section style and ovaries x 5).

If only they were all that simple but very soon you are beginning to realise that leaves are not necessarily leaves, and flowers are not necessarily flowers as we know them and that bits can be legitimately missing or the plant is either male or female or both...its a labryinth of complexity!

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Geranium, Box and Brassica





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