"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


Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Leaf of the Day: Aloe Rivierei

This is only the top section of this fearsome leaf, again from Mead Gardens.
I am assuming this is the Rivierei because it was growing very close to the water and has very long slender leaves, rather than the shorter leaves with the fatter bases that the Aloe Vera plants have. Aloe Vera grows everywhere here and of course is very well know for its medicinal properties. There is large and dangerous one lurking at the bottom of the steps which accosts the skirts and trousers of unwary visitors.
The aloes are another huge group of plants with many different variations. The name means 'bitter' and, interestingly, the aloes were one of the plants used by the Egyptians in the embalming process. Their employment in the history in medicine is extensive and is something I will return to when I have another aloe to draw...as I surely will!

This drawing is 9 inches high and this small piece took up all of the sketch book page, so I think the whole leaf from top to bottom would be 25 to 30 inches long.
It's very very tough, has thorns like saw teeth and did some damage to the inside of my handbag. The thorns themselves are red tipped.

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Aloe Rivierei


Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Leaf of the Day: Powder Puff Tree and Hammocks

The weather has been miserable and cold but there was a glimpse of sun yesterday, so Chris and I called in at Mead Gardens to make the most of it. Mead Gardens is a small public park about a mile away and is mostly a wild, wetland sort of park, with boardwalks above the swampy parts. It's lovely for its very wildness. There are the normal dire warnings about feeding the alligators but, apart from that, it is a little oasis of green in the city.
It was while reading some information about Mead Gardens that I came across the word 'hammock'. Here in Florida it as a word derived from early inhabitants to mean 'a cool and shady place'.
There is an interesting article about hammocks here written by Rhonda Brewer which contains this lovely quote.
'Thomas Barbour, naturalist at large, describes hammocks this way, "I love hammocks ... in the early spring, when the yellow jasmine festoons the forest trees and when the redbud and giant dogwoods and the maples are putting forth their vivid crimson foliage, I do not know of lovelier spots to sit listening to birds and resting in the heat of the day" (Barbour 1944:165).'

This leaf is from a very pretty tree we saw at Mead Gardens, called either the Powder Puff tree, or the Blood Red Tassel tree. Its Latin name is Calliandra haematocephala which ominously translates as 'with a blood red head'. There is a very similar one called the Fairy Duster but it has quite different leaves. For once I will include a photograph I took, as the flowers are quite beautiful.
This leaf is definitely furry and soft to touch...maybe floccose? A very delicate and dainty little tree all round.

After Mead Gardens we called in at Fiddler's Green where an Irish piper was skirling a few airs on the bagpipes for a cameraman.
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The Powder Puff Tree


Monday, 28 January 2008

Leaf of the day: The Rubber Plant and some Alien Sex!

This good leaf has been sitting quietly on the side of my desk for 2 days now, after I rescued it from a heap of thinnings. The gardener has been round the apartments cutting and pruning, ready for the new growth of spring which will no doubt gallop in apace once the weather warms up. It is showing some scars from the big ugly freeze with various cuts and bruises but I am glad to have immortalised this handsome sturdy leaf. It has quite a presence.
One of the most interesting aspects of living in a semi-tropical climate is that plants which you have only known in England as treasured and exotic house plants, carefully nurtured at some time, effort and anxiety, are here wantonly seeding themselves around and sometimes creating a bit of nuisance. Every bit of waste ground, every crack in the pavement and every neglected-for-a-second building will have some kind of exotic vegetation pushing up through it, scrambling over it and round it, insinuating itself into the basic fabric of the city. I saw a pretty little fan palm peeping out of an old lamppost base the other day. The ficus family is one of the main culprits.

My Ficus Elastica is a member of this interesting Fig family .. all of whom rely for pollination on a specific tiny fig wasp. Because it needs no other pollinators, the tree doesn't bother much to produce big showy flowers. The tiny 'flowers' are clustered inside the fruit we call a fig, correctly called a 'synconium'.
Normally these plants are propagated commercially by cuttings or air layering but I did find this alarming headline in the 'New York Times' by John Noble Wilsford, May 1988. If you want to read more go here
Its amazing what a little fig wasp can do!

' Aided by Alien Insects'
'Alien fig wasps invading south Florida have perked up the sex life of the Ficus tree. They have what the trees had been missing: a knowing and generous way with pollen.

Naturally, this has led to a proliferation of little ficus trees, and they now threaten to overrun lawns, crowd out forest vegetation and send out implacable roots to undermine the concrete and brick foundations of society. ....

On the University of Miami campus at Coral Gables, more than 150 seedlings have been counted around nine large Ficus microcarpa trees,'Eternal Vigilance' which had previously been infertile outside their native ground in the Asian tropics.
Doyle B. McKey, associate professor of biology at the University of Miami, said it would take ''eternal vigilance and constant maintenance'' to contain the spread of Ficus, particularly in the suburbs, where it is already as familiar a part of the landscape as shrubs and trees. "


Friends, we live in dangerous times!

p.s. 'Aliens' and 'Sex'!......I bet I am topping Google ratings today.
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The Rubber Plant


Sunday, 27 January 2008

Leaf of the Day: The Hairiness of Leaves and Gecko`s feet

I am returning to leaf morphology today so I have ten small drawings of various kinds of hairiness (pubescence to use the correct name) which also give me some more practice with pen and ink. Hairs in botanical terms are, by the way, referred to as trichomes.
You only have to think about leaves to realise that they do all feel different, we describe them as leathery, waxy, prickly, furry.. etc. However, the correct botanical language and names are wonderful, descriptive and Dickensian. I am sure somewhere a character must have been described as having "velutinous" hair. Some are very bizarre, some you can associate with the everyday. "Floccose" is easy for anyone who went to an UK Indian restaurant in the 1970`s to remember. Yes!...that obligatory deep red furry "flocked" wallpaper. Wallpaper is another favourite subject of mine and just out of interest, a flocked wallpaper was made a few years ago that reacted to ambient noise by changing colour, and now Jonas Samson has developed wallpaper that emits light.. very beautiful ..see here

Here are the 10 different types of hairiness from my drawing, there are more!

Echinate... beset with prickles.
Tuberculate... warty or with tubercules
Strigose... with bent over (appressed)spikes
Stellate... with star shaped hairs
Floccose... soft woolly tufts of hair
Velutionous... dense soft silky hair
Tomentose... matted soft woolly hair
Unicanate... hooked points
Scurfy... scale like particles
Hirsute... stiff bristly hairs


The often unnoticed surfaces of things are, of course, brought to our attention through a microscope. Here to illustrate the surface of a leaf is the beautiful image of a blade of grass from David Kunkel's Microscopic World, at the Astrographics.com website. The images show in wonderful colour and detail another fascinating, and to an artist, inspirational world. See more here. I especially like the "gecko foot/toe hairs". I have a lovely little gecko who lives in my studio room. Apparently he gets around the ceiling by rolling and unrolling the hairs on his feet! I will regard him with heightened wonder and respect now!
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Ten Leaf Surfaces


















Saturday, 26 January 2008

Leaf of the Day: Curly Croton

My second croton. (the earlier one is here.) This one I like better. Its not quite the corkscrew variety which twists the whole way up the stem but this one does have one full turn. To my mind the individual leaves are more attractive than the plant as a whole. Their beautiful shapes can get lost in all that exuberant colour...but then the colours and patterns are wonderful too.

The colour of this one is extraordinary. A red background with dark green patches bordered in a yellowy green. The back of the leaf is deep magenta. It's very beautiful. I will certainly return to these when I start working in colour. They are also known as Joseph's Coat and are definitely the Jackson Pollock of the plant world.
I have read that the name Croton comes from the Greek word "tick", because of the similarities of the seeds to dog ticks.. to be honest lots of seeds look like ticks to me! Its Latin name is Codiaeum Variegatum and it is part of the extensive Euphorbiaceam family apparently over 2000 varieties. I blanch at the prospect of all those leaves from just one genus. Some more information about them, if you are interested, is here from Waynes Word .
This one came from the shrubby borders of Park Avenue where I saw the squirrel yesterday. The council have kindly labeled some of the lovely trees which are planted at the roadside. .. but not the shrubs.

I had been to the Creadle School of Art today for my second ceramics class. I love working in clay but there is so much to learn. I´m on week two of the lumpen ashtray. I wont be sharing the results with you just yet.

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The Curly Croton


Friday, 25 January 2008

Leaf of the Day: The Radish and a Poem about Salad!

Today the weather was perfect. I went to Winter Park village on my bike. They were cutting the grass in the park, real grass, British type lawn grass, the sort that you lie on in the summer. Not the horrible spiky indestructible stuff that that passes for grass now in many hotter climates. The indescribably wonderful smell of the new mown grass transported me back to summer days in England. All the lizards were out soaking up the sun and a brighter than bright, carroty red squirrel bounced across the grass. Utterly charming.!!

All this sun inspired me to get some salad for tea, hence the radish. The, now failing, New Year diet also dictates that I drag my reluctant feet away from the Key Lime Pie counter and towards the salad bar... but its not much of a hardship. Salad is my almost favourite food, especially with a lovely dressing.

It was just happy coincidence then, that when I returned home there was a poem about salad on the radio!!...a poem about salad?.
To hear it tune into the excellent BBC Radio4 Listen Again service to "Poetry Please" and hear "A Recipe for Salad" read by very nice chef Rick Stein. Listen to the whole programme or fast forward 9 minutes on the Radio 4 player for this poem alone http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/arts/poetryplease.shtml
I am not sure how long this link will be live so go while you can.
It was written in 1839 by poet and cleric Sidney Smith in a letter to a friend. Its delightful..

"A Recipe For Salad " by Rev Sidney Smith

To make this condiment, your poet begs, The pounded yellow of two hard-boil’d eggs;
Two boil’d potatoes, pass’d through kitchen-sieve, Smoothness and softness to the salad give;
Let onion atoms lurk within the bowl, And, half-suspected, animate the whole.

Of mordant mustard add a single spoon,Distrust the condiment that bites so soon;
But deem it not, thou man of herbs, a fault, To add a double quantity of salt;
Four times the spoon with oil from Lucca brown, And twice with vinegar procured from town;
And, lastly, o'er the flavour’d compound toss , A magic soupcon of anchovy sauce.
Oh, green and glorious! Oh, herbaceous treat! 'T would tempt the dying anchorite to eat;
Back to the world he'd turn his fleeting soul, And plunge his fingers in the salad bowl!
Serenely full, the epicure would say, Fate can not harm me, I have dined to-day!


Fate will not harm me either if I eat all the radishes and watercress I bought today!
The drawing had to be done super quickly as the leaves again wilted to nothing in half an hour. I have to find another way of keeping my models perky.
I will return to edible greens soon. I like them more than flowers really. I think it is something to do with being brought up in Lincolnshire surrounded by cabbages and mangle-worzels.

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The Radish


Thursday, 24 January 2008

Leaf of the Day: Asiatic Jasmine

Last night it rained hard and heavy, hour after hour. This morning the sun came out and it was like a sweet balmy May morning in England. Spring is definitely jogging the elbow of those plants who are allowed a winter layoff here in Florida. Even the ones reduced to black slimy heaps by the big ugly freeze are showing new growth. Its very encouraging.
Trachelospermum asiaticum is the Latin name for this very well behaved creeping ground cover plant that is everywhere in the urban car parks, traffic islands and mall borders and after 3 weeks of pencil work I am trying some pen and ink.
This was done on Bristol board with a technical pen, not my favourite surface or pen... but I am very out of practice and cannot remember when I last did a careful study in pen and ink. My normal style with a pen is much sketchier, using a crow quill dip pen which has a less regular but more expressive line. This is much more to my taste but maybe not so good for botanical work. I will just have to practice and try a few more combinations of paper and pen
A word about Michaels
I am hoping to try another study of this little plant with the crow quill nib and Indian ink which will mean a trip to Michaels the big chain craft store just across the easy road. This is crafter heaven, spoilt only by the overpowering smell of dried flowers and the soporific muzak. Customers glide serenely up and down the displays, wafted on a cloud of artificial jasmine and mesmerised by soupy saxophone love songs. Its like being encased in a huge bubble of niceness and is sometimes hard to break the surface tension and escape back to the mean streets of Winter Park.
However it is fascinating to see their changing displays. The last lingering Christmas baskets have been wheeled away and the aisles are ablaze with Valentine reds and even an Easter chick has crept onto the shelves....and of course I am the very first in line with my 40% discount coupon!..
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Asiatic Jasmine




Technical pen on Bristol Board















Crow Quill nib and Indian ink on Bristol Board.
A bit more expressive but not so accurate!

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Leaf of the Day: Bauhinia or Butterfly Tree

On the nearby charmingly named Gay Rd is a small retirement complex and this lovely tree must bring delight to whichever lucky resident has an adjacent room. I am presuming, from this leaf, that it is the Bauhinia purpurea: Purple Orchid-Tree
This genus of tree was named to honor the work of the Bauhini brothers, 16th century Swiss botanists and herbalists who each wrote extensively on horticulture and the use of plants.
There are many varieties of Bauhinia and in India, the Apta, as it is known, is celebrated both in myth and for its medical uses especially in ayurvedic medicine. In legend, the tree was showered with gold during a fight between Kuba the god of wealth and King Raghu. I think that is a very beautiful image and one of the observances of festival of Dussehra is the exchange of Apta leaves as a symbol of a gift of gold.

Leaf Description
This beautiful leaf is bi-lobed, so really made up of twin leaflets, joined in the middle and I have seen other examples that are more deeply divided. The interesting shape also earns it the name butterfly tree or more prosaically, cow’s foot. I have a proper botanical description of these leaves from the AgroForestryTree Database
“Leaves have minute stipules 1-2 mm, early caducous; petiole puberulous to glabrous, 3-4 cm; lamina broadly ovate to circular, often broader than long, 6-16 cm diameter; 11-13 nerved; tips of lobes broadly rounded, base cordate; upper surface glabrous, lower glaucous but glabrous when fully grown”

Taxonomy
And I am learning more about the taxonomy of plants too.. so here, for the scholarly, from the USA Department of Agriculture is the correct classification for the lovely butterfly tree.
Kingdom: Plantae ( plants)
Subkingdom: Trachebionta (Vascular plants)
Superdivision: Spermatophyta (Seed plants)
Division: Magnoliophyta (Flowering plants)
Class: Magnoliopsida (Dicotyledons)
Subclass: Rosidae
Order:
Fabales
Family: Fabaceae (pea)
Genus:
Bauhinia
Species: Bauhinia purpurea (butterfly tree)


There is so much to learn and understand... what joy!

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The Butterfly Tree

Leaf of the Day: Chinese Holly, a glabrous leaf.

As I left the supermarket this morning, a little white dog, who was enthusiastically sniffing the planted borders of the car park, sprang up in the air like a rocket, yelped and fled back to his owner. I wanted to investigate and thought it just might be the extremely venomous and to-be-avoided-at-all-costs, diamond backed rattle snake. I took a rather tentative look as today, of course, I had forgotten to bring with me my professional snake tongs and sack. Thankfully there was no snake but an aggressive and very ferocious Chinese Holly bush which resisted my attempts to snatch a leaf with grim determination.
However here are 3 leaves, gathered at some personal cost as this low lying dense and prickly shrub has leaves of steel with needle like sharp points which stick out all directions and directly in to your flesh.

My plan for the leaf chart will have to wait for a day or two but this holly is a very good example of a leaf with a glabrous surface .. yes… glabrous means smooth and in botanical terms is the opposite to pubescent which of course means hairy! There are many different grades of hairiness and I look forward to my first samples of floccose, strigose and villous leaves.

Sitting on my drawing table these funny leaves looked like bizarre and aggressive insects. Their Latin name is ilex cornuta.. 'cornuta' meaning horned, very appropriate.
My aim here is to show the top surface as smooth and shiny, the underside as duller and paler. I have not exaggerated the spines.
For those wishing to hear the name beautifully said in Italian go here!!!!! I am finding some more and exciting audio clips to add occasionally so stay tuned.
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Chinese Holly


Sunday, 20 January 2008

Leaf of the Day: Firecracker and Tornados

Yesterday evening a storm swept over Winter Park bringing with it ominous warnings from the weather man of possible "tornadic" activity. The rain was torrential and we had a spectacular display of thunder and lightening, so it's quite apt that today's leaf ( if you can spot one ) is from the Firecracker bush.

This untidy plant, russelia equisetiformis, flops over and through the railings near the pool and I have hesitated to draw it before as I couldn't find the leaves. Well they are there.. but very tiny and referred to in one book as 'scale like'. At regular intervals along the main stem there are 5 little leaves arranged in a whorled formation. 5 stems radiate from the leaf bases and these in turn bear two or three of the brilliant red tubular flowers which give this bush its name. My sample here was somewhat bedraggled after the storm and the plant is not looking its best, but new growth is starting with a very upright, thicker new main stem and with more pronounced leaves.

Tomorrow I am planning another leaf chart. I am keen to explore the word.. glabrescent; ie becoming glabrous in age.. I am sure you are too!
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Firecracker Bush




Saturday, 19 January 2008

Leaf of the Day: Sacred Bamboo

I used to grow Sacred Bamboo or Nandina in my little garden in Deal in England. It had lovely winter orangy red colours in the foliage with cheerful red berries and delicate little flowers. The plant has a light and airy feel about it, but does not really look much like bamboo and is not related..although I did read somewhere that it was used in the manufacture of chop sticks. This one is, again, from the varied borders round the apartment. I am going to venture further very soon.

This is one leaf. A compound bipinnate leaf. I have yet to do the "leaf composition chart".. but its comforting to know I have a sample of the bipinnate variety!
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Sacred Bamboo


Leaf of the Day: Long Leaf Pine Needles

I am trying to get the full set of leaf shapes and this is an example of an acicluar, or needle shaped leaf. I was waiting for the bus on Denning Road this morning and saw these fallen pine needles scattered around the pavement. I noticed that all of them came in sets of three, joined together at the end, and were incredibly long and beautiful. I think this is the Long Leaf Pine, Pinus palustris.

Pine needles are used here in America to make some wonderful baskets. I do so admire the American love and respect for craft at its highest level.
Teri Thompson , a Florida artist has some beautiful baskets here

However, these 12 inch long slender needles would not fit on my 9 x 9 inch sketch book so I have had to move onto the 14 x 17 inch one. Now this poses the problem of scanning, as my basic scanner/printer is only A4. I had to scan this one in two sections but the glass bed of the scanner is slightly lower than its surround which means that anything near the edge tends to be sightly out of focus. Pencil drawings are very difficult to reproduce well, even with professional equipment and I may have to photograph the larger ones now... does anyone have any hints?
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Long Leaf Pine



Friday, 18 January 2008

Leaf of the Day: Baby Red Romaine..unfinished

The weather here has returned to cold and rainy. Temperatures have slipped from 80F to 60 F. It's miserable. I didn't even go out today. So Leaf of the Day was gathered from the plastic bag of salad that has been languishing in the fridge since Saturday. It was also late in the afternoon. This was a mistake.

Here's why..
1 Wilt.. It was difficult to decide how to draw this pretty little red leaf as they are very curvy and curl in on themselves so I just laid it down as you see. However within five minutes this already sad leaf started to flop so its outline and its contours changed very quickly.
2 Light.. It was light when I started but got dark within an hour so all the shadows changed

In the end I abandoned it...there are lessons to be learnt about planning, timing, lighting and the condition of your model!

The "Romaine" in its name refers to "Roman" and it was mentioned in the fascinating Elizabethan book "The Gardeners Labyrinth" compiled by Thomas Hill 1563.. It was the first gardening book to be published in England. I particularly like his appeal for "soft and gentle" weeding. There is a short article with illustrations from Glasgow University here and some very interesting facts about Salad Greens in this excellent article from Colonial Williamsburg's history site here which also cites Hill's referal to "Romane" lettuce.
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Baby Red Romaine

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Leaf of the Day: Creeping Fig

Today´s drawing is a little piece of the creeping fig which is enthusiastically climbing the walls of the apartment complex. It has a very interesting habit of pushing out side shoots almost at right angles which creates a pretty, delicate tracery against the cream painted walls
It clings onto surfaces with little wiry adventitious roots and also makes its own glue, just to be on the safe side. Its willingness to quickly creep, cover, twine and wind itself around almost anything makes it very useful and adaptable for covering ugly structures and it can ably adapt itself to more indulgent artistic projects.

Here in Orlando is it finds full employment, softening concrete road bridges, reducing traffic noise and, as you would expect, has a starring role at the theme parks.

These wonderful ears were created by Topiary Joe. Go to his fantastic website here to get some inspiration for that 15 ft sculpture you have been longing to erect in the garden.



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Creeping Fig


Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Leaves of the day: Shape charts

After 2 weeks of daily drawings of leaves, I have made a couple of charts. There is a whole new fascinating language to learn when you are trying to describe plants, even just leaves! Try,'runcinate', 'lyrate', 'reniform', and 'obcordate' just for starters. The simple shapes presented a good opportunity to add some colour as a sort of "greens" colour chart. They are mostly prepared greens, Winsor and Newton or Daler Rowney, with some beautiful Sennelier colours too. Its such good practice to make colour charts. Only through repeated use you will eventually recognise colours and be able to match colours and mix correctly. Its also very therapeutic activity... hours have drifted by today. As displacement activities go this is definitely more productive than mall wandering.
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Shape and Colour charts








Leaf Venation

This little chart shows the different types of venation. Sufferers from varicose veins look away.

I adapted this from another chart. It plays about with colour, a bit of brush control and, in most of them, painting negative spaces.
At this stage I am really wondering if I will be able to paint as finely as I will need to for future assignments on the course. Practise and stronger glasses I think.

As always, I am attracted to the patterns here and can see many posibilitites for design and painting ideas.

Monday, 14 January 2008

Leaf of the Day: Maiden Grass

Today's daily drawing is the maiden grass leaf. I have been putting off drawing a long slender leaf like this as it requires a steady hand and more concentration. These spiky variegated plants liven up the borders of the apartment gardens, the mall across the road and most of the public spaces in Orlando it seems. The little lizards shoot in and out of their cover as you walk by and sometimes pose nicely for a photograph.
This will be a linear shape leaf with parallel venation.
Its one of the miscanthus family
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Maiden Grass










Sunday, 13 January 2008

Leaf of the Day: Tassel Flower

The Tassel Flower is a pretty little weed. It caught my eye when I first came to Florida. It's very unassuming and inhabits scrub and waste ground which is exactly where this came from, just by the side of the main road by the apartment. It looks very much like a dandelion type of plant. The same sort of flower and a similar leaf. I am not sure exactly how to describe this leaf. Its most interesting feature is that the flowers are not yellow but a very beautiful reddy orange! My next post will, I think, be a leaf shape chart as I need to get more familiar with the names.
Its Latin name is Emilia Javanica.
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Tassel Flower


Saturday, 12 January 2008

Leaf of the Day: Fern.. of some kind

This is a small part of a fern from Shady Park. I have not yet been able to identify it.

The trouble with identification.
I am having some problems finding out what some of the local plants are.
Using leaves alone makes identification hard because it is very difficult to find the perfect specimen. One random leaf seldom looks like the sample in the guide books. They could really do with a range of shapes that together define the species. It is just the same with people of course. Reaching to consult his field guide to human beings, a passing alien would struggle to find one to fit the standard.
I very much like these odd irregularities… there are quite a few here, leafy and human.
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Fern


Friday, 11 January 2008

Leaf of the Day: Water Plantain and Carl Doddies

A leaf from the lake at Shady Park on Morse Avenue in Winter Park. It's not very shady.. at least the lakes aren't. I walked there today and again there were some delightful birds. This time a little flock of very skittish white ibis. They were rushing about, up and down the banks of the lake and unlike the herons they move very quickly. A big grey heron floated backwards and forwards across the water casually avoiding an annoying yappy poodle. Charlie's owner admitted that despite his bravado he is quite nervous of these big regal birds. I can see his point.

This rather simple leaf is not so simple to draw, with those long, simply curving lines! The vein pattern was interesting and of course, learning that it was a plantain, I could see the leaf resemblance to the common plantain which reminded me of Carl Doddies, a game we used to play when we were young.
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Water Plantain


Carl Doddies

The game of Carl Doddies is played with the flower heads and stalks of the common plantain. My mother was brought up in Scotland and she must have taught us. It was said to have originated from a " beheading" game played in the Jacobite times, the names derived from Bonnie Prince Charlie, "Carl" and King George, "Doddie". You and your opponent each take a plantain flower and take it in turns to try to knock the head off their opponent's stem. Whoever beheads first is the winner. A variation is to loop the stem over itself and shoot the head as far as possible. The one that lands farthest away is the winner! .. a more civilized version of shot putting.
A more prosaic explanation of the name is simply "curly headed"