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

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Leaf of the Day: A Dragon's Eye from Vi Mi

Today, in search of some more interesting fruit, we cycled down to Vi-Mi to have a look at the Asian Supermarkets. Vi Mi is about 5 miles down the road from our apartment located around the junction of Colonial and Mills and is the thriving Vietnamese quarter of Orlando, also called Little Saigon. It is a district peppered with Vietnamese restaurants and supermarkets and shops where you can buy exotic imported music, films, and collectibles from across Asia. The Vietnamese started to come to Orlando in the 1970's as refugees from the war and have established businesses and lives here bringing with them their customs and, of course, their fascinating cuisine.

There are quite a few supermarkets but the one we visited before in search of the dragon fruit is probably the most interesting. The smell as you enter is indescribable and is due to the complete and utter cacophony of produce, all piled up and jostling for space, from live crabs to meats of unknown and unrecognisable origin, to lumpy and unidentifiable vegetables and fruit of all kinds, from the startling pink dragonfruit to persimmons and bits of cactus and aloe, and roots of this, that and the other. In one corner was a basket full of big prickly netted durians, the fruit that smells like drains and I have yet to experience. A diminutive Vietnamese lady in the shop laughed and held her nose but said they tasted like custard.

I wrote before that this is the place for a visual boost should your creativity be flagging. There are shelves and shelves of tinned and packaged foodstuffs dried and shredded things in bright shiny cellophane with brilliantly coloured writing. Sometimes there is a helpful English translation, often not. There are beautifully prepared sweets and pastries and what look like gelatinous appetisers and leaf wrapped delicacies.
It's a small shop too, and very busy, so wherever you stand, you are in the way. I have to return some other day with time to really browse.
Behind the counter were two fruits I wanted to try. One was the Rambutan, the red spiky sea urchin of the fruit world and the other the Longan, which I had never seen before. I tentatively asked the helpful man who was serving what to do with them and he smiled and immediately held out a sample to try. This is one of those situations where you have to hold your nerve and open both your mind and your mouth. New foods can be alarming but what can you say to such a kind offer except " delicious".



So to describe them.. well they look like big grapes but covered in a tough brown papery skin. This you peel. Its contents are surprising. The edible part is an opalescent jellylike berry with a beautiful dark shiny seed at the centre and yes, once you release the fruit from its tight papery covering it does look uncomfortably like a rheumy slippery eyeball.. this is apparently just too much for some people and they can't quite bring themselves to eat them.
The taste is quite bland and sweet but oddly moreish. We bought a bunch.

Longans, Dimocarpus longana are related to the more glamorous lychee. They are also known as "little brother of the lychee", "mamoncillo chino" in Cuba, and, because the translucent white flesh covering the black shiny seed resembles the eyeball of an oriental dragon, "the Dragon's Eye".
I found the neatest way to peel them was to score the skin with a knife tip. The two halves then come away leaving you with the jelly like flesh. The skin is very close fitting and inside its white shiny surface is covered with a network of veins, the fruit as it pops out actually bears creepy resemblance to a small wobbly brain too.
The little seed is beautiful, bright shiny brown with a white "eye". In both Vietnam, this "eye" is pressed against a snakebite in the belief that it will absorb the venom. The seeds also contain saponins, like my lovely Soapberries and yes, you can wash your hair with these seeds too!

You eat Longans just as they are, or canned. They can be cooked as pie fillings, poached as a side dish to roasts, dried, to be reconstituted as a "tea", added to tropical drinks or deliciously stuffed with nuts and honey and I think cream cheese would go well too.

Wiki has a nice little Vietnamese riddle which describes the Longan. Da cóc bọc bột lọc, bột lọc bọc hòn than. "Toad's skin covers tapioca wheat, tapioca wheat covers a ball of coal."

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Longan, Dragons Eye





Leaf of the Day: A Less Than Beautiful Etrog

By the time my day was through, waiting for plumbers, waiting for delivery men, I had lost the will to live, never mind the will to draw.
Washing machines are not normally on my mind and are not usually a topic of conversation but when I arrived here, just a year ago now, I was stunned by the size of these USA washers and dryers. In Spain they are both tiny and irritatingly inefficient.
Today however I am sad because the two ancient Maytag monsters, that needed a room all to themselves in this tiny flat (maybe 20% of the floor area) have gone, to be replaced by two equally huge blue things that are all computer controlled and won't allow you to do anything but obey the instructions. I loved the old ugly ones with their simple dials and lift up lids so that if you forgot the odd sock or tea towel you just lifted up the lid and popped it in. They have gone because our landlady decided we needed prettier ones which was fine I guess and I am not ungrateful, but the old ones worked beautifully. These need special washing powder and have blue lights and beep.
I am now surrounded by appliances that beep. It drives me to the very, very end of my not particularly long tether. The pitch of the beeping is more piercing than the dentist's drill, the fridge does it, the cooker does it, the grill does it, the microwave does it. Incessant and repeated beeping, to remind me that the right or wrong temperature has been achieved, that something is done or not done or that I have failed, yet again, to turn off, turn on or turn over. Every damn thing has to be programmed, has so many options I don't understand and never use, and I still have not worked out how to use the oven properly. What exactly does "broil" mean?

So here I am at 4.30 with these two gigantic blue things that are glowing, beeping, purring and clicking, going through their cycles which will now take a full hour I guess, as opposed to 15 minutes, and what will I have at the end of it ? Clean clothes, just like before.
I have not one line drawn, and my tether has definitely ended.

However a quick Etrog! In the gardens the Etrog tree, Citrus medica has large, lumpy and blemished fruit. I had never heard of the Etrog before I started looking into the history of citrus. It's origins are unknown, but it was one of the earliest cultivated citrus fruit, with records dating back to 4000 BC. It has very little juice and a very thick rind which was used more in medicinal preparations then in culinary ones.



Possibly without the Jewish festival of Sukkot the Etrog might just have become a curiosity but it plays a central role in the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, at the feast of Tabernacles.
"On the first day, you will take for yourselves a fruit of a beautiful tree, palm branches, twigs of a braided tree and brook willows, and you will rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days. -Leviticus 23:40
Sukkot is a joyful festival which is celebrated in the autumn in a similar way, it seems, to Harvest Festival in the UK, and Thanksgiving here. The Etrog is part of a waving ritual in which the "4 species" are waved. The Etrog is the "fruit of the beautiful tree", others are a Date Palm frond, a Myrtle bough and a Willow branch.
They signify the heart,(etrog),the spine,(the palm),the eye(myrtle)and the lips(willow). Holding these four species, a blessing is recited and they are waved in all six directions, east, south, west, north, up and down symbolizing the omnipresence of God.



Mosaic floor from Tiberias synagogue featuring the lulav (palm frond etc bundle) and etrog. Eretz Israel Museum, Tel Aviv. Image from Bibleplaces. com here

An Etrog for the festival has to be very carefully chosen and scrutinised for defects. Sadly, none of the Etrogs at Leu would pass this rigorous beauty parade of Etrogs. They are all, without exception, shapeless, spotted, lumpen, but quite adorable. Is there no end to the tyranny of perfection when even a lemon can be discarded for its physical imperfections. What hope is there for us less than perfect human specimens?
In Etrog world though, the ugly and even the beautiful Etrogs can be useful for marmalades, flavourings or even wine.

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Etrogs ..less than perfect.






Friday, 28 November 2008

Leaf of the Day: Thanksgiving

I popped down to the market this morning for some nice fruit and veg.



Then threw together a few odds and ends for a light Thanksgiving meal.



Hope yours was equally fulfilling.....

Images sadly not mine but 'The Fruit Seller' by Vincenzo Campi c. 1580
and the sumptuous feast 'Still Life' by Adriaen van Utrecht 1644

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Leaf of the Day: The Hysterical Lime

At last today I went back to the Gardens, where life continues, immune to the coughs and colds of us mere mortals. It has been two weeks. I was not missed by the plants, they have done very well without me, better than I have done without them. It was lovely to see them all again.

I had one mission today and one only .. to look for the Kaffir lime.
It was almost the last citrus I looked at and found it with the help of my good friend Pedro. I couldn't quite remember the Latin name hence the "hysterical lime", but we did eventually find it, confusingly labelled as the Mauritius Papeda, but they are one and the same thing.
This is Citrus hystrix, Kaffir limes are also known as Kieffer limes, Thai limes, porcupine lime or wild limes, and are a fundamental ingredient in Asian cooking particularly in Thai curries.


I took this rather too contrasty image of the little lime today at Leu. You can just see the tiny pale spots on the leaves which hold the beautiful aromatic oil.

There were two reasons for looking for this lime, firstly it is a fruit and fits in with my task for the course and secondly because I have recently been corresponding with Patrick Gozon from the Philippines who has revived one of his blogs to write about his native trees.
" Lately I have been doing my graduate thesis on the use of Philippine native trees and shrubs in landscape architecture. I have found that our native flora is as interesting as any other plants from other parts of the world. "
He writes very informative and interesting accounts of the trees and his quests to find native species and keep them going.
http://www.pinoytrees.blogspot.com/.

I am particularly interested in the Filipino flora because my best garden friend and mentor, Pedro, is from the Philippines and tells me so much about his beautiful country. He was delighted to learn of someone caring for and trying to preserve the native plants.

Patrick suggested that I look into the Kaffir lime particularly in respect of the leaves, after we has been discussing the little Calamondin orange which I had drawn back in March here. The leaf, as well as being an essential for cooking is a hourglass shape, almost like one leaf split in two and the Spanish for the Kaffir lime is hoja de ocho figure of eight leaf.

One of Patrick's posts is about places in the Philippines that were named after plants. I particularly like the one about the disappearing saint which was always found in the same tree, but here is the one about the Citrus hystrix.
"Cabuyao in Laguna was named after the Kabuyaw tree or Citrus hystrix The town was formerly named Tabuko. But when a Spanish friar crossed the Bai lake (which is now Laguna de Bay), he landed in the town and immediately asked some women on the shore what the name of the place was. The women misunderstood the Spanish visitor and thought he was asking the name of the trees abundant near the shore, and they said kabuyaw. From then on the town of Tabuko became Cabuyao. But today, there are no full grown trees of kabuyaw in Cabuyao. I went on a field trip to find kabuyaw and saw only a lone tree in the town of Calauan but I heard that some could still be found in Mts. Makiling and Banahaw.

It made me think about how much we used to use trees to identify places, but that was in a time when people knew more about trees.

His current post is "Searching for the Elusive Samuyao", which is
"a dwarf citrus appearing like a cross between kalamondin (calamansi - Citrofortunella microcarpa) and makrut (kubot or kabuyaw - Citrus hystrix). In references, samuyao was described as a small shrub used by locals as a shampoo or conditioner. Literary verses in Cebuano would carry romantic tones like ' her hair smelled of samuyao scent'.

This little lime I have here is so beautifully aromatic. If you press your fingernail into the rind the aroma is lemony and menthol and so strong. These too were used for shampoo and general household cleaning. I read that one tree would keep a household clean and washed for a whole year. It's absolutely gorgeous and I have spent the afternoon chewing a leaf too. It is grown primarily for these dark shiny green leaves that give a perfumed citrus flavour to soups curries or salads. The fruit do not have much juice but the zest is used (sparingly ), and slices of the fruit are sometimes served as a condiment.

More about this and other interesting citrus from Leu soon. I found every kind of quat.. kumquat, limequat, sunquat etc. There are many varieties of oranges, limes, pummellos, tangelos and grapefruit.( I didn't realise the Latin name for grapefruit was Citrus paradisi..). There are Wampee and Yuzu bushes and the mysterious Etrog..all quite amazing and I couldn't have imagined a nicer way to spend a cold-convalesceing day than mooching about a citrus grove in the sun.

So below, the beautiful leaf, this one twisted over at the top and one small hysterical lime ..:)..
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Kaffir Lime, Mauritus Papeda


Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Leaf of the Day. Pomegranate

My decision to go out today was thwarted by rain, so I spent most of the morning wondering what to do. When the sun came out I got as far as the supermarket and bought two big pomegranates. Then spent the rest of the day not wanting to paint them. They are just too complicated, too complicated and too beautiful. I broke one open and then just looked at them for some time. Eventually I did get round to a few sketches which, as all artists will tell you, is better than nothing.
I would love to be able to paint a beautifully detailed pomegranate with all the richness of colour and the intricacies of the seeds but it is a long job and I will maybe have another attempt later this week. I am also daunted by the many artists who have painted pomegranates before, and so very well.
My eye, hand, brain coordination is still not quite up to scratch. Also when I look at certain subjects, I think this or that would be better in either oils, acrylics, pen and ink. etc. I would probably choose oils to do the pomegranate justice.

Some time ago I heard a wonderful story about James Brett, a very interesting man who, in short, after an extremely difficult start in life discovered a taste for pomegranates in Pakistan and developed the UK market for pomegranate juice. "Pomegreat" . Over the last couple of years he has been trying to persuade the Afghan farmers to grow pomegranates instead of poppies.
Here is an extract from the article in the Guardian from written by Mark Collins from August 3rd this year. Read the whole article here

'Pomegranates are the answer to all this,' said James Brett, as we drove past the colourless, mud-brick villages and makeshift graveyards that litter the parched landscape of Nangarhar province. We were on our way to Markoh, a small village 40 minutes' drive inside the Afghan border with Pakistan. Brett first visited Markoh in April 2007. On his way to a seminar in Kabul, he had asked the driver to stop the car so that he could speak to a reed-thin figure extracting opium from the poppies.
'My translator told me not to do it. He said "you'll get shot", but I just felt like the first step had to be made that day.' That 'first step' was walking into the field to try to persuade the farmer to stop growing poppies and start growing pomegranates instead.
After the initial shock of seeing the large red-headed man striding through the field, the farmer agreed to stop cultivating poppies if Brett guaranteed to subsidise both him and his family until the pomegranate trees were grown and ready to harvest - a period of three to five years. Having launched his pomegranate juice on to the UK market four years previously, Brett was keen to find good fruit and plough the profits into increasing production. His argument to the farmer that the crop would return two-and-a-half times what he got for the poppy harvest proved a compelling one.




The article goes on to describe Brett's meeting with the tribal chiefs..

"400 tribal chiefs and elders were sat cross-legged in an orchard under two brightly coloured marquees. No one from the outside world - English or otherwise - had spoken to a gathering of these people before. All eyes were on Brett as he walked to the podium to speak, wearing a traditional Pathan hat and a long white jacket embroidered with red pomegranates.
He promised that he would help to raise money for the project and find markets for the fruit if they pledged to stop growing poppies. After several hours of deliberation, the elders made a historic decision, agreeing to cease poppy cultivation in the province from 2009. Nangarhar would be poppy-free for the first time in 100 years.
Later that day Brett led a crowd back to the same field he had walked into a year earlier. The poppies had gone. The farmer was now standing under a sign that read 'POM354 - this site has been acquired as an initiative of alternative livelihood'. Brett shook hands with the farmer and planted the first pomegranate tree in the dry earth.


Here is a photo of Brett in his wonderful coat, from this historic meeting from his site POM 345.. here . Do go and read a little about this initiative to replace heroine with pomegranates. It is an inspiring story.



I had heard the interview with James Brett on Saturday Live BBC radio 4, 11th October which can still be heard here .
A footnote.. His company have also started marketing Anari pomegranate wine which allegedly leaves no hangover!! .. read more here

And thankyou all for your get well wishes. This is obviously a global cold, but it is enjoying its stay in Florida a little too much. There is an old saying that fish and guests go stale after three days... colds should be added to that.

Colour note sketches and crown detail..
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Pomegranate






Monday, 24 November 2008

Leaf of the Day: Bananas, Jazz and Cockroaches

I have prised myself out of bed and back to the drawing board today and was looking around for fruit to draw. There is a lone banana in the kitchen.
There are lots of banana plants at Leu but due to my horrible cold I am housebound so this is a supermarket one from Honduras, it says on the label. Bananas must be one of the great comfort foods, mashed, eaten on the run, fried, baked, curried and the 100% divine Bananas Foster which I was lucky enough to first encounter many many years ago as breakfast at Brennans in New Orleans. After a heavy night of jazz, blues and just a few drinks, it was a perfect pick me up.
Here from Brennans site is a photo and their recipe. http://www.brennansneworleans.com/
"Thirty-five thousand pounds of bananas are flamed each year at Brennan's in the preparation of its world-famous dessert. "



Bananas Foster
¼ cup (½ stick) butter
1 cup brown sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup banana liqueur
4 bananas, cut in half lengthwise, then halved
¼ cup dark rum
4 scoops vanilla ice cream

Combine the butter, sugar, and cinnamon in a flambé pan or skillet. Place the pan over low heat either on an alcohol burner or on top of the stove, and cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Stir in the banana liqueur, then place the bananas in the pan. When the banana sections soften and begin to brown, carefully add the rum. Continue to cook the sauce until the rum is hot, then tip the pan slightly to ignite the rum. When the flames subside, lift the bananas out of the pan and place four pieces over each portion of ice cream. Generously spoon warm sauce over the top of the ice cream and serve immediately.


Ohmygod .... ...Just reading the recipe is making me feel better already. It is easy to make at home but the flambe can get out of hand. How much better to sit on the terrace at Brennans and have the experts prepare your flaming bananas before your very, widening, eyes. If you do happen to go to New Orleans, Bananas Foster and Beignets from Cafe du Monde are a must. Your waistline will never forgive you but your endorphines will flow.

It was also my first encounter with a cockroach..not in the restaurant, I hasten to add but in an old hotel in the French Quarter. I had no idea they were THAT big! My only knowledge of cockroaches came from reading "Archy and Mehitabel" by Don Marquis. Archy seemed quite an endearing character,writing his avant garde blank verse by jumping on the typewriter keys and unable to operate the shift key. But try as I might, I could not imagine that the huge cockroach that marched across the bedroom floor, with such an attitude, could ever be the reincarnation of a sensitive poet. We do have the odd cockroach here but the ones I saw in New Orleans have never been outsized!



George Herriman's drawing gives Archy a tiny type writer, not really like the description on the book..but I am such a fan of Herriman and Krazy Kat he can do no wrong.

Seeing this reminded me to tell you that Ant is still my faithful companion, out and about today patrolling the borders of the drawing board, waving an antennae now and then and cheering me up. I must get round to a sketch soon.
I still have another week or so of fruit drawings to do but hopefully will feel well enough to go to the Gardens tomorrow and see what has been happening. It's a good ten days since my last visit. Today then just a few a banana skins.(I can't even raise enough energy to think of puns about slip ups today) I wouldn't rush to draw a banana normally and wasn't much inspired but liked the floppy banana skin. Have eaten it now and am going back to bed..
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Bananas






Sunday, 23 November 2008

Leaf of the Day: R and R

I have to give in..It's not like me but I have been struggling with a very bad cold all week and it's not improving. So a couple of days for rest and recovery are needed.
If I had a eucalyptus leaf handy I would have drawn it but all I have is a CVS extra strong coughdrop!... assuring me it contains soothing eucalyptus, peppermint.. etc etc... back soon....


Saturday, 22 November 2008

Leaf of the Day: Ebony Shoofly

This lovely dried and papery pod has been sitting on my desk for weeks now, in fact I have quite a few and keep meaning to make a larger colour study of them. It is from the Ebony Shoofly Nicandra physalodes sometimes called Apple-of-Peru and is another plant from the Nightshade Solanaceae family.
It was the colour of the new pods which made me first notice this handsome plant. It was growing in the herb garden at Leu Gardens and in some of the herbaceous borders. I thought it was beautiful with its lantern pods, dark purple stems and lilac flowers.



And then the name.. well I have to admit that I used to think "shoofly" was an American fly of some sort. I had only ever heard the word in connection with the song "Shoo fly don't bother me", had never seen it written down and thought it was all one word spelt "shoefly" (giggle) i.e. shoe shaped fly. How easy it is for misconceptions to arise. So I laughed when I saw this plant tag.
It's called Shoofly because the leaves contain an alkaloid which repels some insects particularly whitefly, so I would imagine that it is a good plant for companion planting. However this lovely green shield beetle was not much bothered.



The "fruit" is the little berry encased in green and purple inflated calyces. According to the Michigan State University, Dept of Horticulture here the fruit and leaves are edible but knowing they are related to the nightshades I would be a bit cautious.
However they are related to the absolutely delicious Cape Gooseberry, Physalis peruviana (They are so beautiful and I have drawn them many times but haven't seen any here recently.)



..and to the the little green Tomatillo Physalis philadelphica which we see in all the supermarkets here.



I had done a quick sketch (below) some time ago,the subtle green colours of the tomatillo are particularly attractive.

And then as I was doing some research I came across "Shoofly Pie" which has its origins with the Amish community in Pennsylvania and from looking at the recipe is a bit like an old fashioned UK treacle tart. The name of course because it's so sweet and delicious that the flies just love it and you have to keep shooing them away.
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Ebony Shoofly Pod and Tomatillo




Friday, 21 November 2008

Leaf of the Day: "Ripe When Wrinkled"

A sort of companion to yesterday's post, this is the large commercial Passionfruit Passiflora edulis, complete with the nice little heart sticker of the Florida Passionfruit company, which bears the useful infomation, (if you have your glasses on) " Ripe when Wrinkled" the other little black one is the ripe fruit from yesterdays Batleaved Passion flower. I cut it open because I was interested to see what it was like inside and, not surprisingly, it is a mini version of the edulis. Passionfruit are also called granadilla meaning "little pomegranate" in Spanish, and I suppose there is a passing resemblance.

I have yet to draw a passionflower. I look at them and admire them and will get round to it next year when (hopefully) I can work much faster. They are not easy to paint well. There are quite a few beautiful varieties at Leu including a stunning red one which grows a long way from the main paths on one of the fences.




I think it is the Grape Leaved Passion Flower Passiflora Vitifolia

Passionflowers in general are so varied and so beautiful from their extraordinarily beautiful, structured blossoms to their interesting leaf shapes which I have touched upon before.
They have also been used for many years as herbal remedy known for their sedative effect. Their decorative appeal is obvious and here is a collection of stamps featuring passionflowers from Myles S. Irvine's excellent Uk Passionflower site here .



I do like sites that are put together by enthusiasts or collectors. They are often so informative because the true collector will go to the ends of the earth to find information and interesting details. Whether they are strictly accurate of not is another matter. This particular site has a very good section on pollinators and some excellent photos and art.
Food wise I have only used them occasionally as an addition to fruit fool or mousse. I have recently seen a recipe including them in a sauce to serve with fish which sounds quite delicious.

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Passion Fruits


Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Leaf of the Day: Some old Itchy and Scratchies, and the Bat-Leaved Passion Flower Fruit.

Today I needed to clarify, just for myself, exactly what a "fruit" really is. I thought the answer would be slightly more complicated, but a fruit is simply the ripened seed-bearing part of a plant. One definition said "If it's got seeds ..it's a fruit"
The confusion between fruit and vegetables only really arises in the grocery store or maybe between the main course and the pudding.
For example cucumbers and green beans are really fruit, whereas rhubarb is a vegetable. Vegetables tend to be the edible, stems, leaves, and roots of the plant.

Today Chris sent me this link about a wonderful exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art " Brought to Light" about the extraordinary Microphotography in the 19th Century.


Auguste-Adolphe Bertsch, Male itch mite, ca. 1853–57

The whole article is fascinating and I would love to see the exhibition. It did of course herald the decline of the scientific illustrator.. well almost. But the article explains where photography and illustration differed.
I quote from Wired magazine here

"The idea of representing a specific living thing instead of a generalized abstraction of an organism forced scientists to let go of long-held notions about their discipline.
"Prior to the 19th century, the scientific illustrations tend to represent a type, an ideal. So if you were going to do a picture of a flower, for example, the illustrator would look at 20 flowers and then take the common features and make an ideal flower," said Keller. "So, if that particular one happens to have a defective petal or something peculiar to it, you never really know:

Does the photograph substitute then for that type of flower in general, or does it only represent that one specimen?"
While it may have posed a challenge for scientists of the 19th century, it's the unique nature of each photograph taken during this early period that wows us, even now.
"

I have to admit it's very hard sometimes to identify plants from photographs and a good "averaged-out" illustration is often better. But it's those odd irregularities of each individual plant leaf and flower that I personally like so much and will continue to keep painting. It's that very "averaging- out" that I dislike about much botanical illustration although I understand the necessity for it. I am glad not to be a scientific illustrator and have to reduce things to an the anodyne. Vive la differance.



It is very interesting to compare these photographs with the wonderful illustrations of Robert Hooke's "Micrographia", published in 1665 based on Hooke's own drawings of natural phenomena seen under a microscope.
I wrote a little about the extraordinarily talented Mr Hooke here.

The flea was obviously much on the minds of people then, being, I imagine a more constant daily companion in the lives of 17th and 19th century man than it is, thankfully, today .
Compare then Hooke's monstrous flea of 1665.....



with, 200 years later, Arthur E. Durham's Photomicrograph of a flea, 1863 or 1864, from the " Brought to Light" exhibition. See the museum website here for more details and more revealing photographs


Are you itchy yet?

But my odd irregularity today is the fruit of the beautiful Batleaved Passion Flower. I have another, regular, grocery shop passion fruit here to draw but I like this little vine so much I decided to paint these first. I drew the leaf before here back in June. I had forgotten how beautiful they are. The fruit are tiny and turn from green with pale white spots to blue black. I do have a riper black one here but not enough time to draw it today.
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Bat Winged Passion Flower Fruit


Leaf of the Day: Darlene's Limes

I had already started painting these lemon and lime slices today when Chris phoned to say a colleague at work was offering us a bag of limes. How very kind of her and how very welcome they are. My painter friend Brenda is sure that since the excellent election result there is a general air of kindness around, she may be right. So, late tonight I have a bag of limes and some rosemary too.. sounds like a chicken dish will be on the menu this week. I had already made an excellent lamb curry for tonight but have lamb left over. Oh ..decisions, decisions.
Darlene's limes are, of course Key Limes, not like the Persian Lime I have painted. They are, confusingly, lemon in colour and small but with such a beautiful flavour and what will I make? Not a difficult question is it, here in Florida. Key Lime Pie of course!..It will be my first.

People ask about my technique and materials from time to time, and for these studies, because I am not really concerned about detail, I use just one brush. (Hmmm...or could that just be laziness). It's a lovely squirrel mop(so sorry little squirrels) by Isaby. It needs a light touch and you have to paint fairly wet with it. This one has a rather unreliable point for fine detail but I just love the look and feel of this brush, I have 3 of them in different sizes.



This is my day to day sketching paintbox with Winsor and Newton paints mainly. I do get more organised for finished work.

I am trying to keep to my rule this week of not writing too much, so here are the drawings. The lemon and lime slices are colour matching sketches more than anything else. The trouble with botanical painting is that you should be trying to match the colour you see as accurately as you can. Left to my own devices and asked to paint lemons and limes I would be adding a few more interesting colours... however, it's a good exercise in restraint if nothing else.

I have only had time for a quick sketch of Darlene's limes, I just put a few on my drawing table which has a dark slightly shiny surface. I am sure I will return to Key Limes very soon.
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Lemon and Limes




Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Leaf of the Day: Two Trout Pears

Sweet little Forelle Pears. Small, perfect and delightfully spotted, hence their name the Trout Pear. I thought trout and pears sounded like a very tasty mixture, so I looked for a recipe.

This one is from the Pittsburg Post Gazette here
Trout Napoleon with arugala, goat cheese stuffing, roasted new potaotes and grilled pear watercress and bacon salad
1 trout fillet
Salt and pepper
Cornstarch
Extra virgin olive oil
12 ounces arugula
6 ounces goat cheese
2 fresh pears
4 strips bacon
6 ounces watercress
2 new potatoes
Fresh herbs for seasoning
Take trout fillet and cut into three pieces and season with salt and pepper. Dust skin side with cornstarch and saute in hot oil (about 2 minutes per side). In a separate pan, cook arugula in hot oil for 30 seconds, remove from heat and add goat cheese.
To assemble, place piece of trout down, then arugula mix; trout, then mix; then trout again to create a stack, or napoleon.
To prepare salad
Slice fresh pear, season with salt and pepper and grill (1 minute per side). Cut bacon into bite-sized pieces and cook until crispy and then cool. Mix grilled pears, bacon and watercress with extra virgin olive oil and place on top of stacked trout.
For roasted potatoes
Cut potatoes in half, toss with oil, and season with salt and pepper and fresh herbs. Cook in 350-degree oven until soft.
Serves 1.
from Mitchell's Fish Market

I think I would have stuffed a whole beautiful fresh spotted rainbow trout and oven baked it, perhaps in a little perry, served with a watercress, pear, and hazelnut salad and the new potaotes..minus the bacon...but then I never could follow a recipe.

This is not turning into a food blog, but how can I draw fruit without thinking of food!

A drawing of the cut pear, its interior structure is very beautiful, and a colour note sketch.


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Trout Pear