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

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Leaf of the Day: Eric, "the Man who knows" and the Kurrajong Pod

I have now spent almost a year walking round the Garden on my own and finding things in a very ad hoc way, and that's, generally, how I like it. That element of surprise has made it all the more enjoyable, if I had had a list to work through it could have become a chore. The gardeners, Susan, Pedro, Joel and Tony have pointed me in the direction of some very unusual and interesting things but sometimes there are missing labels or I have questions they cannot answer. On these occasions Pedro always says "you must ask Eric, he will know".

So on Tuesday, just to see what I may have missed and to get some answers to particular questions I booked a quick tour with Eric Schmidt who looks after the botanical records at Leu Gardens. His knowledge is encyclopedic. I learned about many new things that I would have missed, a scented palm, the ancient and wonderful ephedras, the macaw palm, a rare yellow camellia, maples that look nothing like maples, a cactus with leaves and an acacia with leaves that are not leaves at all. I have discovered the name of the big fig tree near the house and found the Provisions tree and joy of joys, a fabulous pod of the Little Kurrajong, the Brachychiton which I wrote about here ..

It's very big and very furry. Every bit of it is furry, as if made entirely of velvet. As I was drawing it, the little furry segments huddled together looked like rows of baby monkeys or perhaps little owls, very comical. I am going to investigate this a bit further. Eric tells me these seeds will germinate easily so I may try some.
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Little Kurrajong Pod



Monday, 26 January 2009

Leaf of the Day: Cotton Bols, the Associations of Objects and a Blog Break

Today warm sun returned and we have been cycling and even had a bite to eat outside and it looks as though the coming week will be fine and warm too. If that is so I will be OUT, down to the Gardens where I have not been for over a week or just out and about with a book or two in the sun. So I have decided to take a week away from the blog, well this blog anyway.

Over the last few months I have received some very interesting emails from all over the world regarding my Darling Popsy Blog which is about my grandfather's time in Kenya . Some have even been able to identify one or two of the people in the photographs. So far I have only transcribed the Kenya letters and am anxious to get on to the letters from India. Also, my " very-urgent-without-which-life-will-stop " to-do list has got so long, that life may well stop in the next 2 days if I don't tackle some of them...you just can't hide behind the feckless artist image forever.

Cotton Bols, Cotton and Objects
But today some more cotton bols... some sketches and not quite the full sheet watercolour, but a half sheet sketch. Drawing and re-drawing one thing makes for a different relationship with it. This has stopped being just a cotton bol but becomes an object in its own right. I have been considering "The Object" as I have been painting these and how, separated from their normal environments, objects become such potent symbols. This cotton bol is an interesting case for me. I, who had never seen a cotton bol before, first saw it as just a beautiful "thing". Then on knowing it was a cotton bol, my whole appreciation of it has to carry with it the history of cotton, the implications of cotton, its good and its bad. But I am still very drawn to it. It is the most beautiful thing in its juxtaposition of soft/hard elements, and in these contradictions maybe it is the perfect symbol for cotton.
I am struck with how often themes come back into my work, tools and their relationship to work, is one. Some time ago I had made some pieces to do with the Victorian cotton industry in the UK where workers in mills were vulnerable to byssinosis, a lung disease, and weavers passed on tuberculosis by 'kissing the shuttle' to draw the thread. For as long as I can remember I had an old weaving shuttle. Our family are originally from Leeds and at one time involved in the cloth trade so this was an important item to me with some family and historical resonance. It's a beautiful object with its brass fittings and smooth wood, but this too carries with it some old problems. The photograph and the print (excuse about copyright symbols) say something about the plight of the women and children who were working in the factories, caught in the warps and wefts of the job, themselves just tools of the trade.


"Caught" Valerie Littlewood 2004: Photograph


"Tools of the Trade" Valerie Littlewood 2004 : print on detail Paper

Once you know something, you can't "unknow" it ..and sometimes that is a problem when looking at objects and their associations, sometimes ignorance is bliss. But I can still appreciate them as beautiful objects in their own right.

And just a last word on "objects", if you like design and objects, see the info about "Objectified" the new film about to be released by Gary Hustwit and a companion to his wonderful "Helvetica" about the universal typeface. I will leave you, for now, with this thought from his introduction to the film here ..
"The term objectified has two meanings. One is ‘to be treated with the status of a mere object.’ But the other is ‘something abstract expressed in a concrete form,’ as in the way a sculpture objectifies an artist’s thoughts. It’s the act of transforming creative thought into a tangible object, which is what designers in this film do every day. But maybe there’s a third meaning to this title, regarding the ways these objects are affecting us and our environment. Have we all become objectified?"

I will be back soon ....
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Cotton Bols




Sunday, 25 January 2009

Leaf of the Day: Preserving the Plants, Wonderful Wardians

Today, instead of researching more about herbaria which was my intention, I became completely engrossed in the lives of the plant hunters. My admiration for them grows in leaps and bounds. I have been reading amongst others a small paperback "The Plant Hunters" by Tyler Whittle which is full of very entertaining information about these extraordinary people. From the diminutive Albertus Magnus, 1193-1280, who walked all over northern Europe, dissuaded the Poles from eating each other and collected an extraordinary number of plants into the bargain, to the pirate plant collector William Dampier whose terrible cruelty earned him a court martial and who was the unlikely inspiration for Coleridge's "Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner". I was really just looking for how they transported the plants but got horribly side tracked for hours .. and hours..

However the problem of shipping live plants was of course a real headache for the early explorers. I can barely get a few leaves back from Leu without them withering to nothing, let alone a 3 month sea voyage. Many ways of shipping were tried, packing things in barrels, and wrapping them in oil cloths, suspending delicate things in nets from cabins roofs, and making elaborate sets of boxes within boxes but things could happen on a voyage, storm, shipwreck, mutiny ( as on the Bounty whose revolting crew threw the precious cargo of breadfruit overboard), the neglect of the crew, salt water damage, excessive heat, excessive cold and too much or too little light etc etc etc. Pests on board were a problem too. John Bartram sent boxes of new and precious plants from America to William Collinson in the UK and on one occasion a rat's nest complete with young was found "amidst the ruin of plants and dead greenery". Seeds were also sent but they were as tricky to keep in good condition as live plants. Dried plants were useful for identification and if the expedition could afford it an artist went along, but even drawings were subject to the same hazards.

Some early plant carrying boxes


The big change occurred with Dr Nathanial Ward's accidental invention of the Wardian Case in 1829, which made transporting plants more successful, so much so that plant distribution, especially economically important plants, around the world would change.

Dr Ward had an interest in entomology and ferns but lived in a very polluted part of the docklands in industrial London, and neither the ferns nor the butterflies thrived. However he was aware of the importance of clean pure air for the survival of natural things and in his own words,
"I had buried the chrysalis of a sphinx [moth] in some moist mould contained in a wide-mouthed glass bottle, covered with a lid. In watching the bottle from day to day, I observed that the moisture which, during the heat of the day arose from the mould, condensed on the surface of the glass, and returned whence it came; thus keeping the earth always in some degree of humidity. About a week prior to the final change of the insect, a seedling fern and a grass made their appearance on the surface of the mould"

His curiosity for how long the ferns could survive in this sheltered environment (in fact for 4 years until the lid began to rust), led to the hugely important botanic/economic discovery the Wardian Case.
The success of the cases wasn't just the fact that they were made from glass but that they were sealed and not disturbed, providing the plants with a stable climate in which to travel. If you have ever had a terrarium you will know how delicate the micro climate inside can be.


Photo of a replica Wardian Case from the National Maritime Museum here
Ward was determined to test his cases well though and so on his orders two cases were stocked with native plants in Australia. These already proven "bad travellers" were put aboard a clipper and sent to England.
" Stocked with Plants notorious for their tenderness and their reluctance to leave their natural habitat they were sent on the long storm wracked voyage round the Horn. Between Botany Bay and the Pool of London the plants were subjected to variations of temperature from 20 to 120 degrees. They were rolled sideways and tossed backwards and forwards on the swell and roll of two oceans. But at the end of it all when Dr Ward went down to the quayside and opened his cases he found the plants secure, fresh and green and full of promise. His confidence in the cases was entirely vindicated"
Exerpt from the "Plant Hunters"by Tyler Whittle

The new Wardian cases in which seedlings could be planted and transported enabled Robert Fortune, who I wrote about before in regards to tea, to transport the 20,000 smuggled tea seedlings from China to Assam, to start India's tea industry. Rubber tree seedlings, after germination in the heated glasshouses of Kew, were shipped successfully in Wardian cases to Ceylon and Malaysia to start the rubber plantations and Joseph Hooker was able to ship many new and different specimens back to Britain from his four year Antarctic voyage.
A Wardian case from Kew gardens. see here " The Wardian Case being filled in the photograph remained in use at Kew until the 1960s when air transport and other means superseded it.



Below are two examples of the decorative Wardian cases which I particularly like for the inclusion of the cat and bird looking on, perhaps a little nonplussed at being shut out of their normal haunts.






....More on pressing plants
There is so much information on the web re pressing / preserving flowers and I am sure that many had or still have old flower presses, or like me, just make do, but an easy plant press and proper collecting instructions can be seen here from Fort Hays State university


And there is a nice PDF on how to make a pressed specimen from The Fairchild Gardens with a sample of the correct label here.
If I had time I could get very involved in developing and keeping a herbarium but I will save this delightful pastime for when I get my dream garden.


Its Saturday ...........

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Leaf of the Day: Oaks, more Oaks and Herbaria

I have to admit I am a bit of a cataloguer. I love arranging things, labelling things, sorting things, and putting things in boxes. I was an inveterate cotton reel arranger and button box sorter for my mother. The button box sorting was just that, sorting and arranging of things into categories, shape, size, design, material, colour etc which took some time as we were a thrifty family and all buttons were saved. But, having carefully laid them out, examined them, admired their variety and colours and patterns, I would just tip them all back into the box again. What exactly was the point? I have never delved into the deep psychological meaning of this delightful pastime but I know many others have done it too. It was the perfect rainy day occupation.

So, while the weather has been bad, I have been indulging in some equivalent leaf sorting. Same thing, all the leaves out of their boxes, sorted, admired and put back again. This included many oak leaves now mostly dried up or under the mattress .. yes I press them as well... I do like pressed leaves. There are, unbeknownst to Chris, many many leaves and even the odd flower under the mattress. :). He is obviously not very finely bred as I haven't had any "princess and the pea" complaints. They are there because I was hoping to get round to making a book, "a herbarium" to be correct.

A herbarium (Lat herba, "herb," formerly any medicinal plant) is a collection of dried specimens of plants mounted on sheets of heavy paper and stored in cabinets or bound in book form, as well as the building that houses such a collection. The term replaced (Lat) Hortus siccus, "dried garden", which was used until the late 1700s.

Below , some oak leaves and a general view of Kew's massive herbarium which since April 2008 has been open to the public.




images from the Guardian here

I started drying and preserving the leaves from Leu from early last year but only when time allowed, so it is not really a good record and it's very time consuming.

"The first person to consider mounting dried specimens onto paper is thought to have been Luca Ghini (c1490–1556) of Bologna. His pupil, Gherardo Cibo, in about 1532, prepared a collection which was perhaps a means of instructing students in the use of herbal treatments. Most of these early collections were bound into books and many are still beautifully preserved. The oldest herbarium is in Germany, established in 1570, and the largest is in Paris, containing nearly 9 million specimens. "
from the Royal Horticultural Society here

This little specimen of Quercus pendunculata may not look very special until you realise it is from the great Linnean herbarium, held at the Department of Phanerogamic Botany, Swedish Museum of Natural History here



To say I am a cataloguer might infer that I am tidy and have a system but unfortunately that is not true and my oak leaf collecting was particularly haphazard. I would return from the Gardens with ten leaves from different oaks and not a clue which was which, so I started taking labels to the gardens and attaching them to the leaves as I picked them.
So far I have:
Quercus laeta, which seems to be a Mexican Oak
Quercus polymorpha, the Monterrey Oak
Quercus laevis, Turkey Oak
Quercus sillae, Saddle, Mountain Oak
Quercus glaucoides, Lacey oak
Quercus pungens, Sandpaper Oak
Quercus pagodifolia, Cherry Bark Oak,
Quercus shumardii, Shumard Oak
Quercus austrina, Bluff oak
Quercus michauxii, Swamp chestnut oak
Quercus myrtifolia, Myrtle Oak
Quercus laurifolia, Laurel Oak
Quercus durandii, Durand oak
Quercus virginiana, Southern Live oak
Quercus glauca, Ring-cup oak
Quercus phellos, Willow Oak
Quercus nigra, Water Oak
Quercus myrsinaefolia, Asian evergreen oak

This below is the preserved Quercus laeta collected by Bacon, J. 1751, Durango,Mexico: from Chicago's Field Museum here



I have drawn some, but not all as I was really waiting for acorns, but very few of them have had acorns. Maybe this is because some of the trees are only young.
This sketch of the Quercus Laeta is a little bit different as it is done on tinted pastel paper. I had put these two dried and curled up leaves on the desk, complete with label and liked their faded pale colours, so drew them just as they were. I will return to the various and fascinating ways of preserving plants and their history tomorrow.

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Quercus Laeta


Friday, 23 January 2009

Leaf of the Day: Crepe or Crape, Myrtles and Murder

Probably the most interesting thing I have found out about the crape/crepe myrtle is the seemingly never ending controversy about its name. I had thought it was "crepe"rather than "crape", because the name refers to the crinkled edges of the petals...in my mind like "crepe" paper, however .....see this and more of the discussion here at Garden Web here

" 'Crape' myrtle is the overwhelming choice both in botanical sources and in other dictionary sources," said Michael Agnes, executive editor of Webster's New World Dictionary.
The word expert explains that crape myrtle is a compound, two elements referring to one thing. "When that happens, a variant spelling is almost always associated with the compound," Agnes said. But which vowel came first?
The first reference to crape, without the myrtle, came in 1685. Crepe first showed up in 1797, Agnes said.
"By the time someone decided to call this plant crape myrtle, crape was by far preferred," he said. The first reference to crape myrtle showed up in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1850.


The trees are everywhere here, in every Mall, on every street corner and scattered around our apartments. While pretty enough in flower I thought the shape of the bare winter stems was more attractive, especially with their little seed pods which are still hanging on. The pale or mottled bark is also a welcome reminder of the seasons in amongst the lush but sometimes relentless green of Florida. I had intended writing about them before, as in November I had found some much bigger pods at Leu Gardens. Sadly they had mostly disintegrated but they belonged to the Lagerstroemia calyculata, which, according to the label is a relatively rare crape from Thailand.


The big and beautiful flowers of the Lagerstroemia calyculata, photo Nirmal Roberts from TrekNature here

But the controversy about the name of the crepes/crapes is as nothing when it comes to the pruning problems and "The Crape Myrtle Murder", sounding more like an Agatha Christie mystery with Hercule Poirot at last running amok with secateurs, than a horticultural issue.

"Stop the Crape Murder"
Hideous crimes are being committed all ever Texas, some in our own front yards and many right in front of our local businesses. Unfortunately, many have turned a blind eye to the ongoing massacre. Not me! I can take it no more."...
Such is the impassioned cry from Greg Grant's article, more here

The terrible crime of "crape murder" occurs when the plant is ruthlessly chopped without regard to the natural branching habit It results in weakly attached new branches which cannot take the weight of flowers and reduces flower bud formation. Better it seems to underprune than overprune and never take its top off!
This is an example of an "underpruned" crape/crepe myrtle which does allows the tree to arch very gracefully.


from Houston Chronicle Gardening here

Go here to Wilson Brothers Nursery for this rather attractive printable diagram with instructions on the correct way to prune .. or is it?..it looks a bit severe to me!



This is the nearest crepe/crape myrtle to us. I took this photo today. It is a couple of yards away from the steps to the apartment and has been tidied up by the garden gang who come round periodically but, even after looking at the diagrams and reading the advice, I am still not sure if murder has been committed or not.



At Leu there are quite a few different ones including the Lagerstroemia calyculata whose pod I have drawn and another Lagerstroemia macrocarpa.
The drawings of the pods compare the size of the ordinary little street crape myrtles and the much bigger pod of the Lagerstroemia calyculata. I also made a quick sketch at Leu a couple of weeks ago because there are two crepe/crape myrtles which stand by a path nicely silhouetted against the dark green oaks. Some people I know think they are ugly in this state but I like to see their structure and tracery. Another reason not to be so quick to prune is for the sake of the birds who love the seeds..and for artists who like to draw them.

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Crepe/Crape Myrtle




Thursday, 22 January 2009

Leaf of the Day: Cold cold, very cold ...frosted strawberries and smudge pots.

Yesterday was the very best excuse not to do any drawing at all. I unashamedly spent the whole day glued to the TV, watching the inauguration. It was all very uplifting and inspiring, and cheered up this freezing January week. I have not sensed such a feeling of hope since those heady days of the 1960's.
But it's very very cold today, so cold that we fear for Chris' carambola, too cold to cycle far, so I am suffering somewhat from cabin fever. Reading back through the blog, last year was similar, with "The Big Ugly Freeze" in early January.
Having been brought up in rural Lincolnshire I do feel for the farmers. To be at the mercy of the weather dictates that you must develop a philosophical view of life but, after days and days of tending and nurturing, and months and months of waiting, to lose a crop is devastating. So I am always interested in how growers try to protect their crops. Here, in the aptly named Plant City they are spraying the strawberries with water which forms a protective coat on the fruit, and I was fascinated to learn about the "smudge pots" which were once used in Florida and California.


Nice old image of 1930's smudge pots from University of California contributed by Anaheim Public Library here

They are called "choofas" in Australia by the "choo choo" noise the "pots" make while burning the fuel. Like a big version of our old horribly smoky paraffin heaters in the UK, the “smudge pots” created a thick, oily smoke and it was the smoke rather than the heat that protected the fruit.
"The smudge pots do not put out enough heat to heat the orchard, however the thick smoke cloud acts to reflect infrared radiation (heat radiation) from the orchard, thus "trapping" heat between the cloud and the ground. By reducing the amount of heat lost by radiation to the night sky, the orchard cools more slowly, hopefully keeping it above the freezing point through the night."


Fabulous image here from Life Magazine, here. The caption reads,
"Farmers sitting up all night with kerosene cans, filling lines of smudge pots.
Location: CA, US , Date taken: 1949 Photographer: Ross Madden "\


These types of heaters burned oil and when the temperatures dropped to near 26 degrees, crews with torches went through the orchards lighting the heaters. It as a dirty job and hard work, the smoke would seep into nearby homes, blacken the curtains and the washing and get into your nostrils.
Another equally dirty way to protect the orchards was to burn old tyres.

Report from 1950 from the The South Coast Air Quality Management District here
"You'd blow your nose, and it would be black," said Edward Camarena, a former chemist with the Orange County Air Pollution Control District, the first air quality agency to regulate orchard heaters, popularly known as smudge pots. "I can remember getting up and going to work and seeing this ugly black haze where they had smudged most of the night," said Jack Adame, a retired University of California, Riverside employee. "

You can also read an account of the use of smudge pots in 1910 with some nice old photos, from Marty Mincers Orchard in Iowa here .
But this more recently is "Friday, Jan. 12, 2007, setting up smudge pots in Camarillo, California to protect young avocado trees" by Gus Ruelas, AP Photos here



The design of the pots seemed to vary quite a bit and there are some excellent photos to be found by looking on the web. I have spent a very happy couple of hours browsing, there are some wonderful shapes and colours .
It seems it is now "illegal" to use them in great number and perhaps the type of fuel is regulated. These days they try to combat the freezing air with wind fans and water sprinklers but I am sure some old smudge pots come out too.


Today I have been back to scribbling, reading and notemaking. I am thinking of making some larger watercolours, much looser than the botanical ones and keep coming back to the beautiful Cotton Bol, I picked two more the other day from the tree at Leu.
But I put off the evil hour of tackling the full sheet of white pristine paper which is now sitting ready on the desk, by making a small sketch of a shoebox lid into which I had dumped some bits from the nature table. It looked attractive in the sun with the long cast shadows that I like so much so I drew it just as it was...while the big white full sheet watercolour paper still sits there, still pristine.
In the shoebox lid are a couple of big turkey oak leaves, some eucalyptus leaves, some red berries from a palm of some sort, various twigs and some seed heads. There is one seed head from the crepe myrtle which I might (will probably) draw tomorrow, if I am still intimidated by the big white paper.
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Shoebox Lid with Assorted Things



Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Leaf of the Day: Thinking Time and Two Tiny Wasp Galls..

Today was one of those days where the long twisting path of good intentions takes the whole day to navigate, with little to show.. well on paper anyway. I have finished the essay, the 4th rewrite after finding yet more fascinating information about Catesby, stretched some big paper, cleared a space for the even bigger drawing board that has the paper on it, which involved rearranging the nature table yet again, and thought about what to put on its gleaming, white, pristine and untouchable surface.
I am at the ideas stage of a few projects which all seem to need "thinking about". Thinking time is a great part of being a designer or artist or writer etc. Sometimes it is a good excuse for going for a coffee or not doing anything at all, but usually it is just a necessary part of the process. Staring into the middle distance is not so much a state of catatonia, as a state of contemplation.(maybe sometimes it is hard to tell the difference). I often just sit down with a sketchbook and scribble and have done quite a lot of scribbles over the last few days. If any of them develop legs I will post the development process but without an end result they would be incomprehensible.
The only problem I have with ideas is having too many. They circle round and round my head like swarms of annoying flies and sometimes are just as difficult to catch. If I don't sketch them immediately, they are gone. Then there is the agonising, decision-making process; which ones to pursue?.. and then I am plagued by the possibility/ probability that I have made the wrong choice.

So I was pleased to leave all that and simply draw this little piece of wood with the two tiny wasp galls. I have found even more photos from Berkeley University's Calphotos, which has a staggering 290 photos of wasp galls, most by Joyce Gross who took some of yesterdays wonderful photos. See this great resource here . These I am sure are what I found, created by Live Oak gall wasp.



I also neglected the architect of these wonderful creations yesterday. These tiny Gall Wasps differ from species to species but here is the Live Oak gall wasp by Edward S. Ross from Enature.com field guides,

here


Tomorrow some thing very important is happening here in America and I doubt I will get any drawing done !

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Two Tiny Wasp Galls


Monday, 19 January 2009

Leaf of the day: Galls and more Galls

I have spent a large part of today sorting out my nature table which is now overrun with twigs and bits of leaves, many seed pods, cones and dried leaves. The pods from the milkweeds have burst open and errant fairy seeds waft around the room with every breath of air. It's truly a jumble, but in amongst it all was this small leaf I had picked up one day, with two wasp galls firmly attached to the underneath. It's such a pleasing object. Not quite a exquisite as the potter wasp's beautifully made pot which I still have here, and not as comical as the gouty galls I drew some time ago (both here). But the simple arrangement of two perfect little spheres on this leaf make this wasp a bit of an artist.

Galls and other insect built homes are fascinating but these are particularly creative. They are the designs of the Gall Wasps, Family Cynipidae, who, although wasps, are tiny, often no bigger than a fruit fly. The galls are formed by abnormal growth of the plant cells stimulated by chemical secretions produced by the wasps either feeding or laying eggs. The plant tissue grows up around the eggs to protect the larvae, but why they are such extraordinary shapes and colours is a mystery. I can see that some imitate twigs but something red and spotted is not really very well camouflaged.
There are saucer galls, beaked twig galls, dunce cap galls, red cone galls, and spined Turk's cap galls and everywhere I looked I found more. But this site, BugGuide. net here will give you wonderful identification photos by a variety of photographers. Here are some of the examples.

Starburst Gall



Spined Turbaned Gall



Disk Gall



Saucer gall



Horned gall



Hairstalk Gall



Beaked Twig Gall



Spiny Leaf Gall



More photos and a informative article from Hawk Conservancy Trust .org here

Robin's Pincushion Gall



Ramshorn Gall




There is an excellent and informative poster "Wasp Galls on Californian Oaks" by Ron Russo here . His comment rings true, "the behaviours and structures that have evolved for the successful survival of Gall Wasps are among the most intriguing stories of nature" It's a great poster.. Hmm.. decisions? .. If I just move the Nine Inch Nails poster over a bit, there will be room for the Oak Galls.. :).

But they are fabulous aren't they? I realise now I have a couple more which I thought were tiny fungi growing on a twig. I may draw those tomorrow.
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Oak Galls




Saturday, 17 January 2009

Leaf of the Day:Acanthus Montanus.. Some Prickles.

The very prickly thing I have drawn today is a piece of the Acanthus montanus or Mountain Thistle. It's in bloom now at the Gardens and I took this photo a week ago. I have to say that even though this may be handsome, it is an extremely unfriendly plant. Every bit of it is covered with sharp spines.



This is not the acanthus leaf of the classical Corinthian capitals which were more likely to have been inspired by the Acanthus mollis, also charmingly named Bears Breeches, which I will come back to. I would like to draw a real, Corinthian column type, acanthus leaf.

A quick sketch of the leaf itself and a detail of the leathery spiny surface, and then a small watercolor for some texture practice. The veins are deep, the sections well defined and the surface shiny and it has prickles ..a bit of a nightmare to paint really and these small pieces take a ridiculous amount of time for what you get ..hence very short post.. but it is good practice.

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Mountain Thistle Leaf