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

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Bee No 2: Tricoloured Bumble Bee: Bombus ternarius

This is the most delightfully pretty bumble bee and chosen purely because of its lovely markings, with a cream heart on its thorax and brilliant red/orange bands.They look a bit like little fuzzy bottle brushes. The “ternarius” in its name refers to the three abdominal colours of red yellow and black. They are also called the Red tailed Bumble Bee, and the Orange Belted Bumble Bee. The facts;

CLASS: Insecta
ORDER: Hymenoptera, Bees, wasps, ants and sawflies.
SUPERFAMILY: Apoidea. Bees and some wasps.
FAMILY: Apidae. Bees.
GENUS: Bombus. Bumblebees
SPECIES: Bombus ternarius

They are also sometime classified in the subgenus .. Pyrobombus.. I would like to think because of their fiery colour.

This is a small northern USA Bumble Bee, a worker just 8-13 mm, which according to the books, range from the Yukon to Nova Scotia, and south to Georgia, they are widespread but rarely observed south of Pennsylvania.
They like the flowers from the Rubus family: i.e. blackberries and raspberries, and the Vaccinium family; i.e. blueberry bilberry and huckleberry and are partial to Goldenrod too.

Orange-belted bumble bee, Bombus ternarius from University of Maine

“The orange-belted bumble bee queen emerges from hibernation in early spring. She must satisfy two immediate needs. She must nourish herself on flower nectar and pollen, and she must find a good place to raise a family. Queens spend hour upon hour cruising just above the ground looking for a suitable nest site underground, often settling in an abandoned mouse burrow.”

However, Linda Robb’s bees found themselves higher class accommodation by moving into her bird house. I have seen a couple of other references to Bumble Bees taking over bird boxes. What a nice idea.
redtailed_bumbles_birdhouse

This lovely photo of the Bombus ternarius colony by Linda is from her WhatsthatBug.com,entry, read more here….

This little bee just had to be drawn from above to show off its markings. Its “pile” is shorter than Bee No1 and these are chubby, neat little bees.

Some initial sketches, to look at the colouring and the pose.

Bombus tricolour pencil sketch smtricol sketch sm
And the final painting…

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Bee number 2: The Tricoloured Bumble Bee, Bombus ternarious.

Bombus Ternarius bee 2 sm

A Buzz in Middle C...Bumble Bees for Crops

The more I read about bees, the more the little bits of information begin to make sense of things I have casually observed over the years. For example, I used to think that when the Bumble Bee changed it tune from low drowsy hum to high pitched buzz it was a sign of extreme irritation or frustration. Now I know better.
There might actually be a bit of frustration involved because what the bee is doing is shaking the anther of the flower to release the pollen inside.. clever thing!

I am sure that keen naturalists know this already but, while I understood that Bumble Bees were important pollinators I had no idea they were used on such a large scale by commercial growers.

How it works

In some flowers, particularly of the Solanum family, i.e. eggplants, potato, tomato, and Vaccinium, i.e. cranberry, blueberry, bilberry and huckleberry, the pollen is contained in tube shaped anthers, with only a small aperture at the tip for the pollen to escape, rather like a salt or pepper pot.

pic_1730

Eggplant diagram from Beeculture.com’s pollination guide here.

While a little pollen can be dispersed by wind or the action of insects bumping into the flowers, the Bumble Bee has a better method. It grasps the anther and shakes it.

Here from a very good short article, from BayNature.org, Sue Rosenthal explains

“Bumblebees, … actively collect and eat not just nectar but also protein-rich pollen. And a bumblebee can cause a flower to discharge a visible cloud of pollen through buzz pollination. The bumblebee grasps the flower with its legs or mouthparts and vibrates its flight muscles very rapidly without moving its wings. This vibration shakes electrostatically charged pollen out of the anthers, and the pollen is attracted to the bumblebee’s oppositely charged body hairs. The bumblebee later grooms the pollen from its body into pollen-carrying structures on its back legs for transport to its nest”

Read more here.

Susan also goes on to tell us that the “Buzz-pollinating bumblebees make a distinctive, middle-C buzz”… and that they also “use the energy of buzz pollination for other purposes, for example, compacting soil in their underground burrows (bumblebees don’t build hives like honeybees) or moving a pebble or other obstacle.”

They are so smart!

bee_pollinating
Great photo of Bumble bee (I think B impatiens) firmly grasping a tomato flower from Canadian tomato growers Gipaanda Greenhouses here. A company who seems to care about every aspect of production.

Here is a nice piece of film of Bumble Bees in action on a blueberry crop from KoppertBiological here.


It demonstrates perfectly the change in pitch as the Bumble Bee (I think B.terrestris) vibrates the flower.

While other native bees also use buzz pollination, Honeybees don't, and it is estimated that 8% of the flowers of the world are primarily pollinated using buzz pollination. Growers have tried alternatives.. such as electric toothbrushes or the commercial “Electric Bee” but the humble bumble is far more effective and cheaper.

Like Koppert above, the award winning Bio-bee.com company from Israel, here is one of growing number of companies who supply Bumble Bees for growers. They have a very nice site explaining all about the pollination process and will provide you with a box of big bouncing Earth Bumble Bees ( Bombus terrestris), ready and eager to pollinate your tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, eggplants, courgettes, cherries, avocados and blueberries. The bee boxes are fully equipped with sugar water and nectar and insulation.


bee box pic_1621

You can of course encourage your own little colony by providing them with boxes, like this ready made one from Ethical Superstore UK here.

image_1040

or, for other ideas for nesting boxes from the Bumble Bee Conservation site’s “Join Our Nest Box Trial” here..

Of course after all that hard work, the Bumble Bees may just prefer that old coat pocket, so you could just console yourself with some of these….

Gorgeous smiling chocolate Bumble Bees… Ahhhh…..from The Chocolate Store here.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Bee No 1: The Garden Bumble Bee, Bombus hortorum.

More about my bee from the UK and the first of my 16 subjects, which travelled back in my pencil case and survived almost intact. These are the much loved, archetypal stripy bees which we see in the UK , the ones which usually spring to mind when thinking about a picture book idea of a Bumble Bee

There are 3 very similar bumble bees, the B. hortorum, B. lucorum the white tailed Bumble Bee and B. terrestris the buff tailed Bumble Bee.

3 bees

From the British Beekeepers’ Association site, is part of Gillian Lye’s nice explanatory guide, from a UK bumble bee nest survey. See more here

The facts:

CLASS: Insecta or Hexapoda. Insects, as the name hexapoda suggests, animals that have six legs
ORDER: Hymenoptera, Bees, wasps, ants and sawflies.
SUPERFAMILY: Apoidea. Bees and some wasps.
FAMILY: Apidae. Bees.
GENUS: Bombus. Bumblebees
SPECIES: Bombus hortorum

The Garden Bee, sometimes delightfully classified as “Megabombus” is a European bee and described as “rather scruffy” with quite long hair. It has a long head and the longest tongue of all European Bumble Bees allowing it to reach those parts of flowers which other bees cannot reach. It likes red clover, cowslips, foxglove, vetches and lavender.

My information comes from the really excellent and readable BumbleBee.org. http://www.bumblebee.org/hort.htm which I quoted from in an earlier post. Here is another snippet

(Bombus Hortorum).. “have a reputation for nesting in "unsuitable" places such as coat pockets, buckets and inside lawnmowers, their preferred nest sites are usually on or just below ground. They are fairly placid bees and do not have large nests, so if it is possible, it is best to leave them where they are. If you must move the nest, for example, if it is inside a lawnmower, then do so late in the evening when all the bees have returned. Get as much of the nest material as you can into a small box with an entrance hole of about 1 cm and leave it inside as close to the original spot as possible. If it is inside a shed or building then any kind of container will do. If it has to be moved outdoors then the container must be weatherproof and placed in a south-facing sheltered spot.”

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Bee number 1. The Garden Bee Bombus hortorum

Some final sketches for the pose,

bee sketches final hortorus sm

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Of Darwin, Humble Bees, Mice, Cats, Old Maids and the British Empire.

You would expect Darwin to have made some interesting observations about Bumble Bees, wouldn’t you?.. (called in his time “Humble bees.”)

Humble bees alone visit red clover, as other bees cannot reach the nectar. It has been suggested that moths may fertilise the clovers; but I doubt whether they could do so in the case of the red clover, from their weight not being sufficient to depress the wing petals.

Hence we may infer as highly probable that, if the whole genus of humble-bees became extinct or very rare in England, the heartsease and red clover would become very rare, or wholly disappear. The number of humble-bees in any district depends in a great measure upon the number of field-mice, which destroy their combs and nests; and Colonel Newman, who has long attended to the habits of humble-bees, believes that "more than two-thirds of them are thus destroyed all over England."

Now the number of mice is largely dependent, as every one knows, on the number of cats; and Colonel Newman says, "Near villages and small towns I have found the nests of humble-bees more numerous than elsewhere, which I attribute to the number of cats that destroy the mice." Hence it is quite credible that the presence of a feline animal in large numbers in a district might determine, through the intervention first of mice and then of bees, the frequency of certain flowers in that district!

from Chapter 3  “The Origin of Species”   Charles Darwin

shutterstock_31975861

Bee on Clover by Kaspri from Shutterstock.com

Thomas Henry Huxley another eminent English biologist, and others went on to expand this idea, pointing out that the success of the British Empire really depended on “Old Maids”. Why? .. because  soldiers eat roast beef, the beef cattle eat red clover, red clover is pollinated by bumble bees which, in a round about way are protected by cats. The cats eat the mice who prey on the honey and Old Maids keep cats, therefore the continuation of the British Empire was really dependant on cat loving elderly ladies.

It’s a nice thought and nice enough for A D Hope to write a poem about it. In “Clover Honey” from "A Late Picking: Poems 1965-1975", the narrator is concerned about the number of spinsters in the locality but a friend puts him right.

Here is part of it..

"Yes, yes, poor things!" he said, "You have a heart
That does you credit, my dear. But let me say
That the great chain of being has found a part
In Nature's scheme even for them to play.

You mentioned cats, I think. Each keeps a cat?"
"Good God!" I said "they have them by the score!"
"Indeed? Of course, I'm not surprised at that;
But cats catch mice_ Well, it's what cats are for.

"Their mistresses at night will put them out
To hunt for field-mice_You begin to see
My drift, perhaps, since as you know, no doubt,
The field-mouse preys upon the bumble-bee.

These hirsute bees, and they alone contrive
To fertilize the dark-red clover blooms;
Although it is their smaller cousins who hive
The clover-honey that loads our Kentish combs.

So when we find_ what does the Bible say?_
A land flowing with milk and honey, we do
Not doubt, we naturalists, that there we may
Expect to find old maids a-plenty too.

The state of single blessedness, you see,
Is not without its talent: indeed, you might
Call spinsters partners of the honey bee
Bringer of life's best gifts, sweetness and light."

To read more go to Darwin Discussion pages here

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More Sketches

I am now thinking about the pose.The size of a bumble bee is due in part to the length of its hair, the hard body the exoskeleton is much smaller. A wet bumble bee looks skinnier .. think wet bedraggled poodle.  One endearing fact I have discovered is that bee hair is called “pile” as in a carpet, so is a bee carpeted with hair?

sketch 1

A quick colour sketch to get more of a  feel for this bee.

hortorus bee sm

Thursday, 22 October 2009

A Forlorn and Balding Bee

I have made some studies of the little bee that came back from the UK with me. I had found it in the potting shed.The first bumble bee I drew back in May came from the same place. The potting shed is an ancient wooden lean to, which leans against an even more ancient dry-stone wall. Perhaps these bumble bees both had nests nearby.  The first one I am sure was Bombus terrestris, the Buff Tailed Bumble Bee. This one is Bombus hortorus, the Garden Bumble Bee. It had lost a few bits and pieces on the way, one antenna and a foot and looks little forlorn and disheveled but now, at least, is “immortalised”.

Its front legs are very close to its head, so in this sketch you cannot see the mouth or the length of the face properly.


my little bee sm

For this sketch I had tried to alter the front leg but only the bottom part moved upwards.

forlorn beesm

By this next study the other front leg had collapsed. My bee is now taking a bow to you all. The head is way out of sight, tucked right underneath the body. I noticed that from this angle that you can see the shine of the bee’s hard thorax through the black hairs. I have just read this from the excellent site Bumblebee.org here.

“ I have noticed that hortorum tend to have more balding workers than other species. This may be because they specialize in the more complicated flowers, often disappearing entirely within the flower, and rubbing their back against the flower. Or it may be that they rub against things more when entering their nest. Or perhaps they are just prone to premature baldness! “

my bee front sm

I am trying not to get too involved….but, thank you little balding bee for aiding me in my quest to understand more. 

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Drawing Bumble Bees

No 1 bee of the 16 bees will be a Bumble Bee. However, deciding how to draw a Bumble Bee is not as simple as it might seem. If you draw them from the top to show the lovely markings you will not see their heads or tails because, they, more than any other bees, have a very curved shape. Seen from the side you will see just how long their bodies are, and see more of the head. They also have big long legs!

What to do? Well as I am planning to include 4 bumble bees in the set, I will paint a mixture of views, having looked at each and thought about their best feature. In some I will have to sacrifice the head for the pattern, its a hard choice.

But firstly some more studies, to try to understand more about bee anatomy.

drawings sm 2

drawings sm1 drawings sm3

Then some general sketches which are done from the little bee I brought back from the UK and some photographic references.

bee sketches sm

Tomorrow some more studies of my bee, which is Bombus hortorum the Garden Bumble Bee.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Drawing Bees

"I wish to speak of the bees very simply, as one speaks of a subject one knows and loves, to those who know it not. ."
from “The Life of the Bee” by Maurice Maeterlinck.

These small paintings that you will see over the next few weeks will be the result of hours and hours of looking, reading, research and much changing of mind. The quite modest finished thing is truly the tip of a huge iceberg. I don’t make life easy for myself either, as I seem to be incapable of just copying a photograph, even my own. I need to know about my subject.
Over and above the biological structures and, just as a portrait painter may wish to know the character of the the sitter, I want to know about the character of my bees. .. so I read and look. I read the scientific descriptions, the lists of body parts with names I will never remember, and I read the poetic and I read the myth, the human responses and the memories. So in the posts I will try to add some fact and fiction as I go. It will also help me to remember.

Some studies will be more successful than others. In all my time painting and drawing I know one sure fact; you definitely cannot please all the people. Now I just try to have an aim for myself, try to stick to it and then move on. I am not inclined to be too scientific, so the paintings will my interpretation of the bees, what I see, what I know and what I feel. I am sure there will be some inaccuracies, but that is OK with me.

Representing the Bee

I like to look at the possibilities of how bees might be represented.

I love the graphic quality of these bumble bee identification charts from the Natural History Museum site, see here.

bumble-bee-banner_14966_1

and another bumble bee set, computer generated from the Xerces Society here
terricola1

I look at beautiful antique steel engraved prints and old natural history prints;
From the British Library’s Victorian Book Illustration site here 'Common humble bee', from The Naturalist's Library, vol. 38 Entomology, edited by William Jardine

the common humble bee Jardine

From Glasgow Library here : Moses Harris: An exposition of English insects ...
minutely described, arranged, and named, according to the Linnaean system
London: 1782

glasgow library

I look at the fabulous work of one of my favourite illustrators, E J Detmold who illustrated “The Life of the Bee” by Maurice Maeterlinck. Here is his ferocious Queen Bee. He is able to convey character along with technical accuracy. His originals are stunning small watercolours.

queen det

Another insect drawing hero of mine is the incomparable Walter Linsenmaier. I have just found a copy of his “Insects of the World”, a 1972 book which, years ago, I used to commandeer from the local Library whenever I needed insect reference. If I had seen it when I was drawing the blue wasp I would have had no problem with identification. Here a little digger bee laden with pollen returns to the nest leaving its tell tale trail behind. Below it some pollen collecting mechanisms. Again, he is so much more than purely a scientifically accurate painter. His insects are alive with character and mystery, while explaining simply and stylishly just how insects work and live.

linsenmaier bee

I am looking at many other, contemporary, artists too, but am particularly impressed by Jesse Huebing-Reitinger’s massive paintings for the fascinating Project Insect here. They are quite extraordinary. She works from pinned specimens, with a microscope to create these huge images. This orchid bee is 7.5ft square. Fabulous. Makes me want to run out and buy a big canvas

Harley_the_Orchid_Bee

“Harley" the orchid bee

Here she is painting a huge dragonfly.

Jessa_Rusty

Read more about her and the art work for Project Insect here.

My small studies are only 3.5 x 3.5 inches square!

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Flying South, Bonfires and Puddings

The swallows and I are lining up to leave, jostling for a slot with the warblers and the wheatears, the nightingales and chiffchaffs. It’s a time of mixed feelings. I realise that this is the first UK autumn I have experienced for some years. Over the last two months I have seen the leaves turn and the fruit ripen, and, while I like “mists”, appreciate the “mellow” and “fruitful”, I do not really like autumn. Spring is more my season.
I will not miss dark evenings in stuffy houses. I dislike having to wear thick jumpers and the word “cosy” fills me with gloom. But I will miss the bare trees of winter, the colours of frost, chilly walks and the sheer, not ever to be surpassed, joy of bonfires.

Bonfires are, of course, frowned upon now. Laws, local ordinances, fussy neighbours, spoilsports, jobsworths and other killjoys will try to stop you, but the naughty guilty pleasure I had from two splendid bonfires was exquisite. I am not sure what dark primeval instinct is triggered but I do know that, to many people, the mere mention of a bonfire lights up more than their eyes.

In my fathers garden, the bent and shapeless wire fire basket that holds the woody garden waste is located perilously near, both the garage, and a magnificent huge and ancient box tree, whose lower branches have retreated upwards away from the singeing flames. (Dad does not appreciate the value of this tree). So a bonfire has to be watched and tended. There has to be raking and feeding, coaxing and subduing. It is an Art.
On 2 cool breezy mornings I stood amongst swirls of smoke staring at flames and sparks, feeling my cheeks redden, and my spirits lift, mesmerised by the awe inspiring and all consuming power of fire.
The ebb and flow of a fire is an exhilarating thing to watch. Those sullen, dull red, embers can suddenly be fanned into brilliant scarlet and orange by the merest puff of wind. Blackened twigs are rekindled and the monster, Fire, is unleashed and hunting, racing upwards and outwards with alarming speed, only retreating when its prey is consumed. Even the power of this little conflagration is humbling and frightening… but also rather exciting!

So for a while, all the frustrations and anxieties melted away and drifted along with the wonderful acrid smoke, over the neighbouring fields and the neighbours washing. The garage and the tree survived, the twiggy garden rubbish and weeds were gone. I was grubby and happy and smelled deliciously smoky all day.

An old illustration from my Scarecrow book.. Guy Fawkes, the best night of bonfires and the fate of some old scarecrows. Could that possibly be an embodiment of me on the left?

bonfire

Puddings

There is some fruit growing in garden, not so much now as long ago. We live in an old part of the village and inherited some ancient nameless apple trees which unfailingly bear small bitter inedible and scabby fruit by the bucket load. The newer, Queen of Cooking Apples, the magnificent Bramley Seedling did not do so well this year but still gave us huge blushing apples, albeit pockmarked and birdpecked.

But the plums; Oh my fur and whiskers, the Victoria plums!! What a crop of honeyed beauties. Espaliered on an east facing wall, the top branches, heavy with fruit, peeled away from their wires and the ground beneath was sticky with windfalls. Balanced precariously on a rickety ladder and negotiating very politely with the swarms of disgruntled wasps, I picked bowl after bowl.

The blackberries were also prolific so I brushed up my culinary skills on some of those gorgeous lip smacking, waist expanding, old English puddings. Apple crumble, Apple charlotte, Apple batter pudding, Snows, Fools, Dumplings, Pies, Tarts and Sponges, adding blackberries and plums for flavour and colour. All served with thick golden Bird’s custard. These wonderful old puddings are something the UK can be justly proud of. I could go on and on and ON about the joys of fruit puddings.

Apples really need another dedicated post, especially as it is the 200th birthday of the Bramley. Sadly you cannot get Bramleys in the USA, well certainly not in Florida, for which I am truly sorry! .. Sometimes, that one beautiful big Bramley apple, cored, stuffed with brown sugar and rum soaked raisins, slowly baked then drizzled with local honey and served with cream is as close to heaven as you can get.

So, for the deprived Bramley-less ones, here is a photo from the BBC which shows how big they can be.

bramley_apple_lead_203x152

and my only rough sketches .. all good painting intentions got lost this trip.

apples sm1 applessm2

So on a golden autumn day I am leaving the apples, the trees, the engaging rat of whom more later, the chilly sparkling mornings and the Aged P, but like the birds, I will be back in the spring.

Monday, 12 October 2009

16(ish) bees

At the very same time that  I was on the plane to the UK in August, a very nice email was also on its way to me, an enquiry for a commission to paint a series of 16  bee studies. How could I refuse such a lovely job? Thankfully my client is patient, so in between Dad Duties I have been able to a little research and the preparatory sketches. Later this week when I return to the USA I will be starting the artwork.

To a bee novice  like me,  16 different bees sounded quite a challenge but there are in fact many many different species of bee to choose from. They come in a variety of shapes, colours, sizes, and surface finishes, the only problem is deciding which ones.

From “Cornell’s Bee Phylogeny” site, here are  the main families. (for those like me who may not know,  Phylogeny : the evolutionary history of a kind of organism).

I did not  know there were short and long tongued varieties but that makes sense too when considering the various shapes of flowers.

Short-Tongued Bees

  • Colletidae
  • Andrenidae
  • Stenotritidae
  • Halictidae
  • Melittidae

Long-Tongued Bees

  • Megachilidae
  • Apidae

 Apidae The bees I am most familiar with, bumbles and honey bees, fall into the Apidae family.

From this family I will be painting a few bumble bees. In particular the gorgeous furry Great Eastern Bumble Bee, Bombus impatiens, the much loved everyday Bombus hortorum the Buff tailed Bumble bee, and then a choice of Red Tailed, Rusty Patched, and maybe the Tricolour.
There has to be a Honey Bee of course, Apis mellifera. and also the huge carpenter bees; the furry, tan coloured, green eyed Valley Carpenter bee Xylocopa varipuncta, and the deep purple and irridescent Violet Carpenter bee Xylocopa violacea, the biggest bee we have in Europe.

Euglossa bees, the shimmering and metallic little orchid bees are here too and the comical Long Horned Bee Eucera.

My choice is not particularly scientific..and I am easily swayed by a name, so how could I not include the delightfully named Hairy Footed Flower Bee Anthophora Plumipes

Megachilidae

The very charming leaf cutter bees who may shred your rose leaves but endearingly wrap their little ones in leaf curls. Three from this group I think and one must be the funny little pointed Coelioxys bee, black and white striped with green eyes. Another the wonderful Wool Carder Bee Anthidium manicatum a big yellow and black bee who gathers the furry hairs from plants like the appropriately named Lamb's Ear Lychnis coronaria, to line the nest.

Halictidae

The group containing the glittering green and gold metallic sweat bees. I have to have one of those.. or even two.

Colletidae

From here comes the smart striped Ivy Mining Bees Colletes Hederae  black and white with very furry thorax.

Andrenidae

Lastly the little Tawny Mining bees Andrena fulva who leave volcano-like mounds in your lawn.

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There may well be others… this is just my first rough list with some accompanying very rough sketches, in no particular size or order. I will write more about them as I draw them.

Warning Prepare to be bored rigid by bees over the next couple of months. Bee phobes  (Apiphobics) should maybe come back in January.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Golden Bees and an Indian Summer at the British Museum

There hasn’t been much time for the luxury of drawing in the last few weeks. However I have done a little more bee research. Early in August on my first visit to the British Museum I found this fabulous huge golden wreath. bee necklace

From the British Museum website :

“Gold wreath

Hellenistic, about 350-300 BC
Two cicadas and a bee nestle among the oak-leaves

This naturalistic wreath of oak-leaves and acorns is supported on two golden branches that are now reinforced by a modern copper core. At the back the branches end in obliquely cut end-plates, at the front they are held together by a split pin fastener concealed by a golden bee. Each branch bears six sprays with eight leaves and seven or eight acorns, as well as a cicada.”bee wreath small

My photos are not too sharp due to the low light but this is the most beautiful thing. There is no explanation of the symbolism but the bee was already well established by this time in both economy and myth, a representative of royalty in Ancient Egypt and a symbol of immortality.

There are also some rather odd little gold bee goddess plaques from seventh century Rhodes probably associated with the worship of Artemis. .. This is a strange creature half bee half woman.. a real Queen bee. I was curious about it, so scribbled a sketch while I was there.queen bee 2

… but go here to Wiki the entry for a very good close up.

Garden and Cosmos

The main reason for being at the British Museum was to see the fabulous “ Garden and Cosmos: The Royal Paintings of Jodhpur” exhibition, a feast of exquisite paintings depicting lush gardens, delightful scenes from everyday life, love, the Ramayana and, most beautifully, the abstract concept of the “absolute”. See more here.
My good friend Gill and I spent 3 hours lost in wonder and admiration. It was spiritually uplifting, sometimes funny in its observations of life and so finely executed. A favourite scene of mine depicts a grove of holy men, one of whom is “comforting” two troubled souls.. a merchant and king, who even then I imagine had much to be troubled about, by revealing that the apparent solidity of the world is a mere illusion.

garden and cos

Below, in a detail of a larger painting, elephants frolic in the monsoon rain while death and drama are continuing stage left.

1591_garden_and_cosmos

I may well return to all this in another post, it was complex, beautiful and inspirational. I feel some welcome influences may creep into my future work.

Outside in collaboration with Kew Gardens had been planted a small companion Indian Garden. Here you could find banyan, peepul, lotus, mango , the delightful blue sausage tree and various small shubs and flowers which were being enjoyed by some obliging local bees.

A wriggling little English honey bee on Himalayan Cranesbill

bee on cranesbil

Bumble bee on Atriplex Perovskia

bumble and pereskia

A curious footnote.. this wonderful exhibition was part of the “ Indian Summer” season at the British Museum. I wonder how many of us presume that the phrase “An Indian Summer” meaning a late pleasant spell of weather, came from British Colonial Indian times.. apparently not so, it originated in America.