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

Sunday, 23 April 2017

April Sketchbook: Days 15 to 21

More sketches from my woodland route.

1516-ap

15th April: a young oak twig with oak flowers Quercus sp and the very strange and sinister shoots of the black bryony Discorea communis. In the spring their long swaying heads emerge from the ground like searching snakes. They wave about until they can find something to support them, sometimes each other, and then continue skywards unfolding handsome spear shaped leaves as they go. They drape themselves over trees and shrubs have small flowers but beautiful strands of red berries in the autumn.
!6th April: A fallen larch Latrix decidua twig with cone. The larch branches are too high for me to reach in the wood. They tower up into the sky on spindly trunks, their main leafy branches held right at the top in the light. The larch flowers are red…pretty…and develop into the rosette like cones.
And below the larch a single elder leaf. Sambucus niger

1718-apr

17th April: Field maple Acer campestre spring with small flowers and the start of those twin seed pods and charming little trotty wagtail Motacilla alba, ever present along the waters edge.
18th April: Lichen possibly Hypogymnia physodes blown off a tree in the wood in the recent strong winds. It’s curiously spiky and a lovely faded grey green. Some old sycamore Acer pseudoplatanus keys from a last season, fallen, spray.

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19th April:  Elephant Grass. Miscanthus sp The elephant grass which grows in a large field by the reservoir has just been harvested. The harvester scatters bit of straw and grass heads along the road. It’s curious stuff with these very attractive fluffy seedhead.
20th April: Spring blues and pinks: bluebell, ground ivy, dog violet, red dead nettle, campion.

21st

21st April: Deconstructed dead mole Talpa europa. Back in 2015 I had found a very smelly dead mole on the track in the wood and made some sketches.

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I then buried it in the garden in a pierced plastic tub in the hopes that worms and bugs would clean it up for me and leave a pristine skeleton. However when I unearthed it after two years it was just a slimy mass of black fur and many tiny bones all mixed together. Ah well. Maybe the compost heap next time.

But it was worth digging a few out and I found a couple of jaw bones and some ribs and leg bones but the strangest I discovered are the 2 huge, (relatively  speaking) criss-cross shaped humerous bones from the front legs. See mid left on the sketch. Big strong digging bones. Very interesting!

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And I am past the middle staples in the sketchbook now!

Saturday, 15 April 2017

April Sketchbook: Days 8 to 14

Continuing April sketches to record what is happening up in the wood.  Lots going on out there now. I have started noting the Latin names now, which are often illuminating and explain much.

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8th April: A neat little fly that I see everywhere. It is elegant and attractive with spotty transparent wings. Hence its Latin name Syvicola fenestris otherwise known as the window gnat. Like most flies it has some grubby habits but is very pretty non the less.

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9th April: Shepherds purse, Capsella bursa pastoris, from scrubland.( more heart shaped seeds ). The pretty silver backed silverweed leaf, Argentina anserina, and a sprig of already flowering cow parsley, Anthriscus sylvestris.

10th April: Pussy willow aka goat willow, Salix caprea, catkins and stems.

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11th April: A page of yellows. Pretty greeny yellow of the celandine, Ficaria verna, which opens and closes with the sun. Delicate pale yellow of primrose, Primula vulgaris, with a darker flash near the base of the petal, buttery yellow of dandelion, Taraxacum officinale, and the daisy, Bellis perennis, centre. The gorgeous marsh marigold, Caltha palustris, and my phone, Objectus irritatus, which was on my desk at the time.

12th April: Sadly not all bees make it.  I found a little early bumblebee, Bombus pratorum queen on the track. Shame. They are so very attractive, with silky long hair and that slightly blunt ended ginger rump. Another small grey and white female mallard feather, Anas platyrhynchos, from the execution scene. And a tiny creeping weed, the ivy leaved speedwell, Veronica hederefolia, whose flowers and leaves are neatly arranged opposite each other all the way up the stem.

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13th April: At the top a sturdy ash twig, Fraxinus, with its black leaf buds and contrasting little fluffy spray of flowers which have red tips. You can see old “keys” still hanging onto some of the trees. A little group on the right. I have never noticed these flowers before. Here they are sprouting either side of the leaf bud, looking like mad sort of ears.

14th April: Below two more willow catkins from the grey willow, Salix cinerarea, on the left and the elegant arching crack willow, Salix fragilis, on the right.

All sketches in A4 32 page sketchbook. I shall be in the middle soon.. hurahhh!

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Cuckoo Pint Suite

The Cuckoo Pint Arum maculatum was really the first spring leaf to emerge in the shade of the wood. It’s a fascinating plant with many many names, most of them rude and suggestive. This drawing was done back in March and today I noticed that the first flower has appeared. Something had also been nibbling the roots of the plant which is also interesting because that too is quite toxic.

The spotty leaves are particularly attractive and I wanted to celebrate this spring herald in some way. I had sketched it back in March and then recently made a series of small woodcuts. (approx 4.5 x6 inches)

arum

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The prints are of leaf, flower, seed and of course its namesake, a generously sized cuckoo. I played about with the interconnectedness of them. The flower is attractive to small moths, especially the small owl moth, the berries are poisonous but some birds can eat them, cuckoos are one of the few birds which can eat poisonous caterpillars, caterpillars become moths etc etc .

To echo that each image is under printed with the one before. I plan to incorporate some text and make a small book. Am looking forward to using some of those robust old country words…

 cuckoo1cuckoo-2cuckoo-3cuckoo-4

Friday, 7 April 2017

April Sketchbook: Days 1-7

Up in the dark wood, the plants are starting to grow. Blossom is out on the blackthorn, primroses and bluebells are starting to flower. I wanted to make some sort of record of the developments for my work about the Spinney and I had also suggested to my painting group that a daily drawing sketchbook would be a good way of getting back into observed drawing before our first meeting at the end of the month. 
So it seemed only fair that I should do the same and I really need to get back to this essential bit of looking and seeing.

So here are the first 7 days of sketches. I try to limit the time and not be precious. It’s just a bit of daily practice but also a really good ideas generating process. A4 super cheap sketchbook with just 32 pages perfect for a month.

I collect a bunch of single leaves and other bits and pieces from my route. Some leaves are small, just emerging, some already well on their way. I keep them in a plastic bag in the fridge. Easily mistaken for salad apparently.

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Some of this weeks ‘salad’… Mmmm…delicious!

1-2-april 

1st April : Arum, 2 thistles..(ouch), burdock, fascinating agrimony with its additional leaflets, celandine, dock.
2nd April: Dog’s mercury, speedwell, ground ivy, primrose, wild garlic, goose grass, cranesbill, violet, dock with spots, field maple, dandelion, elm seed, ivy, cow parsley.

5-6-april

3rd April: Pine twig, dock again showing how the leaves turn back on themselves, spurge laurel flower and leaf. This shiny leaved plant manages to survive under the canopy of the wood and has curious nondescript little flowers and the beginning of the berries at this time of year. Dogs mercury again showing more of the plant and the spray of tiny flowers. A cowslip. This one from my garden but they grow happily on the banks of the reservoir so included in the “route”

4th April: Goat willow stem and its lovely catkin which has a fascinating structure when you look closely. A twig of blackthorn which is beautiful, a long black stem ending in a few white flowers. En mass this is such a poignant evocation of spring in the British countryside.

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5th April: Common hogweed leaf. a young one and the very odd flower of coltsfoot with its long snaky stem with scale leaves. The flower has faded but again a fascinating structure.

6th April : Feathers picked up over the last couple of days. A big pheasant feather and I think an accompanying small one. A very beautiful spotted woodpecker feather and a mallard feather rescued from the little that was left of the bird on the waterline…only its head was intact. I know I should have brought it back to draw,  but….
 
7th

7th April : A page of deconstructed  little wych elm seeds. A small bunch had blown off the tree by the shoreline. I removed them from their twig to draw. There are  17 of them. They are neat,  heart shaped seeds with a red seed capsule. I missed the flowers which are tiny red-ish bobbles. It seems so early for a tree to already be setting seed. When ripe they will rain down like heart confetti all over the village and into our garden.