Leaf of the day: Intimate Encounters with Plants

Liz Leech’s course started last night and it is going to be fun…you could tell, even before we got the razor blades and the microscopes out, from her robust opening remark that “it’s all about sex of course “. Which is entirely true. The study we are embarking on, is about why plants, or in particular flowers look the way they do and how to understand what we are really looking at when we gaze in wonder at the beauty of a rose or the complexity of a simple daisy. It is, of course, all about seduction and manipulation ..the design, the colour and the scent of flowers all combining to lure the pollinator in, or enable reproduction in one way or another. It is completely fascinating and really is as essential to good flower painting as anatomy is to good figure painting. We started by taking apart the flowers and examining how they are put together and despite some old memories of plant diagrams in school biology I have a lot to learn.

This first drawing was stripping away the layers of the little geranium to discover its structure and also learn about the floral formulas, shorthand way of describing the structure of a flower. It is based on the understanding that there are 4 whorls or rings in the structures of flowers. The formula for this one is K5 ( calyx x 5) C 5 (corolla petals x 5) A5-15 ( Andoecium ..literally the male house, stamens 5 to 15) G(3) 5 ( Gynoecium female house,aw a 3 section style and ovaries x 5).

If only they were all that simple but very soon you are beginning to realise that leaves are not necessarily leaves, and flowers are not necessarily flowers as we know them and that bits can be legitimately missing or the plant is either male or female or both…its a labryinth of complexity!


Geranium, Box and Brassica

Leaf of the Day: Geranium

Today I went out early again and found a very funny little heron. It was stalking something very very slowly. Even the slowest photographer would have been able to get a good shot. I have never seen such incredible slow motion walking.
Unfortunately I didn’t have my sketchbook with me but took some photos. I will post these and others soon, linked to Flickr .
This geranium leaf is a small, very ordinary type, just two tones of green. Some geraniums were hit by the freeze but not too badly. I am not sure of this variety.

A word about the drawing
At the moment I am just using ordinary cartridge paper in a sketchbook for these first drawings, so, when doing fine shading, the texture of the paper tends to be picked up and the pencils can catch causing uneven shading. I will use Bristol board or a HP watercolour surface for the bigger and more complicated drawings. Many years ago I used to use Schoellershammer 4R which was a super hard surface paper for ink and pencil with just a nice bit of tooth. I am not sure if it is still available ..I think they have reissued the 4G .. ( very smooth) which I will try to find here. If anyone knows of a supplier I would be very grateful.


image 5″x6″