Leaf of the Day: Horned Melon and Hats

The last day of April already. This means I have now reached the end of section two of the course and the fourth month of this blog. May’s posting will be erratic as I am in the UK for 3 weeks…it seems a long time stretching ahead away from my base and with no regular Internet access, but I will be making some interesting visits. Kew Gardens for one, to see the Gardens in May and particularly the new Shirley Sherwood collection of Botanical Art which, I feel, will inspire, awe and dismay in equal amounts. These artists are the “creme de la creme” of botanical art.
Shirley Sherwood’s book, Contemporary Botanical Artists” and meeting with a couple of the artists in my past life were contributing factors to me finding myself embarking on this course of study. See a good review here at Katherine Tyrrell’s excellent artblog “Making a Mark”
Another visit will be to the Queens Gallery at Buckingham Palace to see “The Amazing Things” exhibition which I briefly touched on here in “Upside Down Sloth “ post.

However now, the fridge needs clearing out of plants and other inedible bits of botanical stuff. It is just possible that Chris, undergoing a severe personality change in my absence, may reach for some healthy greens and find himself with an unusual and potentially lethal salad. He does need to be wary of my cooking these days.

I had nearly forgotten this almost inedible “fruit” languishing in the bottom salad tray. How could I forget it! I had fondly thought of making a coloured pencil study of it for the course but it would have taken far too long and after my experiences with coloured pencils I would not have been calm enough to do it justice. “Inedible” because, when I started researching this melon, the consensus of opinion seems to be that it is quite awful from a culinary point of view.
It is true it doesn’t taste of much and is more like a cucumber than an melon, however to an artist it is a joy … its colours, patterns and shapes are wonderful, inside and out. When cut in sections the translucency of the big seeds encased in the pale green jelly is beautiful. I could spend a week just exploring this. However for now this little watercolour sketch and pencil study will have to do for now.
So the Horned Melon cucumis metulifer from the order “curcubitales” is an native African fruit which has since been developed in New Zealand and marketed as Kiwano. An enterprising New Zealand couple had spotted this rather obscure but brilliantly coloured melon and seeing its novelty and decorative value learnt how to cultivate it. It was very successful in America but somewhat like pumpkins I would imagine more people buy it for decoration than to eat.
A Kiwano fruit “how to eat it” here from Wiki how

Coincidentally, the day I bought this little fruit was the day I went to the Orlando Art Museum (and was first introduced to the very edible Surinam Cherry). Amongst other things, I made some sketches of these very interesting Royal Bamileke Hats from the Cameroon..similar in many ways to the African Horned Melon.

They are very beautiful, in colour and design. I have not yet discovered the significance of the bumps but another visit next month will be to the British Museum so I may be able to find out some more information there.

Here is a photo from the Africa Direct website that has more hats, and beautiful beaded items too, another passion of mine.


Half a Horned Melon

Leaf of the Day: Coral Honeysuckle.. Last Rites

Well the plant survived quite well in the salad drawer of the fridge, the open flower held out until 10.am, then slowly detached itself from the base, slid down the stamens and flopped onto the table. The leaves curled more as the day went on and as it got hotter so the crayons got softer and stickier, the lines got thicker and my temper got shorter, but I did manage to get it all done. Here is it immortalised, glued onto the paper with coloured wax. I am just hoping it won’t now stick to the scanner and have to be scraped off with a palette knife.
It has been an interesting experiment. Any observed drawing has to be a good exercise whatever the outcome but I feel now that I might do a coloured pencil drawing more in my own style just for fun.
There are many very good coloured pencil artists and societies dedicated to the medium. My personal preference is for artists who explore the inherent quality of the “pencilness” of them, of line and shading combined. I like to be able to see the mark, the handwriting if you, like of an artist, which is where I might very well be at odds with the stringency of the botanical art course. The obliteration of the mark of the artist seems quite the thing to strive for at the moment in botanical work which I feel is a shame. It is something I will want to discuss with the tutors on the course.
I personally feel that to see the brush work or pencil work adds so much to the “life” of a painting or drawing, accuracy and detail need not suffer.
It also takes much more skill to develop a style in mark making and paint handling than to slavishly copy a photograph. Sadly, copying skills are so often admired and perceived as the height of artistic achievement by the public. I am always sorry when a beautiful pencil or charcoal drawing is left unnoticed in a gallery when, yet another, tedious, photoreal still life is oohed and ahhed over. I am also very fond of monochrome work, pen and ink was where I started. Like black and white photographs there is a focus on the beauty of line, tone and shape without the distraction of colour ..some black and white artists to follow in next posts I think.

Meanwhile here is a lovely coloured pencil artist, whose work is more after my own heart, Katherine Tyrrell. I should have found her blog sooner as she has some very good advice for Coloured pencil users. Do visit her super art blog with lots of information about coloured pencil and art of all sorts http://makingamark.blogspot.com/
I love the textured shading and the beautiful colours, see more of her prints etc here


Coral Honeysuckle