Leaf of the Day: Some practice..Blackberry and Pomegranate

My replacement computer gave me endless excuses today for not painting, there were many things to readjust and re install, so I am not getting on very well with my fruit submission but I did get a bit of practice in. I also found it oddly hard to settle with this new computer next to me. It’s like a new friend who you feel you should to entertain .. not quite like an old friend who has achieved part-of-the-furniture status.

However I painted an enormous blackberry and little bit of the pomegranate, both from the supermarket. I had thought that blackberries might still be in season locally but a lady who sells honey at the market tells me that blackberries will be fruiting here in the spring. It seems strange to me as they are so much a part of autumn in the UK and associated with turning leaves and mists and mellow fruitfulness etc. They are part of Sunday afternoon outings with jars tied round with string and a first warm autumn jumper and probably wellington boots, coming home with stained fingers, scratched arms and the promise of delicious blackberry and apple pies, jams and bramble jellies. Sylvia Plath’s beautiful evocative poem must strike a chord with anyone who has ever been blackberrying.


Nobody in the lane, and nothing, nothing but blackberries,
Blackberries on either side, though on the right mainly,
A blackberry alley, going down in hooks, and a sea
Somewhere at the end of it, heaving. Blackberries
Big as the ball of my thumb, and dumb as eyes
Ebon in the hedges, fat
With blue-red juices. These they squander on my fingers.
I had not asked for such a blood sisterhood; they must love me.
They accommodate themselves to my milkbottle, flattening their sides.

Overhead go the choughs in black, cacophonous flocks —
Bits of burnt paper wheeling in a blown sky.
Theirs is the only voice, protesting, protesting.
I do not think the sea will appear at all.
The high, green meadows are glowing, as if lit from within.
I come to one bush of berries so ripe it is a bush of flies,
Hanging their bluegreen bellies and their wing panes in a Chinese screen.
The honey-feast of the berries has stunned them; they believe in heaven.
One more hook, and the berries and bushes end.

The only thing to come now is the sea.
From between two hills a sudden wind funnels at me,
Slapping its phantom laundry in my face.
These hills are too green and sweet to have tasted salt.
I follow the sheep path between them. A last hook brings me
To the hills’ northern face, and the face is orange rock
That looks out on nothing, nothing but a great space
Of white and pewter lights, and a din like silversmiths
Beating and beating at an intractable metal.

Sylvia Plath

The poem was written in 1961 while she was living in Devon in the UK. It is a quintessentially British image, blackberries, the wheeling wind blown birds, drowsy fat late summer bluebottles and a sheep track winding to a crashing pewter sea.
I particularly like the flies believing in heaven but it is hard to read her poems without a sense of melancholy.

I was looking at the shine/sheen on the fruit. The problem with watercolour is to maintain the white areas you either have to carefully work around them or mask them out which can leave an unsympathetic hard edge.
I still can’t decide what to paint for the finished piece.


Blackberry and Pomegranate

Leaf of the Day. Pomegranate

My decision to go out today was thwarted by rain, so I spent most of the morning wondering what to do. When the sun came out I got as far as the supermarket and bought two big pomegranates. Then spent the rest of the day not wanting to paint them. They are just too complicated, too complicated and too beautiful. I broke one open and then just looked at them for some time. Eventually I did get round to a few sketches which, as all artists will tell you, is better than nothing.
I would love to be able to paint a beautifully detailed pomegranate with all the richness of colour and the intricacies of the seeds but it is a long job and I will maybe have another attempt later this week. I am also daunted by the many artists who have painted pomegranates before, and so very well.
My eye, hand, brain coordination is still not quite up to scratch. Also when I look at certain subjects, I think this or that would be better in either oils, acrylics, pen and ink. etc. I would probably choose oils to do the pomegranate justice.

Some time ago I heard a wonderful story about James Brett, a very interesting man who, in short, after an extremely difficult start in life discovered a taste for pomegranates in Pakistan and developed the UK market for pomegranate juice. “Pomegreat” . Over the last couple of years he has been trying to persuade the Afghan farmers to grow pomegranates instead of poppies.
Here is an extract from the article in the Guardian from written by Mark Collins from August 3rd this year. Read the whole article here

‘Pomegranates are the answer to all this,’ said James Brett, as we drove past the colourless, mud-brick villages and makeshift graveyards that litter the parched landscape of Nangarhar province. We were on our way to Markoh, a small village 40 minutes’ drive inside the Afghan border with Pakistan. Brett first visited Markoh in April 2007. On his way to a seminar in Kabul, he had asked the driver to stop the car so that he could speak to a reed-thin figure extracting opium from the poppies.
‘My translator told me not to do it. He said “you’ll get shot”, but I just felt like the first step had to be made that day.’ That ‘first step’ was walking into the field to try to persuade the farmer to stop growing poppies and start growing pomegranates instead.
After the initial shock of seeing the large red-headed man striding through the field, the farmer agreed to stop cultivating poppies if Brett guaranteed to subsidise both him and his family until the pomegranate trees were grown and ready to harvest – a period of three to five years. Having launched his pomegranate juice on to the UK market four years previously, Brett was keen to find good fruit and plough the profits into increasing production. His argument to the farmer that the crop would return two-and-a-half times what he got for the poppy harvest proved a compelling one.

The article goes on to describe Brett’s meeting with the tribal chiefs..

“400 tribal chiefs and elders were sat cross-legged in an orchard under two brightly coloured marquees. No one from the outside world – English or otherwise – had spoken to a gathering of these people before. All eyes were on Brett as he walked to the podium to speak, wearing a traditional Pathan hat and a long white jacket embroidered with red pomegranates.
He promised that he would help to raise money for the project and find markets for the fruit if they pledged to stop growing poppies. After several hours of deliberation, the elders made a historic decision, agreeing to cease poppy cultivation in the province from 2009. Nangarhar would be poppy-free for the first time in 100 years.
Later that day Brett led a crowd back to the same field he had walked into a year earlier. The poppies had gone. The farmer was now standing under a sign that read ‘POM354 – this site has been acquired as an initiative of alternative livelihood’. Brett shook hands with the farmer and planted the first pomegranate tree in the dry earth.

Here is a photo of Brett in his wonderful coat, from this historic meeting from his site POM 345.. here . Do go and read a little about this initiative to replace heroine with pomegranates. It is an inspiring story.

I had heard the interview with James Brett on Saturday Live BBC radio 4, 11th October which can still be heard here .
A footnote.. His company have also started marketing Anari pomegranate wine which allegedly leaves no hangover!! .. read more here

And thankyou all for your get well wishes. This is obviously a global cold, but it is enjoying its stay in Florida a little too much. There is an old saying that fish and guests go stale after three days… colds should be added to that.

Colour note sketches and crown detail..


Leaf of the Day: Pomegranate 2

Today having survived flood, plague and pestilence I have returned to the baby pomegranate. It is only 2 inches long
The Egyptians as in many things were quick to see the beauty and design possibilities of its attractive shape.

This beautiful necklace from 520 BC depicts the goddess Sekhemt the lioness headed deity, the beads are cowrie shaped with a tiny pomegranate bead at the top.

In this famous tomb painting at Ipuy, a gardener is raising water with a shaduf, and behind him is painted a lovely little pomegranate tree in flower.

There are many many other examples of the pomegranates use in design. I am sure I will be painting these beautiful and mysterious fruit again and will be posting some more images.

I am trying to be more thorough with the drawings now and made a colour note study yesterday before making a more finished painting today, but , by the time I came to draw it again, it had lost a leaf, the colour had started to fade.. you have to be quick.

Pomegranate 2

Leaf of the Day: Pomegranate 1

Firstly apologies for the bits of yesterday’s post which challenged even those of you with the keenest eyesight. It has now been rectified.

I decided to put off the leaves for another day and draw this lovely little pomegranate. It is from my Leu Gardens expedition yesterday, from a tiny little bush.. nothing like the huge extravagant pomegranates that I first saw growing in the valley of Lanjeron in the Alpujarra mountains in Spain, where the pomegranate is also the symbol of the ancient town of Granada. (“granada” is Spanish for pomegranate.)

The pomegranate is a such a beautiful fruit and to write a good post on pomegranates I would need a week. There is so much about it in history, myth and medicine but after “Flaming June” here is another lovely Victorian painting this time brooding “Proserpine” painted by Dante Gabriel Rossetti in 1873

Proserpine is holding the pomegranate, the fruit of the dead, according to the Roman legend. The legend tells how Ceres pining for her abducted daughter Proserpine, set about making a desert of the earth forbidding any life, until her return. Pluto (who had kidnapped Proserpine in a splendidly macho fashion, bursting out of Mount Etna in a chariot pulled by 4 black horses) agreed she could return but, as she had eaten 6 pomegranate seeds she must return to Hades for six months of the year. hence we have winter when Ceres again mourns for her lost daughter and summer when she rejoices at her return.

At the moment the great pagan god Thor is very busy over Orlando and apparently will be for the next 5 months, and we have just been caught in the middle of the angriest storm I have ever experienced..the rain is coming in the windows on 3 different sides of the apartment at the same time while a malevolent low sun is burning on the horizon.. its all very apocalyptic..

I will be continuing with this delightful little fruit tomorrow..if the gods so decree …

Pomegranate 1