Monday, 24 February 2014

Back to my roots (i) .....

Roots seem to be featuring in my artwork and life quite a lot at the moment !  When starting to write this post I was reminded of a pen and ink drawing I did many years ago, and the gnarly old roots at the base of the tree.

The roots I have been focusing on are way more delicate and I suppose can be considered 'virgin' roots, the ones that first appear when new growth springs forth from seeds and fruit.

These Sycamore seeds or samaras, can be annoying little blighters, planting themselves all over the garden and in the pots of bulbs.  Never the less, they proved to be a welcome distraction last week and perfect studies to go in the sketchbook.
This picture shows the tiny filamentous white roots that have the function of food and nutrient uptake.

Sketchbook studies of the Sycamore samaras
The acorn mentioned in a previous post had been growing well in the jar, but finally gave up a short while after this study was completed.  It was interesting to observe the root formation, and even though they were so tiny, the roots had quite a colour variation.
Transparent yellow in a weak wash worked well for the first wash and then two of my new favourite colours were used for the finer detail - Monte Amiata Natural Sienna and Piemontite Genuine, both by Daniel Smith.  The piemontite genuine is a fascinating colour.  When mixed on the palette it looks rather brown, but as you use it the colour transforms into a dusky pink shade with some warmth to it and another quality to it is its granulation.
The acorn studies will be making an appearance in a painting that will certainly take shape this week and be a welcome addition to two other paintings in my Quercus series.
My students have also been exploring roots - root vegetables.  I think at the beginning it seemed to be an uninspiring subject, but they certainly tackled the challenge.
Student's work from the Improvers/Intermediates Course at Peter Symonds College AHED
The next 'Back to my roots' post will follow later on in the week and will explore other aspects of drawing and painting roots in your botanical drawings and/or paintings.
Happy painting !


Tuesday, 4 February 2014

A Special Acorn

 Acorn sketches and colours
One of my series of Quercus paintings includes a study of a sprouting acorn with a sapling that has its first set of leaves.  The fieldwork for this painting was started a few years ago now, and I still have the detailed sketch with some photos as back up reference material.
As I was drifting off to sleep one night last week, my mind was wandering thinking about the composition of this painting.  I thought how nice it would be to include some other illustrations of sprouting acorns at various stages.  So the plan was to head over to the other side of our housing estate and go looking for sprouting acorns beneath the large Oak trees.
I am sure the neighbours think I am mad anyway, always seeing me come back with specimens in hand !
I awoke the next morning and started the daily chores, going through our back garden to the dustbins at the back of our house.  As I went through the garden gate I looked down and there on the step was an acorn with a small piece of young root, or radicle as it is known, poking out of the hard shell.  It would not warrant a second glance to most people, but you guessed it - I was thrilled !  It must have been dropped by the local Jays, who roost in trees nearby.
After a bit of a clean up and being stored in a bag in the fridge, I set to and did a few sketches of it.  I placed it back in the bag with a piece of damp tissue in it and let it be, leaving it on my studio windowsill.
As you can see from my sketch I noticed a tiny split where the root leaves the acorn and wondered if this was where the new shoot (plumule) would emerge from.
When I looked at it today, there it was with a tiny shoot emerging.

The plumule will grow straight up towards light.
There also seems to be a root nodule forming on the young tap root.
Then I had to get my thinking cap on and work out how to keep it growing.  I looked back through an activity book from my nursery nursing days and there was an example of how you can grow a bean in a jar.  So I am giving it a go, in the hope that I will be able to add a few more sprouting acorns to my painting.

The jar is filled with damp kitchen roll
Lined up with the other new plants emerging
Looking forward to this one emerging.  It is an Amaryllis called 'Apple blossom'
and more bulbs...........
lots of painting subjects on the way, the sketchbook will be busy !