Wednesday, 26 March 2014

A fabulous specimen

Thanks to the amazing Lulú Rico Arce for inventing this fabulous way of preserving a whole mass of inflorescence!

With us in spirit

Hee hee.  I've come all the way to Kew to paint a pickled pea-pod. These are from the Spirit Collections, which are indeed perhaps the most magical of all.  The specimens are stored in Copenhagen Solution, a cocktail of 70% industrial methylated spirit, 28% distilled water and 2% glycerol.

Some flowers too...

I'm very excited because they keep copies of illustrations here right with the specimens. Rightly so. I'm fascinated by the way herbarium specimens function as forms of data, whilst also being preserved bodies of living things, if not loved then certainly treated with gentleness, care and respect. (Apart  from having been murderously lopped and appropriated in the first place, of course.) Similarly for the illustrations, which sit in all kinds of interesting spaces between art & science, information and entertainment, explanation and description,  professionalism & hobby or menial work, depending on when they were made.  Everything here is getting reorganised around APGIII classification, and pictures get a nice magenta-coloured box.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

It's all Foucault - and no knickers.

Here's me, performing my femininity again, doing The Bloody Avant-Garde at Anatomy last week.

Splendid photos here by Richard Dyson.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

It's all stamens and no style.

Here's a picture of home studio corner today.  Note the fabulous jug of Goo, which had contained my bog myrtle specimens in some sphagnum and peaty muddy water so it would feel at home -  had to take the specimens out to dry out but I can't bear to throw out the substrate in case there are marvellous life forms lurking in there.

Anyway today we're looking at the flowers of the marvellous Vachellia cornigera or Acacia cornigera or bullhorn acacia . There's my specimen in a jar behind the paintbox.

So the nice yellow rockets are the inflorescences, and each of these individual tufts is a flower. Hundreds of them.

Very very small, and slightly sticky, though inclined to jump into outer space if you come at 'em with a scalpel. Can't say I blame them.

Thing is, there are hundreds of the male parts, but I'm buggered if I can find the female parts. Look! And that's the tip of my scalpel blade there, so you get a sense of how big they are.

That little brown effort there at the top is some sort of dysfunctional ovary, I think....

and finally, a wee pod.  I went through a large part of that inflorescence and only found five or six amongst a hundred or thereabouts, whatever is going on there probably accounts for the very small fruit to flower ratio - you can see the fruits on this herbarium specimen from Kew.

Some jolly sketchbook guff for your viewing pleasure. I got very interested in thosesmall brown cups in between the flowers, I think they are probably trichomes of some sort. They start out as fishy scales covering the flower buds;

and persist on their stalks as trumpet-shaped structures after the flowers fall off.

The first attempt at a posh version of the dissection. I used a dip-pen with paint in it for the fine lines, which just weren't fine enough.

Traditional tiny paintbrush fared much better in the second attempt. Also ultramarine violet for darkening the yellow, very nice, made for lovely soft granular greys.

Soundtrack for today is TWiM #73: Eyeing Root Nodule Development , delightful to listen to although a bit disrupted by the Leith Emergency Services Symposium: "Coping with the Consequences of Poverty, Discrimination, Disenfranchisement and Alienation" which takes place outside my window every now & then. Happily I think everyone walked away from this one.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

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What a lovely orchid indeed.

Here's the Phalaenopsis I spent most of the daylight hours of last year's winter trying to work out how to paint as part of the Dip. BI. course. With some close-ups.  This is an attempt to put into practice a dry brush technique learned from the master Lizzie Sanders.

Also below a pile of the attendant guff that I excreted in the making of the picture, which is a sort of uneasy compromise between my ordinary working notes and show-your-working-out-on-a-piece-of-rough-paper. Whether or why anybody in the universe would be interested I have no idea but as usual I'm chucking it out there just in case. If you survive that there's some very good work at the bottom from my nephew Ewen Green, who is one of my chief collaborators.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Some lovely flowers: a 'complex composition'.

This is Ranunculus ficaria "Brazen Hussy", Narcissus tazetta "Minnow", and Primula polyantha "Dawn Ansell" all getting up in each others' shit.

It was my submission for the 'complex composition' module of the Dip. B.I. course last year. It was around this time I was finally able to articulate the devastating truth that there is absolutely no way I will ever ever be able to make anything remotely as nice as anything that actually grows, but that that was ok because I might eventually make a nice job of having a lovely dialogue with things, which might be more to the point anyway.

It was a kind of dry run of how to think about putting live material together in a convincing way - along the lines of Durer's "Great piece of turf",  using pretty flowers instead of an ecologically coherent bunch of specimens.  I was never a massive fan of the horticulturally beautified plant in general before this (compared to my beloved weeds) but spending that month or two looking at these delightful plants was an opportunity to think in a more nuanced way about our instrumental relations with other organisms. In fact the plants themselves are just as full of their own life-force as any other plant or for that matter you or I.   fact they are genuinely superior beings, though perhaps superior only to me, I can't speak for you, or the other plants. In fact the celandine and the primrose are even cheerfully surviving the dingy Leith winter in my tenement shared garden, whose soil is composed of heavy clay and the rubble from the outside lavvies that were only replaced by indoor ones in the 70's. Most of the rest of us are looking a bit battered and peely-wally at this point in February round here.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Hip hip hippophae

I'm looking at the lovely Hippophae rhamnoides or sea buckthorn, marvellous plant

 Here's the studio and the hopeful beginnings of the big painting I'm making.

"Why did you feel you needed to make a painting that you had to climb into it to paint it?",  I hear you ask.

Well, for these reasons:
 • So that I had to climb into it to paint it.
• So that I could represent its jolly spreading shrubby habit.
• So that I didn't have to make a lonely-looking isolationist-individualist representation of another   
• So I could chew on the fabulous mind-boggling fact of the many meristems (growing tips) at my       leisure
• So I would have to spend lots and lots of time painting and thinking about this plant.

Those aren't all reasons, are they, they are a pile of motivations between reason and just stuff I wanted to do.

 Here's some sketchbook guff.

The 'crystals on fruit' turn out to be peltate trichomes - hairs shaped roughtly like umbrellas. Would it be Wrong to use sparkly paint in the name of Science, I asks myself....

Ahh, more nodulations with Frankia bacteria on the roots.

An extra-large detail here in case you're as fond of the immersive stuff as I am. Click on it for a big view.  If you want.

The arrows here are pointing to mistakes, things that will have to be sorted out and put to rights.

This is quite good for me at this stage, there's nothing really horrendous going on here. For now anyway.

The arrows here are pointing to mistakes, things that will have to be sorted out and put to rights. Plenty time to totally ruin it later!