Thursday, 18 April 2013

Back to the Drawing board

Time to do a little more work on my leaves in the morning. I am sticking to dots for the camellia and hatching for the ivy. I am using a Gilot 404 now and sumi stick ink.

Now back to the challenge of measuring in three dimensions - I don't find it easy with the dividers - I would much rather stick to my old skills of comparing shapes and looking at negative space. I do spend a lot of time scanning the object and my drawing - but a bit like finding the sculpture inside a piece of stone I prefer to end up with a clean line from a very light sketch and then rubbing out the mistakes. This is not the way we are being taught which instead concentrates on measuring every single detail and vein with dividers and plotting it on the page. When working from a habit, or whole plant, this has to be done on an imaginary piece of glass in front of the plant so that everything is exactly life size.

I do however find it useful to use the dividers to scale up from a section under the microscope - I'm only working at 10.5x magnification at the moment and the drawing is x3.

Visit to the Herbarium at Kew Gardens

Day Three and we are taken on a tour of the herbarium at Kew.

This is where specimens are put that have been borrowed or presented to Kew. I was surprised to see that they are attached to newsprint and kept between pieces of cardboard, tied up with string. It all seemed surprisingly low tech if not a bit cheap and didn't seem to relate to the importance and science that was going on but it has worked for a couple of hundred years so why change it?

This was in the 'spirit room' where some samples are pickled in a mixture of water, alcohol and formulin.

Was this Wing A or B, C, D or E? Anyway it was one of the oldest parts of the building which has been extended every 30 years or so to house the collection as it has grown.

A newer Wing.

Some of the different ways a plant is recorded: the actual plant, dried, pressed photographed and drawn to very precise rules.

Records from the East India company in their mahogany cases. These samples can only be used at Kew and are not available to borrow.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Building skills - botanical illustration

I am taking time off from calligraphy for two weeks - driving up and down to London's Kew Gardens which should be the best place in the world to study botanical illustration. 
After a two and a half hour drive (I think it was the first Monday after the school holidays for the rest of the country) up the M4, I was last to arrive and got the desk at the very back of the room but I just scraped in by the start at 10.30am. 

I was reassured to see I fit the demographic - not a single man and most of the women looked about my age - though I was pleased to see there were several younger!

The first task - choose a leaf and then draw it - but while holding dividers worth £100 in one hand and measure every single thing - my drawing is much too approximate! It helps if the leaf is as flat as possible too.

I had another go with an ivy leaf - decided it would save a lot of time to use a grid - this is with 2H pencil on Bristol board which I don't think I have used before, very hard and shiny and not my usual style but this is to be inked in and is for serious scientific use and has to be accurate above all else.

Time to start with pen and ink - should be ok at this - decided to use my new Walker copperplate/spencerian nib and had to use the Sumi ink I had as I left my inkstone at home but it was a good choice. This is a bit of practice on the inaccurate drawing from yesterday.

I soon got carried away and started experimenting with a Brause pointed nib, and walnut ink - quickly rejected the old Rotring rapidograph (.25 nib much too big) and started playing with continuous tone in 2H pencil at the top. You can see a little bit of me trying to explain about pointed pens and copperplate to non calligraphers.

Now time to get serious with the more accurate drawings - inked in and working in tone on the Camelia leaf....