Third part of Andromeda polifolia – Bog Rosemary picture

Echinopsis mammillosa ??

No, this is not the Bog rosemary, I will get on to that shortly. It says it is an Echinopsis mammillosa, but as ‘they’ had spelt the 2nd name wrongly, I thought I would check it out. Trouble is the only thing I can find is that it is not what it says it is on the box! If it had been, the flowers would have been on outgrowths from round the side of the barrel. The flowers are all on the top and almost without stems. Can anyone tell me what it is please?

We do have a lot of cacti and it isn’t me that collects them! But I have found them surprisingly intriguing. They were removed from the south facing porch and put on the edge of the pond about three weeks ago. Many have put on a show of beautiful flowers and grown hugely since then. How they will survive this weeks sudden drop in temperature from 25℃ to 0℃, I have no idea. Time will tell.

But, the reason I am showing this plant at all is because I am unable to go on walks at the moment and I am keeping a Perpetual Journal, doing a quick botanical sketch once a week. I saw the above cactus flowering in the sun and decided it would be this week’s topic. As soon as I started sketching, the sun went in and the flowers closed. They have remained closed since due to very little sun. But I did sketch some of the barrel. All I want is just one open flower to show its colour.

I’m sorry I am branching into other topics at the moment due to my incapacity, but the reason for the blog is development of the Andromeda polifolia.

For the last couple of years I have been attracted to very small plants with tiny flowers and/or leaves. But I am convinced that one of the reasons I was attracted to botanical art in the first place was my ability to open up these plants for everyone to see who viewed my work.

One might think that because the plant is smaller and often also the picture, it takes a lot less time to paint and therefore is cheaper. Unfortunately the opposite is true. The smaller the plant, the more difficult it is to portray. As you can imagine, my paintings are not sold by the square metre.

So far I have shown you the parts of my painting that are magnified so that you can see them in detail. But in doing this I also need to give you an idea as to how it looks real size; a ‘habit’ drawing. I wouldn’t want you to go hunting around for a plant with flowers the size depicted in the first blog – you would never find it.

You saw my composition in the first blog and know that I have planned the habit section to be in the centre, drawing all the elements together. When you see the final picture in the next blog, it will be up to you to decide if I have suceeded.

The traced image and start in graphite.

A little of the traced image remains. I  further lighten every section with a putty rubber so that every final visible stroke laid is intended.

The leaves are long (relatively speaking) and narrow, leathery and curled under along the edge. I am carefully showing this first. The upper surface is veined and the colour varies from a pinky hue to a blue-green; the underside is a pale greeney-blue. But of course this doesn’t show in the graphite drawing.

By the time I get this far into the painting, the original leaves may have changed or no longer exist. However, I do have my drawing and loads of photos for reference, but I also have  some of the live sprig given to me by Chelsea Physic Garden. I draw from the plant, but check the direction of each leaf with my line drawing and photos. Sometimes, I might find a more interesting leaf and use that instead, always checking placement and attachment to the stem.

The branch going off to the right is slightly further back than the middle one, therefore has a little less detail. I increased the amount of detail for the middle branch so that you get a better idea of the leaf texture and veins. Note the actual size of the flowers at the top of the middle stem.

Next time I will show you the finished artwork and describe how I do the scaling.

Second part of Andromeda polifolia – Bog Rosemary picture

Distanced celebrating of VE day in the front garden. Reminds me of Claude Monet, The Picnic.

I have to say first of all that we are so lucky when so many people are struggling with Covid19. We have room to move and we can get out at the same time as recognising we have to leave two metres between us and anyone we might meet. The idea is to prevent the spread of the virus as much as possible and save the NHS.

That gets me clearly to my next point as I am a sinner in relation to the NHS – I had to go to A&E after a walk whilst keeping fit a couple of days ago! We had a lovely long walk over heathland and I was looking for a spot where I knew  Vaccinium myrtillus – Bilberry grew. This is one of the plants I have been studying and preparing for my next RHS exhibit. All of a sudden, my knee gave a great ‘snap’ mid-stride. So now I am extra grateful to the NHS for their treatment and advice.

I am now not only having an enforced lockdown because of the virus, but also enforced rest with my leg up. I hope that the tear will mend soon so the powers that be can determine if more treatment is necessary.

This means that for a few days I won’t be able to respond to the call from my shed to paint!

So imagine, Friday was VE day – 75 years since the end of World War 2. We had afternoon tea with our immediate neighbours, distancing from each other in our front garden. I am now paying the price and sitting with legs up on the settee, with crutches at the ready. But, I am enjoying the peace and quiet to sit and write this blog.

My previous blog finished with the flower spike of my Andromeda polifolia botanical illustration completed. I didn’t tell you that at natural size the flower and leaves are quite small; the flower is ca. 8mm long and the leaves ca. 2cm long. In my painting the flower spike is done at three times its natural size so the detail of the plant can easily be seen and admired. I have planned to talk about how I did the scaling in the last blog about this plant.

The next two parts are the stages of painting the pedicel and receptacle. You can see that the ovary is most likely fertilised and swelling just slightly. Also there are still a couple of stamens hanging on for dear life. 

To the right a stamen is enlarged just a bit more. I was so intrigued seeing the horn-like appendages to the anther and it was incredible to think that all this was packed so beautifully into that tiny flower. The stamens were just over 2mm long and very colourful.

So the packaging; I carefully did a longitudinal dissection of the flower. See the previous blog to view the shape of the flowers. The petals are 5-lobed and fused so I needed to cut two and a half petals carefully away to show what was underneath. I then shaved back the single carpel so that you can see the ovary inside, leaving the style and stigma whole. Again I am including the dissection painting in two stages so that you can see how I have built up the colour.

It is hairy inside the flower and I used a little masking fluid after I had done the first layer. If I do this again I might put in the masking fluid on the white of the paper or not use masking and paint around it. The final result is fine, but I personally feel I could have done it better.

You can see how the enlargements follow on from each other. The flowers on the flower spike are the same enlargement as the pedicel and receptacle; that is equal to x 3. I then enlarged the stamen further to make the detail even clearer and this time you see it at x 10, the same size as the longitudinal dissection.

From these photos of my work it is impossible for you to work out the actual sizes on the painting, or even the actual size of the plant. I am trying to make a point here because many people still write a magnification on their artwork, then post it online or even print it. You might be reading this on your phone, tablet, laptop or desk top computer; All are different sizes, so if you give the magnification as I have done here, you have no way of knowing what the real size is. I will be showing how to do scaling in a later blog.

Finally, I want to mention paper – OLD Fabriano hot-pressed. I have both Fabriano extra white and 5. I have come to the realisation that I will not need all this paper to last out my years of painting and teaching. If anyone is interested and will be able to come and buy some (Bosham, West Sussex) after the restrictions are lifted, please get in touch with me.