Foraging plants in the norwegian mountains – 9. My working practice

By the lake Fjelløkteren at 1000metres – Ripe Cloudberries mid July

Imagine how the artwork might look if measuring various parts of a chosen species was not accurate. The photos above all contain the Vaccinium oxycoccus subsp. microcarpum – small cranberry. Click on the images to see them larger.

  1. Small cranberry flower in the moss with Bog bilberry leaves, bog rosemary leaves, and heather. Note the tiny leaves of the cranberry lying across the moss surface bottom right.
  2. Small cranberry flower with bog rosemary to the left, bog bilberry leaves and flowers. Note the woody stem that distinguishes it from the bilberry. Sprigs of mountain crowberry also clearly seen with the white line on the back of them – this is the leaf folded back.
  3. Two small ripe cranberry fruit lying on the top of the moss by the side of a larger cloudberry leaf. There is also heather and mountain crowberry leaves. The stems of the small cranberry can be seen across the moss if you know what to look for – narrower than the grass.
  4. Two ripe small cranberry fruit either side of a cloudberry leaf. The reddish stems of the cranberry with the tiny triangular leaves can be seen.
  5. The growing tip of the small cranberry.
  6. A stem and leaf of the small cranberry. A further series of well chosen photos would show the connections of leaves to the stem, the branching and flower connections.

Measuring for the sketches

Amongst my original chosen plants for the 2023 exhibit were some very tiny flowers, but each of the species contained some tiny detail. I needed the facility for measuring accurately, particularly whilst sketching and of course for enlarging where needed. 

To the left is my trusty digital calliper in use for measuring the Cranberry. Whenever I take a measurement, I make a note of it with the drawing and additionally check it against the research done on books and the internet.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have this essential tool when initially sketching the Cloudberry and spent several years trying to catch up as already mentioned. As I wasn’t living in Norway at the time, I tried to coincide my visits with the months that I thought I might be able to get the missing detail, but either the plant flowered earlier or later than my visit. In fact, I didn’t get the missing dimensions until 2022 when I was again living in Norway. But even then, it still took several trips up into the mountains to hit the right time!

Another tool I use when making enlargements accurately is a technical divider. You can see it in use here when I did my Bilberry sketches. The divider allows me to measure exactly or enlarged by a specific amount. 

Technical divider adjusted to make a 1.5 enlargement.
Technical divider in use with bilberry sketch.

The other picture here shows the technical divider adjusted to create an enlargement of 1.5. In the ‘old days’ before digitalisation, one could write an enlargement of 1.5 (x1.5) on the illustration. Although this helps when doing the illustration, it will not work if showing artwork digitally on a website etc. 

In such a case one has no idea at which size the original drawing will be seen, therefore scale bars need to indicate exact measurements.

Example: When drawing x 2, or twice the size of the actual subject, one knows that 2cm of the illustration is actually 1cm in real life. So one could draw a 1cm long scale bar with 5mm written beside it to indicate that the 1cm line is in fact equal to 5mm. This means that when looking at the original enlarged illustration, if it measures 5cm, you know that the plant section is 2.5 cm in real life. 

But, these days if viewing an illustration digitally, there is no way of knowing what the size of the illustration is.

Scale-bars from bilberry illustration.

To overcome this if viewing on-screen or in a book, measure the scale bar marked as 5mm (our example) and note the measurement, then measure the whole section on-screen and multiply that measurement with the measurement of your scale-bar. This will give you the size in front of you on your screen or book. But you will want the real-life size and to do this, multiply again with the figure written by the scale bar – in this instance 5mm.

As an example use this picture from my bilberry illustration to work out the size of the finished detail and the size of the actual plant. The picture shows where I planned the scale-bars digitally to repeat in graphite on the artwork. But remember that the scale bar is in mm i.e. 4mm = 0.4cm.

On my screen, the scale bar measures 0.7cm and the section is 2cm high. Therefore 2 x 0.7 = 1.4 x 0.4cm= 0.56 cm. This means that the illustration is 1.4 cm tall, but as the scalebar is equal to 0.4 cm, the live flower is 0.56cm high.

My next blog is scheduled for 20 April 2023

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