"There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion" Francis Bacon 1561-1626

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Getting to know Shieldbugs.

I really like Shieldbugs but know nothing about them.

I like their neat shape and their very pleasing patterns. Close up they are quite exquisite and I don’t mind that they are also known as stink bugs. Over the years I have seen quite a few but not really taken so much notice of them. Now I am more interested.

Britishbugs.org have an excellent site all about our UK bugs. These are the true bugs, the family Hemiptra. It seems in the UK we have over 2000 species and as the site says they are not very well covered in field guide books

Shieldbugs are just one family. Wiki has a page detailing 44 species in the UK. They are sap sucking, some carnivorous and some not. I had no idea there were different stages of development but they go through various stages of metamorphosis before adulthood. Also it seems the female shield bug is quite a good mother and watches over her little brood until the nymphs can look after themselves. Birds eat them and in some parts of the world they are pests but often are not.

The shield bugs I saw on the White Dead Nettle are Pied Shield Bugs (see Black Bee Continued) and I am including two of them in the black bee painting. Both of them love the same plant so it seems only right to pair them up. 

Today I went out to see if I could find some local ones but nothing, even though we have plenty of White Dead nettle here. However I did find a lovely Common Green Shieldbug Palomena prasina sunning on a leaf.

And, looking through my photos from Holme Fen again, I find I had taken a photo of another bug that day. This I think is Coreus marginatus a squash bug. It likes docks and that makes sense as there were quite a few growing nearby.

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Pied Shieldbug Sketches

I am making  a few “getting-to-know-you sketches” of the bugs before I start the artwork .

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Adult, mid stage and young Pied Shieldbugs (Tritomegas bicolor)

The development stages are just as attractive as the adult. I read there are 5 instars before full adulthood. I have not quite worked out at what stage they get their wings but the middle one I think is still wingless. Metamorphosis is very strange isn’t it?

More bug sketches to come…

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Deadlines….

The blogs have been a bit quiet because I have had some commercial work to do, which, as is generally the case, involved a deadline (today).
I wouldn’t like to say I have been impossible to live with over the last few days but stress levels have been slightly elevated.
Chris, safely back at work, sent me this today which rather says it all …..

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Thanks to the brilliant Drew for doing this.
It’s spooky how well he knows me… 
see more at Toothpaste For Dinner.com.

Peace, love and bug drawings returning tomorrow…

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

The Black Bee continued.

It is lovely to see so many bees out and about now and I have returned to the painting of my East Midlands region Black Bee, Bombus ruderatus.

I have rethought the sketch a bit to now include 2 little Pied Shieldbugs (Tritomegas bicolor) which I had photographed inadvertently when I was trying to get a shot of the bees on the white dead nettle at Holme Fen. They are lovely, very design-y black and white. It’s a bit of a theme for this painting. Black Bee, White Dead Nettle, Black and White bugs.

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A blurry little Pied Shieldbug from Holme Fen.

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Two Shieldbugs, one at the bottom and one peeping over a leaf at the top.

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Stage 1:  Eyes first. If these are not right I start again.Then a little colour all round.

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Stage 2:  More darker colour all round and getting the head and legs right.

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A detail of the head at Stage 2. Its about 1/2 “wide.
I am always concerned to get the “pile” right. Different bees have different sort of hair. This bee is a little more tidy than its relation, Bombus hortorum but has longer hair than some others.  They are big bees, not called the Large Garden Bee for nothing.

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This is almost done but I will make a few changes when I have the background sorted out a bit more. They say “an artwork is never finished, only abandoned”.. how true. You get to a stage when you don’t really want to see it again… at least not for a while.

I have not quite got as far as that with this bee. It will be finished next week I hope.

 

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The background, bugs and bee roughly put together. 

More soon.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Some More Tree Following

It’s the week to sign in the Lucy’s Tree Following project.

The Chestnut Trees are developing so very quickly now.
There is a light green haze of leaves around them and some of the more advanced trees have a flower here and there.

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The flower spikes are lengthening and the individual florets becoming more spaced out.

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Florets coming into bloom from the base up.

I made one drawing of a more developed twig with a flower spike still in bud.

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My flagging model after a couple of hours

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The pencil drawing A3

And a couple of conkers I rescued from the verge mowing.

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A loose sketch of the two sprouting conkers.

They only have long tap roots so far. They seem to grow upside down.

To my great surprise the sad looking old black conkers that I optimistically planted in a pot outside are sprouting.

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A new leaf is about the emerge. Spring!

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Girlie the Berkshire Pig….again

The more I read about the Berkshires and the more I see them, the more I like them. I have an idea for a larger pig drawing/painting/print and have been wondering which pig to choose.
I am rather fond of Girlie who I met at Sylvia’s farm (see “Spotty Dotty and Girlie”) on a very muddy day in Feb and today I made a few more studies of her. The Berkshires are medium sized and have those lovely alert pricked ears and are a smart black/brown with a white blaze, white socks and a white tip to the tail.

For me the sketchbooks are an essential part of working out ideas. When you start drawing, more ideas occur as you work with the shapes, colours and sometimes the personality. This pig has oodles of that. 

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“Girlie” sketchbookA4

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and a couple more….

I am almost convinced she is the one for my project.
See more about the Berkshires on Chris’ Salute the Pig Blog.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Back to the Bees… and A Book with Me in it..

I said earlier this month that I would be getting back to the bee paintings and the first is going to be the lovely Bombus ruderatus for the Beautiful Beasts blog.

 Bombus ruderatus: the Large Garden (or Ruderal) Bumble bee

This bee has a special significance for me as the only time I have ever seen one, to my knowledge, was in my father’s  garden.  I had seen a big all black “something” flying around the yellow archangel for a couple of days and then luckily one day I had my camera. If it had been the more usual striped  variety I would probably not have noticed it.

You can see more about this bee on my post "A Fenland Bee" here.


It is also the Iconic Bee for the East Midlands so a perfect Fenland “Beautiful Beast” and coincidently I thought I saw one on Sunday at the Holme Fen visitor info stop. There is a wonderful large planting of white and red dead nettle by the notifications boards which is a favourite flower for these long faced, long tongued bees.

So far I am just making some notes, rough ideas and colour sketches.

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The all black version, which is the one I will be painting is officially called Bombus ruderatus var.harrisellus

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Habitat sketch from Holme Fen and, yes the unexpected Highland cattle are there  to help manage the grass land.

Thinking about the bees in the white dead nettle.

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And as I saw the big black bee in Dad’s garden on the yellow lamium

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These small sketches are about 5 x4 inches

In the Garden

I was also so very pleased to see for the first time this year the gorgeous Tawny Mining bee.My photo does not do justice to the prettiness of this little bee with her beautiful foxy two tone colours. I had rescued her from a spider’s web, she is just taking a moment on my hand to regain her composure.

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And also, I have, at last, seen the Hairy Footed flower bees, both male and female on the pulmonaria.

A Book with Me in It!

It’s a big thank you to lovely, bee friendly, Andrew Tyzak for asking me to contribute to his wonderful book. “Drawing and Painting Insects” Andrew draws and paints and makes exquisite prints of insects and runs the website Bees in Art.

I am honoured to be alongside such high quality artists and at a generous 200 pages, the book is packed with images of insects of all kinds, in painting drawing and prints. There is also lots of info on how to go about painting and drawing these fascinating creatures. I was particularly delighted to see my Great Yellow Bumble Bee on the cover!

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About me and the bees

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Some step by steps of my work….  

The book is available from all good bookshops!

First the book, next the film ….:)

Monday, 31 March 2014

March: in like an Adder’s head..out like a Peacock’s tail.

The adders were my ongoing subject for Beautiful Beasts in March and this old weather proverb can go both ways, but we had a beautiful sunny weekend so maybe it is going out like a beautiful shimmering peacocks tail this year.

Chris and I had a walk around Woodwalton Fen yesterday which was fascinating. More of Woodwalton Fen to come, but in the early chilly morning it was beautiful. Birds, bees, a distant Marsh Harrier and the black water of the meres  reflecting a struggling sun. I thought about my adders again.

 The large adder print

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The block and some of the mess, the rest is scattered on the floor and around the house.

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2 colours..9.5 x12 inches

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3 colours… A proof print

In all I made 8 prints, each quite different, trying a variety of combinations as I cut away. They don’t call this reduction printing “suicide printing” for nothing! Once you have cut you can’t go back. I will post more stages on Print Daily soon.

This is one I liked..

Fenland Adders: Keepers of Peaty Treasures.

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Four colour reduction print 9.5 x12 inches

What’s it about?
Well, in my personal, alternative reality, wild things generally have a better time than in real reality.

It’s a grey breezy day with clouds bubbling up in a huge fenland sky. My beautiful adders, keepers of the secrets buried in the peaty darkness of the fenland soils, rise up to survey their domain. One black and one patterned. They watch the distant peat cutters. The sensible mouse keeps a safe distance. What are those things scattered in the soil? Who knows what lost treasures, bodies and bones are buried in the peat? It is a subject of enduring and delightful speculation.

It’s back to bees this week!.. then maybe eels :)

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Tree Following: Chestnut Bud Development.

Despite a bitterly cold day today, spring is racing ahead and it’s hard to keep up. Some of the Horse Chestnut trees in the village are getting leafy. Now I am looking more at trees in general it is interesting to note how early this tree has come into leaf. It must be one of the earliest.

The newly opening buds are really beautiful. As the feathery, deeply ridged new leaves open up they reveal a tiny new flower spike, each floret tightly curled.

On the drawing board

This bud is only just opening and the protective scales and the outside surfaces of the leaves are still hairy

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Watercolour and pencil 6 x 8” approx

This one has opened up quite a bit more. The small leaflets are breaking free.

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This one has opened further: pencil and watercolour approx 6 x 8” approx

This twig below has no flower buds, they are only developing into leaves. It’s hard to believe these tiny delicate furled things will develop into the huge shady parasols of the mature trees. For me it’s always that bucolic scene of dozing cattle, swishing tails and chewing cud, sheltering from the sun under its generous spreading boughs. Such a beautiful parkland tree.

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Pencil and watercolour sketch 8 x10

Lucy, who is organising the tree following posed the question. “Is it possible to tell before the buds open up which will have flowers and which won’t.”

I have never really thought about it so had another look at the tree today.

What I noticed is that the buds low down or near the trunk are not opening to flower spikes, just leaves. Buds at the end of the outside branches all seem to have flower spikes. Which makes quite a bit of sense. Flowers need to be up and out there, where the pollinators can find them. 

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The big candelabra flowers spikes will be a challenge to draw!