By Jenny Coker, Tauranga, New Zealand, July 2021
Coupled with a desire to quieten my pace (wishful thinking?) and look for a different approach and perspective in my watercolour work, I discovered an additional angle.
An angle that was looking me in the face and yet hadn’t caught my eye. But, I hear you say, straight edges don’t occur in nature! No they don’t, but we do use straight edges in various ways to design, measure, create and scientifically illustrate aspects of nature for a whole range of purposes.
As I gathered a handful of the abundant banksia seed pods in the neighbourhood, awaiting the chomp of a lawnmower perhaps, they initially didn’t seem to offer much interest. Black, brown, lichened, mouldy-smelling, earth food.
However, as I photographed them from different angles, loaded the images onto a screen and began to manipulate them… they came to life! Not all of them and not all in the same way but like everything else, there are always stand outs in a crowd. My interest mounted as in one or two pods, minute spiders had spun webs. Some of them were still there… which has taught me to wash these treasures before storing them in the studio. I began sketching thumbnail ideas.
Meantime, a break to meet friends in Dunedin, also took me to Moeraki where tiny eucalyptus seed pods, capsules of the bluest blue, were noticed lying about our every footstep. By the time they were gathered, returned to Tauranga, photographed and laid on my drawing board, fragments of an idea was percolating.
What if I were to marry aspects of my earlier career as an architectural illustrator with my current immersion in all things botanical? The notion began to bud, there was a promise of blossom. I revelled in creating exploded assembly drawings in my early years in engineering draughting. I felt a correlation between this technique and some of the ways that nature appears. So it was this thought process that led me into the evolution of seed pods and more. Putting engineering and botany together? Perhaps, let’s see what evolves!
I chose to celebrate the banksia by creating an arrangement similar to an architectural presentation. A plan view, elevations, details and cross section requiring the sawing in half of one of the pods…it was like sawing hardwood! My happy obsession steadily built. I love creating a softness alongside of the bold. Silk against rusting steel and fine alpaca against stone as examples.
I set about enlarging the ‘plan view' by about six times, finding details to describe, delighting in creating a certain kind of movement by ‘dancing’ banksia filaments and seeds over the composition to add both interest and creative originality. The studio was almost rocking with excitement! Taking a small amount of license, I painted the quite boring seedlings at magnification to try for a degree of interest.
I felt there was a story coming to life and being told on my favourite Fabriano Artistico paper. Perhaps an unusual license I included was the use of gold watercolour applied in delicate strokes to the fine hairs of the flying, maturing seed capsule. It is shown with clever effect by my photographer in the image below.
As my brush and watercolours were shaping the details, my next piece was formulating in my head. It was largely about the lovely turquoise blush on the eucalyptus seed pods tempting my palette. I could see them in elevation, in plan and perhaps a dissection. ‘Victoria Blue’ was being born, fuelling thoughts that more would follow, but endeavouring to stay on the ‘same page’ while these ideas were being given reign.
By this time, the composition was filling me with pleasure and I was itching to create dimension and add the lettering as the coup and finale.
The dissection turned into a simple isometric perspective and when a favourite eucalyptus image was chosen as the main subject, the arrangement really sat well. I suspect something a little different has been born from fusing the origins of draughtsmanship to the gardens of botanical artistry.
The pleasure evident when received at Manyung Gallery Group added a touch of sparkle to the offering and I now have another under way… expanding the classical with a tiny touch of abstraction.
What has captured my imagination of late? Stay tuned for next month's update from 'Stories from My Studio'. Join my monthly e-newsletter update on the home page of my website and get a free digital botanical screen saver. www.jennycoker.com
'Til next time,