Wednesday 26 March 2014

A fabulous specimen

Thanks to the amazing Lulú Rico Arce for inventing this fabulous way of preserving a whole mass of inflorescence!

With us in spirit

Hee hee.  I've come all the way to Kew to paint a pickled pea-pod. These are from the Spirit Collections, which are indeed perhaps the most magical of all.  The specimens are stored in Copenhagen Solution, a cocktail of 70% industrial methylated spirit, 28% distilled water and 2% glycerol.

Some flowers too...

I'm very excited because they keep copies of illustrations here right with the specimens. Rightly so. I'm fascinated by the way herbarium specimens function as forms of data, whilst also being preserved bodies of living things, if not loved then certainly treated with gentleness, care and respect. (Apart  from having been murderously lopped and appropriated in the first place, of course.) Similarly for the illustrations, which sit in all kinds of interesting spaces between art & science, information and entertainment, explanation and description,  professionalism & hobby or menial work, depending on when they were made.  Everything here is getting reorganised around APGIII classification, and pictures get a nice magenta-coloured box.

Wednesday 19 March 2014

It's all Foucault - and no knickers.

Here's me, performing my femininity again, doing The Bloody Avant-Garde at Anatomy last week.

Splendid photos here by Richard Dyson.

Sunday 16 March 2014

It's all stamens and no style.

Here's a picture of home studio corner today.  Note the fabulous jug of Goo, which had contained my bog myrtle specimens in some sphagnum and peaty muddy water so it would feel at home -  had to take the specimens out to dry out but I can't bear to throw out the substrate in case there are marvellous life forms lurking in there.

Anyway today we're looking at the flowers of the marvellous Vachellia cornigera or Acacia cornigera or bullhorn acacia . There's my specimen in a jar behind the paintbox.

So the nice yellow rockets are the inflorescences, and each of these individual tufts is a flower. Hundreds of them.

Very very small, and slightly sticky, though inclined to jump into outer space if you come at 'em with a scalpel. Can't say I blame them.

Thing is, there are hundreds of the male parts, but I'm buggered if I can find the female parts. Look! And that's the tip of my scalpel blade there, so you get a sense of how big they are.

That little brown effort there at the top is some sort of dysfunctional ovary, I think....

and finally, a wee pod.  I went through a large part of that inflorescence and only found five or six amongst a hundred or thereabouts, whatever is going on there probably accounts for the very small fruit to flower ratio - you can see the fruits on this herbarium specimen from Kew.

Some jolly sketchbook guff for your viewing pleasure. I got very interested in thosesmall brown cups in between the flowers, I think they are probably trichomes of some sort. They start out as fishy scales covering the flower buds;

and persist on their stalks as trumpet-shaped structures after the flowers fall off.

The first attempt at a posh version of the dissection. I used a dip-pen with paint in it for the fine lines, which just weren't fine enough.

Traditional tiny paintbrush fared much better in the second attempt. Also ultramarine violet for darkening the yellow, very nice, made for lovely soft granular greys.

Soundtrack for today is TWiM #73: Eyeing Root Nodule Development , delightful to listen to although a bit disrupted by the Leith Emergency Services Symposium: "Coping with the Consequences of Poverty, Discrimination, Disenfranchisement and Alienation" which takes place outside my window every now & then. Happily I think everyone walked away from this one.

Sunday 2 March 2014

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What a lovely orchid indeed.

Here's the Phalaenopsis I spent most of the daylight hours of last year's winter trying to work out how to paint as part of the Dip. BI. course. With some close-ups.  This is an attempt to put into practice a dry brush technique learned from the master Lizzie Sanders.

Also below a pile of the attendant guff that I excreted in the making of the picture, which is a sort of uneasy compromise between my ordinary working notes and show-your-working-out-on-a-piece-of-rough-paper. Whether or why anybody in the universe would be interested I have no idea but as usual I'm chucking it out there just in case. If you survive that there's some very good work at the bottom from my nephew Ewen Green, who is one of my chief collaborators.