Having not picked up the brush pen in a while, I thought it would be a nice transition back into drawing if I practiced with the brush pen again. I forgot how nice they are to draw with, although I am rather rusty with how to use one effectively. How you hold the pen is really important in how it affects the marks you make, so I am getting used to this again.
Using the brush pen is in this odd place between drawing and painting, and I am still trying to figure it out. I am not much of a painter, I tend to think in lines more than shapes, thus I lend myself more towards drawing. This is a nice ‘in between’ that can achieve some great marks once I learn how to use the brush.
I have been reflecting on my ideas for my project that I will start developing during my residency, although I have already started work on it in anticipation of when it begins in August (I want to start working as soon as I am in the studio!).
With looking at botanical and scientific illustration, I have been doing research into what exactly a plant it, the basics of what makes a plant, a plant. Of course in my research I have also learned that these ‘basics’ also have exceptions, and that organisms in nature are still considered to be plants without some of these.
To scientifically classify an organism as a plant, generally they will have these basic parts:
So while I began the idea behind this concept two years ago, by grafting different parts of plants together, through little accuracy but instead deciding which forms fitted well together. If I want to make my specimens more ‘accurate’, believable, and less fantastical, I need to start thinking about these elements within my hybrid specimens. This will allow me to better understand my specimens, how they live, their habitat, how they reproduce etc. I can create more of a back story for my specimens that is backed up by the form of the hybrid itself.
However, I run the danger of getting myself so caught up in all of these details that the work I end up producing is rather lacking. I need to make sure I achieve a balance between this, and the fantastical parts of the work that made previous artworks successful.
This also follows on from ideas that the most successful Sci-Fi (what is ‘successful’ is subjective) has a basis in sound science, is not completely fantastical or absurd, some kind of possibility (however remote or far fetched).
These pictures came across my Facebook news feed, showing deformed daisies that are growing 100km away from the Fukushima nuclear disaster zone, that took place in 2011.
From looking at the work of Cornelia Hesse-Honegger in the past, in which she illustrates deformities she observed within insects, it is interesting to see the impact of nuclear deformities on plant life that is so far away (100km is roughly 62 miles). It shows the unintended consequences of our actions upon nature.
The tweet accompanying the pictures, reads: “The right one grew up, split into 2 stems to have 2 flowers connected each other, having 4 stems of flower tied belt-like.
The left one has 4 stems grew up to be tied to each other and it had the ring-shaped flower. The atmospheric dose is 0.5 μSv/h at 1m above the ground.”
I have been watching some interviews with Mark Dion that I have found online, on YouTube and various other places. It is really fascinating to listen to him speak about his work and his process, rather than reading it in text or in a book. One particular interview, which was part of Chicago Humanities Fair 2013 was very fascinating, and gave me a better understanding of his art, and proved some of the things I thought of his work to be wrong.
There are the notes I took while watching the interview:
- Work not about ‘nature’, but ideas about nature – peoples ideas of nature.
- Considers how we arrived at our current relationship with the natural world, looking back through history and how our ideas of nature have changed, or stayed the same.
- Science doesn’t have a monopoly over what is ‘nature’, farmers, hunters etc all have their own view.
- Using the Natural History museum as a tool to address these concepts, they are the place where the official story of ‘nature’ is told at a particular moment in time by certain people.
- Considered becoming a scientist (studied it for a while) not satisfied with what could be achieved as a scientist, has to be all about fact. Scientists cannot use e.g. metaphor, artists can.
- Artists can use a variety of disciplines without being restricted like practitioners in fields such as science are.
- Interested in the science culture, science is good at telling us what things are, but not how we feel about these things – role of the artist.
- When using animals as a material in his work (taxidermy), places the specimens in a better situation than in which he found them.
While my residency does not begin for another month or so, I have been gathering more research, ideas and inspiration on the meantime. Although I was aware of the Biodiversity Heritage Library, I have only recently revisited it as a perfect way to begin gathering examples of botanical, scientific illustration as well as natural history. Looking through their Flickr feed (I’ve linked it in the post) has been a great way for ideas to start developing in my mind about what work I could create next.
In many of the plates seen in their feed, parts of the specimens have been taken completely out of their context and presented in these plates in various compositions. Many of the texts are also in various languages so it becomes even harder to place the specimens drawn, disconnecting them and making them seem almost alien. It is sometimes hard to judge if what is being shown is viewed from under a microscope, a part of a plant, animal. This makes them even more fascinating for me, as it has began to circulate ideas for my project.