As the autumn months appear I am fascinated by the changes occurring in plants and trees. Walking through Newington Green the other day I noticed two rather woeful looking hazel bushes sitting under a London Plain. They had been well and truly battered by London life and the severe cutting of a somewhat over enthusiastic gardener. Yet I noticed on the tip of one of the branches a small bunch of mature hazelnuts. Quickly I sketched it and took a photo. It’s quite unusual to see ripe hazelnuts on the tree, usually the birds have eaten them. To me it suggested a determined continuation of life. I painted the tree at home- watercolour with pencil on top- and did a little research on the hazel.
Hazel is a deciduous tree losing its leaves in the late autumn. Often growing underneath oak and birch; it is a small tree sometimes pruned into a bush. In managed woodland it is frequently coppiced which extends its life from 80years to several hundred. Both male and female flowers grow on the same tree, but hazel flowers must be pollinated by pollen from other hazel trees. It is mainly wind pollinated, bees find it difficult to carry hazel pollen as it is sticky and the grains repel each other. The male flower is a yellow catkin that comes out in February before the leaves. The female flower is small and bud like with red styles. Once pollinated the female flowers develop into round fruits that hang in groups. They mature into nuts with a woody shell surrounded by a leafy husk. Hazel leaves are hairy and soft to the touch, oval in shape they are toothed and pointed at the tip. Hazel leaves turn yellow before falling in winter. Many caterpillars live off the hazel, this is particularly good for the Hazel Dormouse, for they can eat the caterpillars in the summer months and save hazelnuts for hibernation in the winter.
Hazel was the tree of wisdom, according to Irish mythology. In the otherworldly realm there is a well from which the rivers of Ireland flow. In this well there swims a salmon and around it are nine sacred Hazel trees. The hazelnuts from these trees fall into the pool and are eaten by the salmon everyday so they themselves become wise. These wise salmon swim from the pool to the sea and back. If you manage to catch and eat the salmon you too will become wise and able to tell the future.
Late Constable at the Royal Academy of Arts. Learn how, in his later years, John Constable used a more expressive style and a greater use of light and shade that’s evident in drawings, sketches and paintings from 1825 until his death in 1837.
Runs from 30 Oct to 13 Feb.
Courses this term
Drawing and Painting Nature Online. Tuesdays 6pm to 8pm. From 12th October to 14th December. In association with Imperial College and The South London Botanical Institute. Suitable for beginners and those with some experience. Follow this link for more information: https://www.imperial.ac.uk/evening-classes/autumn-spring-courses/october-courses-list/drawing-nature/
Painting from plants and flowers. City Lit, Keeley Street, London. Mondays 10am to 1pm. From 1st November to 6th December. Explore a variety of artists’ approaches for painting flowers from observation. Discover the rich history of this genre while getting inspiration from contemporary artists who use flowers as their starting point in painting. More information:
A short introduction to botanical illustration. City Lit, Keeley Street, London. Thursdays 10am to 1pm. From 18th November to 9th December. Botanical illustration is both an art form and a means of scientific engagement. Learn about depicting form, colour and differences in plant species with precision and detail on this studio and location-based course. More information:
Painting tip – Breath slowly, into your stomach and relax. Relaxing will help mark making skillls.
All course dates can be seen on the website http://www.obscurewonders.com
For further information email – firstname.lastname@example.org