The Library of Obscure Wonders

art nature illustration botanical classes workshops

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Starting next week…

It’s been ages since the last newsletter, mainly because nothing much has been happening as far as classes and activities go.  It has been a great time for going out and painting nature though. The tree outside my window is slowly turning a beautiful gold colour with the season. This month we have an online class starting, a Youtube demonstration video, and preparation for a tree project starting in the new year.

Classes and workshops

An Online course in Drawing and Painting nature  starts next Tuesday 13th October. It is a ten week course in association with Imperial College and The South London Botanical Institute. Follow this link:

https://www.imperial.ac.uk/evening-classes/autumn-spring-courses/october-courses-list/drawingnature/

 The Tree project will include free online workshops and discussions on painting trees and collecting stories about them. All of which will finally form an animation telling folktales about trees. I’m currently applying for funding for this project and will let you know more as things develop.

Youtube Demo

This is my first attempt at a Youtube video. I give a demonstration of how to do a flat wash, and how to do a graduated wash. I minted to do more soon. I hope it is useful:

Exhibitions

Wildlife Photographer of the year is now on at the Natural History Museum, book tickets from the website: 

https://www.nhm.ac.uk/visit/exhibitions/wildlife-photographer-of-the-year.html

The Hayward Gallery exhibition Among the Trees is only on till the end of October, so go and see it now:

https://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/whats-on/art-exhibitions/among-trees?eventId=855751

Painting tip: Relax, watercolour works a lot better if you relinquish control occasionally.

New Classes

New real life classes starting this Wednesday evening (23rd Sept 2020) with Watercolour for beginners at Citylit https://www.citylit.ac.uk/courses/watercolour-1.

Online classes in drawing nature start at the beginning of October. More info to come.

A brief history of botanical illustration

Here is the pdf on the history of botanical illustration. The idea is that it will get you interested and you will perhaps research further.

brief-history

“The ancient Chinese, Indians, Egyptians, Babylonians, and Native Americans were all herbalists. The oldest known list of medicinal herbs is Shen Nung’s Pen Ts’ao or Shennong Ben Cao Jing (c. 3000 B.C.), a Chinese herbal that is probably a compilation of an even older oral tradition.”

University of Virginia

Newsletter October 19

Fossil Oyster
Devils Toe Nail – Oil on Canvas

This is the first post for quite some time. I had a difficult summer moving flat, but I’m now all moved into my new place, which is lovely, and ready to start looking at exhibitions again.
This month I’ve just been to a wonderful exhibition in the basement of the Hundred Years Gallery, Pearson Street E2. It is called The Floating Forest and is by Montse Gallego. If you are interested in the power of forests, trees and the beauty of hanging rice paper, Montse is well worth looking at, unfortunately I think the exhibition is only on till the end of this week. Free
I’m very interested in going to see the William Blake exhibition at the Tate Britain. The poet, artist and printmaker (1757-1827) spent his life creating mesmerising, tiny works to illustrate poems. histories and mythologies. This is one of the largest exhibitions of his work in a long time, it’s on till the 2nd February 2020 and costs £18
Gaugin portraits is an exhibition on at the National Gallery, from 7 October until 26 January 2020, it should be a good show and a bit different from the normal exhibitions of his work.
Helene Schjerfbeck (1862-1946) is a very famous artist in Finland  The exhibition at the Royal Academy is the first chance London audiences have had to see her work. Tickets cost £14.
Lastly, and going back to my days as an art student when I was a big fan of Phillip Guston, Co Westerick, another artist whose work is rarely seen in London, is on display at Sadie Coles HQ, Kingly street W1, until the 2nd November. These paintings remind me very much of Guston’s work, though the colour is more subtle. Free.
Classes and workshops
Monday classes are back on at Lordship Hub in Tottenham where we explore all sorts of subject matter in relation to watercolour painting. 11.30 to 1.30pm. Beginners are very welcome, as are those with more experience. It costs £10, or £8 if you book 3 or more sessions in advance. It is ‘drop in’ so there is no need to book in advance.
Thursday the 10th I’m starting a new 10 week series of evening classes in Drawing and Painting from Nature at South London Botanical Institute.This course is run by Imperial College London. https://www.imperial.ac.uk/evening-classes/autumn-spring-courses/october-courses-list/drawingnature/
I’m running the Botanical illustration class stage 1 at City Lit this term starting on the 16th November. This class goes over 4 full days on Saturdays and gives you all the basic knowledge and skills you need to draw effective plants and flowers. https://www.citylit.ac.uk/courses/botanical-illustration-stage-1Enroll soon to get a place.
Patterns in Nature is another course I’m running at City Lit this term. This looks at the geometry and patterns within nature, such as the honeycomb, cacti, shells and insects, and how these can be used to create effective designs for textile or print. It starts on 27th November, 18.00 to 21.00 and lasts over four weeks. https://www.citylit.ac.uk/courses/drawing-workshop-patterns-in-nature.Painting tip: ways to create black that will be more interesting than just using a ready made black.1. Mix Alizarin crimson with viridian green in equal measure for a rich strong black. 2. Mix ultramarine with burnt umber. 

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Nature illustration: The structure of flowering plants

Ever wondered how a flower works?

This Saturday we will looking at the structures of flowers as well as leaves, and the layout of these on a plant. We will also have a look at the use of dividers to measure accurately and that old Fibonacci spiral…

The Crypt, St John on Bethnal Green, London, 2-5pm. £15, materials provided.

For more details contact me at info@obscurewonders.com

Drawing detail and texture in nature using watercolours

fullsizeoutput_23d

This coming Saturday 16th February at the Crypt, St John Bethnal Green

How to slow down and really consider natural objects, come to know them as you draw them, learn how to get appropriate textures and details for your object using salt, clingfilm, and sponge. Equipments provided. All levels welcome from beginner to very experienced. £15, 2 – 5pm.

Nature illustration: drawing and painting plants, insects and shells

plants

A new set of classes for the new year:

How to slow down and really consider natural objects, come to know them as you draw them, and how to use light and shade to create a 3D appearance. Equipment such as paper, pencils, watercolour paint, will be supplied. All levels welcome from beginner to very experienced. £15 per class

26th January – 2nd March. Saturday afternoons 2 till 5

St John on Bethnal Green, 200 Cambridge Heath Rd, London

How to find us: Very close to Bethnal Green tube station which is on the Central line. The class is in the crypt of the church. Meet at the front entrance to the church.

A soirée this Sunday

A gentle soiree into the new year.

Short talk on an obscure wonder, musical phenomena, drunken Tarot with Miss Roberts, and an art installation or two. Bring drinks and snacks. 3rd Floor.

A small donation to the library to give the performers a chance to get home that evening is appreciated. Since money is not allowed to change hands in the Lion House I’ve set up a ticket thing. Don’t worry you really don’t have to do this if it freaks you out. It freaks me out! Donation is £2. I’ll post the ticket page as soon as they let me.

https://www.wegottickets.com/event/460100

5pm to 9pm

3rd Floor

Lion House

75 Red Lion Street

Holborn

London

WC1R 4NA

UK

The problem with perfect

Oak tree in the woods

Perfect is a closed circle, static, fulfilled, existing out of time. An idea that does not really happen in nature because of the need for change and adaption in order to survive.

Take an oak tree. Imagine for now it is born from the perfect acorn in the perfect soil, it has every potential of becoming the perfect mushroom shaped oak seen in picture books. It grows into a stalk, and starts to develop leaves, but there are big holly bushes next to it, so it’s leaves can’t get much sunlight to photosynthesise. It is going to have to grow much taller than them. In its 30th year there is a harsh winter, so it drops some of its lower branches to conserve nutrients. In its 50th year a house is built to one side of it preventing sunlight reaching it from that side, so to make up for this it grows more on the other side giving it a somewhat crooked shape. The tree is a healthy oak that will live for a couple of hundred years, but it is not the perfect tree, it does not have that neat mushroom shape, it is crooked, tall, and sparse on the lower branches. It is the ability to change and not remain perfect that has meant it can live a long healthy life.

Now we imagined a perfect acorn, but evolution being as it is, that acorn probably wasn’t perfect, a genetic difference may have slightly altered the tree’s bark, or made it extra tasty for a particular insect. While in one case this could have been an annoyance and potentially damaging to the tree, in another the bark difference could make it particularly resistant harsh winds, so if it or one of its future acorns ended up on the Scotland Highlands it would have a better chance of survival than one that didn’t have that bark difference. Equally so being tasty to a particular insect could be damaging in one instance but if that insect happened to eat another more deadly insect that could infect the tree then being tasty to the first would be an advantage.

That is just one simplified example of the need to adapt and how the our idea of the classical closed perfect organism would not survive because it can not change and adapt to its environment.

If you get a compass and draw a circle on a piece of paper it may look perfect, you can call it perfect and others will agree. Yet time will smudge and fade the ink, it will tear and rot the paper, till eventually your perfect circle is nothing but mush. This mush will hopefully be put in the ground where if can feed another seed which will eventually grow into another plant that will feed another animal or maybe even a human who draws another perfect circle.