Monday, 22 August 2011

Meadowhawk in conte crayon

This is my second go at Illustration Friday's prompt of influence. Ordinarily I only do one, and on the rare occasions where I do more than one I tend to just add it to my original post. I have a bit to say about this one that doesn't fit with the other, though, so second post. I'll cross-link them at the end for anyone who's interested in the other one.

This sketch is based on a photo of me holding a meadowhawk, which is a type (well, a group) of dragonfly. A few years ago we had a real population explosion of these little guys, and one afternoon after I'd taken way too many pictures of the females with their abdomens up in the air -- I assume it's a mating posture, but don't take my word for that one -- I decided to see if I could pick one up for a closer look. They're pretty mellow for dragonflies, meadowhawks. A few tries later, and this was the result.

Only someone who knew me as a child would understand just how odd that last paragraph was. I was really insect-phobic as a kid, and the mere thought of having to touch an insect would have kept me inside for days. To pick one up by choice? Weird, Dee. Really, really weird.

But oddly symbolic, that dragonfly.

Years ago, one of the many campground programs I went to with my family was about dragonflies. I don't remember all of the details at this point, but I remember that the park interpreter said some things that had me thinking about dragonflies in a different way. The simple fact that they could be interesting was new to me, to be honest. I was always interested in plants and furry animals (I've since trained as a mammalogist, despite what all the flowers you'll find on this blog may lead you to believe), but the thought that insects were worth being anything but squicked about? Very much a new idea.

I'd like to be able to tell you that the interpreter's take on dragonflies cured me of entomophobia, but that would be a complete lie. It took years. The idea that insects could be looked at differently did open my eyes somewhat, though, as did most of those evening campground shows we went to. I know now after being in the business for nearly two decades that most of those interpreters would have been summer students trying to make the best of limited resources so that they could prove their worth to their bosses through attendance (and, depending on the park, donations), but to a kid who didn't know any of that stuff those programs were a huge influence. They taught me new things, they gave me new topics to be interested in, and the program schedule was always the second thing I looked for when we arrived at a new campground.

The first being the bathrooms, of course. A kid has to have priorities.

I've no doubt that those programs also subtly influenced my choice of studies in university, and probably my choice of career. The probably is only because I sort of fell into this accidentally to begin with. The fact that I've stayed with it so long? Yeah, I'm sure I owe that at least partly to those summer students trying desperately to entertain rambunctious kids so that their parents didn't have to.

And dragonfly lady, whoever you might have been? My meadowhawk-bearing hand goes out to you.


My other IF post for this week can be found here.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Wood Lily in pen and ink

This week's Illustration Friday prompt is influence, and this is an admittedly quick lunch-break doodle in my small moleskine of a Western Wood Lily. It's based on a photo I took in the Sanctuary a few years ago, and I remember being surprised to see it there both because they aren't that common in this particular area and because it always amazes me just how well a bright orange flower can hide itself if it puts its mind to it.

So how does this relate to influence? Well, I'm influenced by organic forms in my drawing (gee. I bet no one's noticed that) and I find myself drawing members of the lily family pretty frequently because I'm influenced by the way their initially simple-appearing shapes and lines have so much subtle variation when you start to look a little closer. Plus, I like the apparent symmetry.

Influence is a thought-provoking word, and I'm hoping to get time to do a different version of it in the next day or two. Just in case I don't, though, I thought I should post this so that I don't miss two weeks in a row.


My other entry for this week's IF is here now.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Cool set of images

Science as art.

Not sure if I'll get anything done for IF this week. Have to admit, the prompt this time isn't doing much positive for me. Ah well, I'll post when and if I have something.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Pumpkin Flower in ink

Well, sort of in ink. Inktense pencil, largely, with pen & ink outline and pencil crayon. Why the pencil crayon? No idea, really.

This week's Illustration Friday prompt is imperfect. Hmm. I've just realised that it sounds like there's something wrong with the prompt...

Anyway, imperfect. In botany, an imperfect flower is one that doesn't have both male and female parts. Stamens and pistils, if you prefer. It's a way to try to avoid self-pollination, for the most part. Sometimes you find male flowers on one plant and female flowers on another (a dioecious plant), but sometimes both flowers are found on the same plant. That's a monoecious plant, and that's the way it is with pumpkins.

When I started thinking about imperfect flowers, pumpkins came to mind because we grew them on occasion when I was a kid. I don't anymore, though. I'm not sure they'd be terribly happy in my balcony planters. Um, anyway. When I was growing up I'd occasionally enter the children's gardening section of the county fair, and one year we decided to try the pumpkin competition. The problem was that the fair was at a perfect time for flowers, but way too early for pumpkins to have any chance at developing a worthwhile size. I don't know why my mother and I decided to give it a try anyway, but we did.

To have any hope of having a showable pumpkin a person couldn't leave it to nature to figure out how to get the pollen from the male flowers to the female ones, and as a result I had my first real experience at manipulating a plant. I remember looking at the flowers every day to find one that had the tell-tale swelling at the base that said it was a female (and getting impatient because there seemed to be sooo many more male flowers out there). If I was lucky enough to find one, then it was time to pick a likely looking male flower, strip off its petals, and "introduce" it to the female.

I think I ended up with three whole growing fruits, only one of which even looked faintly like a pumpkin by the time of the fair. If I remember right, it was maybe twenty centimetres in diameter -- that might be generous -- and still green, but it was well-formed enough to give it a shot.

A long shot, I was pretty sure.

I was pretty shocked to get the first place ribbon, but I was a little more shocked to see that none of the other entries were bigger than a tennis ball. It seems that I was the only one whose parents had told her that pumpkin flowers sometimes need a little help getting to know each other.

It was an interesting experience, but the next year I went back to the flower competition. It was easier than waiting for a pumpkin to get around to making a female flower.


As usual, my cheap scanner's failed me a bit on the colours, and since I don't have proper editing software I can't do too much about fixing them. Imagine much more orange, a bit less yellow, and a whole lot less red. In fact, when I was fiddling around trying to fix things I kind of decided that I liked the tinted version you see to the left, but what the heck. I'll stick with the top one, I guess.

And as far as imperfect goes, the weirdness in the background is because I decided I didn't like my wonky wash and scribbled over it with a moistened Inktense pencil. It's... it'll do, I suppose. A little imperfection never hurts anyone. A lot? Well, that's pretty much what you find on this blog.

I'm ok with that.
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