Wednesday, 25 April 2012

I Forgot the Food Packaging

Whilst eating a fabulous Itsu Sushi takeaway on Thursday Night, I was busy writing down a list of all the plants I was munching on (Rice, Sesame seed, Soya, Corriander, Ginger, Rocket, Pumpkin Seeds etc.) and then I moved onto the cardboard box, which I presumed at the time to have some sort of wood in it. Then I wrote down "one serviette" and "one till receipt" (with measurements) for the same reason. Then Henry and I caught the tube home and that was that...

Until today.

Today something hit me which I had failed to note on whilst sitting on a bar stool in Itsu, but has since been simmering in my subconscious. I was peeling a label off of a tin during my lunch break to put in my sketchbook. Since starting The Bare Necessities Project I have recently began to collect packaging. I have been doing this for several reasons, firstly they remind me of what I ate if I forget a day, secondly they list all of the ingredients in something ready made or provide me with the company name so I can find out the ingredients and lastly I just love packaging - sometimes they have amazing visuals.

Ketchup label - essential for telling me the ingredients...

So yes... I was peeling off a Heinz Baked Beans label and I suddenly thought "this is paper... I need to make a note of the paper (wood)... Hang on a minute! I haven't made a record of any packing, the only time was in Itsu!". Alas - I forgot the food packaging...

I find some food labels really striking. I particularly like Sun Maid Raisins

 Wooden box used for Turkish Delight

 As of May I am going to start to make a real effort with the packaging, but firstly I need to do some research into what is plant based and what isn't. Frighteningly (for me) I have just discovered that a lot of plastic is now made out of plants (usually Sugarcane, Corn, Potato, Banana or Tapioca). 

I can't tell if this is going to be a complete nightmare or not!

Further Reading:!/

Sunday, 15 April 2012

My New Brooch 

 I made this with the intention of wearing it to the preview of the SBA's 2012 exhibition in Central Hall, Westminster. Just got to find an outfit to pin it to.

Friday, 13 April 2012

The Bare Necessities

In 1998, Wandersee and Schlusser introduced the term ‘plant blindness’. They defined the term as ‘the inability to recognise the importance of plants and the misguided ranking of plants as inferior to animals’. Plants can be viewed as the main mediators between the physical and biological worlds and play a significant role maintaining the climate. Therefore, it can be argued that plant blindness is a considerable hurdle to be overcome as we can assume that without sufficient recognition, it is unlikely that policies in plant conservation will be supported at a time when we need them the most.  

Book cover illustration - Onions and other vegetable alliums

While theoretical assessments of plant blindness exist, there has been little done to implement and evaluate strategies that directly address or alleviate the problem. Clearly, awareness of plants is advantageous for both economic and social reasons and that there hasn’t been a more appropriate time than now to improve our familiarity with the world’s flora and its uses.

The way we are living our lives causes the climate to change and critically endangers many natural habitats. Finding a solution to this has become a massive cross-cultural challenge. We have already taken substantial steps in addressing the crisis politically, but it is imperative that the issue does not just sit within the governmental and scientific arena, but that it becomes part of our social fabric. I believe that with imaginative, creative thinking we are able to design and cultivate a globally recognisable visual language. I therefore want to develop our existing knowledge and use of scientific visual statements so that we can design better policies and more globally effective forms of communication.

By implementing an artistic visual language to extend current scientific representation in botanical art, I propose that it is possible to realise a more comprehensive and inclusive approach to environmental awareness. 

The practice of early botanical art was first developed in medicine. Illustrations had an important role in herbals by transmitting information to individuals so that plants could be identified without the use of words. Through the means of observation, illustrations would depict a plant with its key features throughout an entire life cycle. More recently, botanical illustration has been used in many different fields of biological study and over time, scientists have developed strict guidelines for this type of illustrative work, creating a highly specialised visual language that is still used by botanists today. Although useful in science practice, I believe that this narrow view and use of botanical illustration, along with the ascendant use of photography, moves botanical art away from the aesthetics and spirit of our enquiry and has possibly contributed to its departure from mainstream media and the visual arts.

Fortunately, there are now botanical artists working to reverse this change who are questioning the traditional usage of botanical illustration. This can be seen through some significant contemporary changes in style and direction. An extremely apposite example is the 2011 piece by the artist Rachel Pedder-Smith, who presented an 18ft long painting using plant material from the herbarium at Royal Botanic Gardens Kew. It illustrated the new biological classification system based on DNA sequencing and was a bold, beautiful statement about the advanced level of our scientific knowledge.

As a botanical artist, I am constantly exploring divergent approaches to observation in order to challenge the efficacy of our existing scientific language and to inspire people to think beyond their own interactions with botany. My intention for this project is to build a collection that utilises new techniques that have never before been applied in botanical art, so that I may confront our current perceptions of botanical art, its applications and how it sits within the larger scope of scientific communication. Additionally, I propose to analyse the psychological and cultural reasons behind the science-art divide and how this impacts society whilst researching how people can engage with more inclusive and harmonious botanical projects.

 Production of top ten crops of the world 

The culmination will be an interactive piece highlighting the global impact of the consumption of botanically based products. In 2012 I began a personal diary recording the origin and use of every single plant and its derivative that I consumed over a twelve month period; from food and cosmetics to textiles and pharmaceuticals. I recorded the quantity I used and logged the companies and locations involved in every plant’s distribution. I intend to assemble this historical data into a detailed and illustrated presentation that chronicles the manufacturing and distribution journey that commercial products make from their initial life cycle to the consumer.

In accordance with traditional botanical illustration methods I propose to paint a collection that depicts every species accurately and to scale. It is my intention that the scale of each species will indicate the quantity consumed and not that of physical size. This project has continually evolved since its inception and it builds on several years of previous work and research with plant collections. It will be original in its capacity to highlight and underline the connections between the mechanical and natural worlds and in its ability to challenge our current perceptions of botanical art and its use.  The project will deliver not only on the final collection, but also with an exhibition of all supporting research and the expected publication of papers in the relevant scientific journals.

·         Ackerman, D. (1992). A Natural History of the Senses. New York: Vintage Books
·         Bachelard, G. (1994). The Poetics of Space. Boston: Beacon Press
·         Budd, M. (2003). The Aesthetic Appreciation of Nature, Oxford: Oxford University Press
·         Burke, E. (2008). A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful, New York: Oxford University Press
·         Carr, K. (2016) I had myself a nuclear spring. [Album]. Rivertones
·         Cohen, K. (2009). In the Blink of an Ear, New York: The Continuum International Publishing Group
·         Doyle, J. (2011). Mediating Climate Change, Farnham: Ashgate
·         Ede, S. (2005). Art and Science, London: I. B. Tauris
·         Fudge, R. S. (2001). Imagination and the Science-Based Aesthetic Appreciation of Unscenic Nature, The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 59(3), pp. 275–285
·         Hall, M. (2011). Plants as Persons - A Philosophical Botany, New York: State University of New York Press
·         McCandless, D. (2012). Information is Beautiful, London: Collins
·         Paterson, K., (2008), Earth-moon-Earth: Moonlight sonata Reflected from the Surface of the Moon, Oxford: Modern Art Oxford
·         Pedder-Smith, R. (2011) The Glow of Significance: Narrating stories using natural history specimens PhD Thesis, Royal College of Art, London, UK
·         Schneider, S. H. and Mesirow, L. E. (1976). The Genesis Strategy: Climate and Global-Survival, New York: Plenum Press
·         Slough, D. L. (2012) Plant Blindness: An exploration and instrument development using the Delphi Technique MSc Thesis, The University of Florida, Florida, USA
·         Toseland, M. (2012). Infographica: The World As You Have Never Seen It Before, London: Quercus,
·         Trigg, D. ( 2004), Schopenhauer and the Sublime Pleasure of Tragedy, Philosophy and Literature, 28(1),  pp. 165-179
·         Tufte, E. R. (1990). Envisioning Information, Connecticut: Graphics Press
·         Uno, G. E. (2009). Botanical literacy: What and how should students learn about plants? American Journal of Botany, 96(10), pp. 1753-1759
·         Wandersee, J. H. and Schussler, E. E. (1999). Preventing plant blindness, The American biology Teacher, 61, pp. 84–86
·         Wandersee, J. H. and Schussler, E. E. (2001). Toward a theory of plant blindness, Plant Science Bulletin, 47,  pp. 2–9
·         Voegelin, S., (2010), Listening to noise and silence, New York: The Continuum International Publishing Group

Monday, 9 April 2012

Some new botanical art finds...

Tricia Newell

'Dandelion' by Tricia Newell

I love this painting by Tricia Newell, it has so much movement and colour. Tricia has a fantastic Flickr account as well as a website and I recommend having a look at both.


'Violin' by Muradino

Nice bit of botanically inspired pyrography on a violin, you can see more images here.

Paul Stone

'Babel Toppled' by Paul Stone

I don't even know how Paul tackled this subject! I tried to paint a Romanesco for my vegetable study and  gave up after feeling dizzy. These numerous spirals require a lot of concentration to get right, and if one spiral is incorrect, then they all will be. It's probably easier to do from a photograph or using tracing paper, but I rarely tend to do that sort of thing.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

by Meriel Thurstan

This new book has been written by Meriel Thurstan and is due to come out in the late summer of 2012. The publisher is Batsford. I love botanical illustration books so why I am posting this one in particular? Well, I understand that some of my work will be included this one! I am very pleased. Meriel was kind enough to ask if I had anything that could be used and so I sent over a disc of my work for her to look at. I have just found out that three of my pieces have been chosen for it. I wish I could see some proofs - me being pernickety I worry about the overall quality of the print as they are using my dodgy photographs, but all of Meriel's other books are so beautifully done I really ought not to worry. I am sure it will be another excellent book, even if I do say so myself!