It was wild in the night, the sound of wind and rain woke us more than once. The rain showed no sigh of stopping and I walked to the shop under trees tossing their branches in the blustery gusts. The lane was muddy and littered with twigs blown from the scots pines and many other trees around our house. A lot of the twigs were heavily covered with lichen, not normally so easily visible close up when the branches are still in the trees.
Lichens are not plants, (I discovered), have a variety of forms, and their complexity (and my ignorance) became increasingly apparent when I tried to find out more.
When I tried to draw the shapes from just one twig, they were so intricate that I had to resort to a very rough approximation. But I now realise I am looking at a whole new life form, very long lived and among the oldest living things. Wow, you never know what you’ll discover on a rainy day.
At the beginning of the month I said I would allow myself to have a day off if I didn’t want to make a comment every day. Otherwise it becomes a duty, not a joy. Yesterday I didn’t comment. Sometimes, like the wet Sunday yesterday, we just need to keep ourselves to ourselves.
But this morning the rain has stopped and these little flowers, glistening in the wet garden, are a joy. Hiding amongst their dark green leaves their subtle flowers aren’t garish, but nonetheless colourful. They made me want to draw them and attempt to capture their colour. Once again the process was all absorbing, the result not so satisfying.
But I feel better for looking into their faces.
In a sunny moment between the rain showers I headed outside to gather some winter leaves to eat with our meal tonight. The Swiss chard provides a bright splash of colour on a grey day, and I thought I might draw the leaves before cooking them.
But then I discovered (thanks to a Facebook reminder!) that I drew Swiss chard exactly one year ago on this blog!!
I can’t do the same again, I thought to myself. But I did. Well I used the red Swiss chard leaf as inspiration, but this time I drew with my sewing machine on fabric. The same but not the same.
When I received these lovely pink lollipops from a friend earlier in the week, I was delighted and resolved to draw them.
Now that they have opened a little I sat down to really look at them and their apparent simplicity was revealed in all its complexity. Their shapes change every time I change my position. It makes me realise just how many assumptions we make about about things, perhaps friends too.
Don’t take them, friends and tulips, for granted…
Why bother to draw these little beauties on my kitchen window sill? A supermarket buy, bought on a whim when they were unpromising green spikes, they are now bursting with colour. Why not just gaze at them and enjoy while I make my morning coffee?
Well, Michelangelo (no less) told a pupil to “keep drawing and do not waste time”. So, coffee beside me, I tried to draw the iris. I thought I had already paid close attention to their shape and beauty, but drawing them was another matter. Making lines to match their shape from my position was a challenge. And as to their colour – it was impossible to capture with my set of sketching watercolours.
So was it a waste of time? Not for me. I know so much more, about the flowers themselves, their structure and form, not to mention my perspective on them, simply by making lines on a page and filling them with shades and tones.
I don’t draw what I know – I draw to discover, and know more.
Yesterday I managed to catch up on Judi Dench’s My Passion for Trees, which I missed over the Christmas period.
I was particularly fascinated by the way she listened to the trees, hearing the rumblings and the sounds of the water being sucked up, flowing along the trunk and throughout the tree. What strength is quietly at work within, usually entirely unnoticed by us. Similarly the networks of fungal threads, hidden underground and connecting a society of support and protection.
Today I walked in my garden looking at the trees and thinking about their networks of life giving energy. I don’t have a tree “stethoscope” like Judi but I could still pick up some beautiful wind blown pieces of bark and ask myself the question “What can I hear?”