Draw What You See, Not What You Think You See.

Draw What You See, Not What You Think You See.

We ran another of our weed walks — or plant safaris — last week.  At these events we look at plant families, how plants grow, their habitats and the great variety and resilience of wild plants. After ambling about inspecting and wondering at the above, we then study the plants further by drawing them.

People get scared of drawing but drawing is the least of it.  The looking is the most of it.  And we want to encourage looking (and the wonder which comes from looking) at the intricacies and complexities of even the ‘simplest’ weed/wild flower.  You should probably spend 60% of your time looking – more than drawing.  If you do that, you are more likely to end up drawing what you actually see, rather than what you expect to see.

One tip Neela Basu, our tame artist, gave us for drawing is to examine the way and direction a plant grows and, rather than draw its face (or flower) first, start at the bottom near its roots and work our way up and try to express the way its energy propels it upwards or around.

Our group, with a wealth of knowledge about growing between them, had a head start with the looking  as they were familiar with the habits and patterns of plants.  They produced some fantastic drawings.

Thanks to Capital Growth for arranging it and to Steve Ellis for the photographs.

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‘Weed’ Walk in Weston Walk

‘Weed’ Walk in Weston Walk
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Willowherb
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Common mouse-ear and procumbent pearlwort.
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Buddleia, which seems to survive on air.

It’s long been my ambition to make a record of all the ‘weeds’ growing along Mare St.  I say ‘weeds’ but really I want to rehabilitate them and rename them as wild plants.  Finally we got round to it.  We roped Annie Chipchase, a local urban ecologist, in to lead a group of us to look at, identify and draw what we found.  We started at a short stretch of unprepossessing road round the corner from the garden: Weston Walk.  It’s more of an alley — often strewn with hair from the salon that backs onto it, as well as chicken bones from the chicken shop, dumped rubbish bags and occasionally furniture.  I’d noticed, though, that a leaking pipe had provided an environment for moss to grow so I thought it would be a good place to begin our hunt.  In this short road we found 23 varieties of plants growing in the cracks and up the walls.  We were so absorbed, we hardly had time to explore or record what was growing on Mare St.  We wondered at the resilience of these plants growing in the most hostile environment – and will never look at the cracks in the pavement in the same way again.  L1020567L1020576L1020573

Drawing of pellitory of the wall.
Drawing of pellitory of the wall.
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Herb Robert
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Meadow grass
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Willowherb.

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Buddleia
Buddleia
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Speedwell.
Shepherd's Purse
Shepherd’s Purse

Seed to Seam Update

Seed to Seam Update

I’m a bit anxious about our attempt to grow a garment.  There is no lack of interest or enthusiasm but there is a lack of good quality flax.  It’s been growing OK but there are many hazards involved in raising plants in public spaces – dogs, foxes, people, weather and weeds. Even though the flax grows quickly, unless someone is on hand to look after it, it can get swallowed up by (in a recent case) bindweed.  This weakens and stunts the plant and I’m kicking myself for not checking the plots and making sure they were weeded.  Last weekend I went to Daubeney Fields to pull up the crop there.  Once again, it was a bright day in a beautiful spot by the river.  It took us about an hour to pull the crop up, but it was a bit thin.  Other harvests (notably at Saint Elizabeth’s School in Bethnal Green) have been great, so I can hope that our growers out there have been more careful nurturers than me.  I have learnt my lesson.

The good news is that, via Twitter and a recent dye workshop, we have recruited some spinners – both experienced and novice.  We have also been offered a spinning wheel by a very kind donor so we’ll just have to do it again next year.

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