plants

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Art Craft

Bas Reliefs by Rachel Dein Preserve the Supple Contours of Herbs, Flowers, and Plants

March 2, 2022

Grace Ebert

Stinging nettle. All images © Rachel Dein, shared with permission

Soft and fibrous, the leaves of the stinging nettle are infamous for their minuscule hairs that produce burning sensations when touched. The plant, though, is also a striking example of nature’s penchant for structural patterns and texture, with small, serrated edges and delicate ribbed veins. It’s not easy to study or touch these intricate forms without exposing a finger or hand to potential pain, a barrier made less formidable by London-based artist Rachel Dein.

For the last 11 years, Dein (previously) has plucked herbs, flowers, and other foliage from the soil and arranged her findings into new assemblages. She’s an early cultivator of the botanical bas relief technique, which involves pressing the compositions into clay and filling the impressions with plaster, concrete, and most recently, iron powder and resin. The resulting tiles, which have grown in scale from 40-centimeter squares to two-meters-long, preserve the supple shapes of sage, snowdrops, and ripe blackberries, immortalizing their unique contours and network-like systems long after they’ve withered and wilted.

Dein has multiple projects in progress at the moment: one casting Alpine plants from Switzerland and another working with the garden plants at Nunnington Hall in Yorkshire, which will culminate in an exhibition in February 2023. She’s also creating limited-edition embossed prints and exploring additional materials, like glass, iron, and copper. Shop available pieces on Etsy, and keep an eye on Instagram for new releases.

 

Weeds

Herbs

Turquoise snowdrops

Left: Geum. Right: Ribes, leucojum, and muscari

Ferns

Snowdrops

Rosemary, sage, betony, ribwort, astragalus gummifer, and alchemila

 

 



Illustration Music

Musicians Harmonize with Plants and Birds in Gaspart's Soothing Digital Illustrations

February 28, 2022

Grace Ebert

All images © Gaspart, shared with permission

Twined with leafy vines, Gaspart’s series of digital illustrations titled Birds, Plants & Music emits the calming, lyrical presence we need right now. The collection, which was inspired by research detailing the effects of melodies and other audible compositions on vegetation, centers on lone instrumentalists with exaggerated limbs and gargantuan feet. Each casually sits on the ground or curls forward in a crouch to pluck the strings of an upright bass and buzz into a trumpet.

In a note to Colossal, Gaspart shares that he begins with a preliminary sketch that he then recreates with shapes in complementary palettes. Shades of purple are prominent in the violinist’s garments and backdrop, for example, while bright, brassy orange dominates the image of the saxophonist. As a follow-up to the illustrations shown here, Gaspart also collaborated with motion designer Bogdan Dumitriu, the sound design studio Ronroco Audio, and musicians Pablo Jivotovschii and Jake Fridkis to animate three of the compositions.

Gaspart, who lives in Maisons-Laffitte just outside of Paris, shares details about his process, in addition to similarly tranquil renderings, on Behance and Instagram.

 

 

 



Illustration

Whimsy and Vintage Illustrations Merge in Colorful Stippled Tattoos by Joanna Swirska

February 24, 2022

Grace Ebert

All images © Joanna Swirska, shared with permission

Amidst delicate black lines and stippled shading, Polish tattoo artist Joanna Swirska (previously) inks splashes of bright pigments. Her works blend fanciful elements with elegant illustrations of flora and fauna, like her signature ferns and detailed monsteras colored with bright green gradients. Often covering an entire upper arm or calf, the tattoos are whimsical in both subject matter and style, depicting raccoons dressed in orange hooded capes, birds perching on berry-studded branches, and cheerful cats riding retro cruisers.

Swirska, who’s known as Dzo Lama, lives in the Karkonosze mountains and works between Jelenia Gora and Wroclaw, where she runs Nasza Tattoo Shop. Her books are closed until July, but keep an eye out for future openings on her Instagram. You can also pick up prints, mugs, and other goods adorned with her illustrated characters on Etsy.

 

 

 



History Illustration Science

A 900-Page Book Catalogs Hundreds of Medicinal Plants through Colorful Renaissance-Era Woodcuts

February 23, 2022

Grace Ebert

Mandragora officinarum L., Mandrake. All images © Taschen, shared with permission

Memorialized in his namesake flower the Fuschia, Leonhart Fuchs was a German physician and groundbreaking botanical researcher. He published an immense catalog of his studies in 1543 titled The New Herbal, which paired colorful woodcut illustrations of approximately 500 plants with detailed writings about their physical features, medical uses, and origins. Fuch’s own hand-colored copy remains in pristine condition to this day and is the basis for a forthcoming edition published by Taschen. Weighing more than 10 pounds, the nearly 900-page volume is an ode to Fuch’s research and the field of Renaissance botany, detailing plants like the leafy garden balsam and root-covered mandrake. The New Herbal is available for pre-order from Taschen and Bookshop.

 

Impatiens balsamina L., Garden Balsam, Common Balsam, Jewelweed

Pulsatilla vulgaris MILL., Pasque Flower

 

 



Art

Balloons, Plants, and Bubble Wrap Become Powerful Subversive Symbols in Alicia Brown's Portraits

January 31, 2022

Grace Ebert

“Love notes from my father in a foreign land when the apple trees blossom” (2021), oil on canvas, 48 x 36 inches. All photos by Daniel Perales Studio, © Alicia Brown, shared with permission

In her new body of work What About the Men?, Jamaica-born, Sarasota-based artist Alicia Brown extracts and reenvisions elements of traditional portraiture. She recasts objects of cultural and social status, like the elaborate gowns and thick ruffled collars worn by wealthy aristocrats throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, by instead rendering her subjects in casual clothing like shorts and rubber flipflops with colorful latex balloons, plants, and plastic bubble wrap coiled around their necks.

Contemporary and subversive, Brown’s oil paintings are rooted in history and a reinvented use of symbols interpreted as power, control, celebration, adaptation, and survival. She explains:

As an artist from the Caribbean, Jamaica, which was colonized by Europe, presently there is still that system of classism that has its origin during slavery and colonialism in Jamaica that the natives have to navigate in order to fit into society. I have referenced the collar as an object that is European and replaced it with objects such as spoons, cotton swaps, shells, balloons, bubble wrap, and recently elements of nature. These collars adorned the neck of the models who are regular people and who are constantly going through a performance of creating an identity to gain acceptance.

Derived from a photograph of a friend, family member, or neighbor, each intimate portrait is set against a lush backdrop of foliage or in domestic scenes with encroaching plant and animal life. “Through my work, I hope to convey to the viewer to look beyond their eyes and to see themselves as the person represented in the painting, to share their world, and to come to the awareness that we share so much in common, we are all connected as beings,” the artist shares.

If you’re in Rochester, you can see What About the Men? through March 6 at UUU Art Collective. Otherwise, visit Brown’s site and Instagram.

 

“The Duke of Portmore-dad’s legacy” (2022), 48 x 36 inches

“The queen’s coronation” (2020), oil on canvas, 48 x 36 inches

“Male bird of paradise” (2021), oil on canvas, 64 x 42 inches

“You look just like your father” (2021), oil on canvas

“There is a race of men who do not fit in” (2021), oil on canvas, 48 x 36 inches

“Portrait of lady Cameal from Alva” (2020), oil on canvas, 28 x 36 inches

 

 

 



Photography

Unearthly Plant Photos by Tom Leighton Highlight Nighttime Chemical Processes

January 30, 2022

Anna Marks

All images © Tom Leighton, shared with permission

Otherworldly in appearance, Tom Leighton’s photographs center on stems and leaves that emit a luminous glow, unveiling their delicate structures and highlighting their chemical processes. His Variegation II series reveals the nightlife of foliage—Leighton focuses on plants from Cornwall, some of which he grows in his garden and others farther afield—and examines what humans might have been able to see if our night vision had evolved.

The ongoing project also explores the possibilities of color manipulation. After photographing the plants, Leighton digitally strips back their characteristic greenish hues, using dreamy fluorescent colors to represent the photosynthesis process. He tells Colossal:

Plants are incredible stores of energy. They grow towards anything which provides for them: nutrition, the moisture, the light, then they absorb, contain, and convert…The colours I have used in this series represent the light absorbed within the structure of the plants and its conversion to energy. Sometimes one small colour choice or different crop unlocks the potential of the image.

Leighton previously photographed Hong Kong and Tokyo, but COVID-19 shifted his work closer to home where he began documenting everyday greenery, focusing on their textures and details. “Many of the plants are quite common, and it was more about elevating and accentuating a complexity, which can so often be overlooked,” he says.

In addition to Variegation II,  Leighton is also working on a series named Kynance, which explores the geological history of one of Cornwall’s most dynamic coastlines. To view more of his work, visit his website and Behance. (via This Isn’t Happiness)

 

A photograph of a luminous looking plant by Tom Leighton. Colored to show its delicate structure

A photograph of a luminous looking plant by Tom Leighton. Colored to show its delicate structure

A photograph of a luminous looking plant by Tom Leighton. Colored to show its delicate structure

A photograph of a luminous looking plant by Tom Leighton. Colored to show its delicate structure

A photograph of a luminous looking plant coloured to show its delicate structure

A photograph of a luminous looking plant by Tom Leighton. Colored to show its delicate structure

A photograph of a luminous looking plant by Tom Leighton. Colored to show its delicate structure