British library releases 1,000,000 images!

11010547545_c87fb8d0fc_o 11069969533_675a650ed8_o 11077607343_5fb166409b_o 11220265825_75c54dee0d_o

The British Library released over a million images onto Flickr Commons for anyone to use, remix and repurpose. These images were taken from the pages of 17th, 18th and 19th century books digitised by Microsoft who then generously gifted the scanned images, allowing their release back into the Public Domain. The images themselves cover a startling mix of subjects: There are maps, geological diagrams, beautiful illustrations, comical satire, illuminated and decorative letters, colourful illustrations, landscapes, wall-paintings and so much more. Attached are just a few from the Botanical album. It will take HOURS to look at all of this. Incredible!

Widow’s friend—Irish heritage apples

widows friend tag

I came across this apple tree in May 2015 in Scariff, at the Irish Seed Savers Association orchards. The name tag made me laugh (see below). Small to medium sized apple with an irregular shape. Pale yellow-green with large crimson blush. Its origins are in County Armagh. In the fall, the tree bears heavily, perhaps that is where the name comes from. Drawn with Faber-Castell color pencils.

widows friend

Tennessee Purple Coneflowers, phase 2

TPC 7-20

From basic shapes I’ve moved to a first, detailed drawing on tracing paper. I’ll continue to refine a bit and then transfer to good paper for a very detailed drawing—lightly drawn. Then color. Slow but sure. Below is the live specimen I’m using as a model.

TPC photo 7-20

Peche Melba—Irish Heritage Apples

peche melba

The Peche Melba was brought to England from Bessborough, County Kilkenny in 1930. A large to very large apple, round to round conical. Irregular and lopsided. Green to yellowish green with orange-red flush. Red stippling with only slight russeting. Picking early September.

Note: Information on these apples comes from a wonderful book, “The Heritage Apples of Ireland” by Michael Hennerty.

Tennessee purple coneflower


A diversion, and the beginning of a possible composition. Tennessee Purple Coneflowers, from my backyard. Just shapes and gestures now. The goal, as always, is a delicate precision, and to show the scruffy beauty of these tough little wildflowers. It always faces the east—how cool is that?!

Irish primrose

initial drawing 7-15

I’ve started kicking around some initial composition ideas for my primrose (Primula vulgaris). HB pencil and tracing paper, cutting up pieces I like and repositioning them until something clicks. Redrawing and redrawing. That’s how it starts. It’s messy but it’s also freeing since there is no risk at this point. This is how the sausage is made! Starting to like it but many more iterations to go, plus lots of feedback from instructors, fellow students, friends, etc.

Irish Peach—Irish Heritage Apples

irish peach

The Irish Peach was first described in 1820 in “Descriptions of Some of the Best Varieties of Irish Apples”. It is believed to have been raised in County Sligo. Introduced to England in 1820. It is a medium sized, round, irregular shaped apple. Pale yellow to yellowish green. Blushed red with carmine stippling. Picking early to mid August.

Drawn with Faber-Castell color pencils.

Scarlet Crofton—Irish Heritage Apples

scarlett crofton

The Scarlet Crofton was said to have been brought from England to Sir Malby Crofton, Longford House, County Sligo during the reign of Elizabeth I, in the late 1500’s or early 1600’s. It was re-introduced into England by nurseryman John Robertson of Kilkenny in 1819. It is a medium sized, oblong, slightly uneven apple. Pale yellow to yellowish green, with large areas of deep red/scarlet blush. The skin is covered with net russeting.

Drawn here with Faber Castell color pencils.

Cowslips progressing

cowslip 7-7 Last class was Tuesday night.  All of it was devoted to getting as much individual attention as possible, this being the last chance to talk to the instructor for a month. Everyone is at a different stage in the process. I’m doing ok. I think I’ve solved my leaf problems but I’ve got hours to go before I can call this one finished. My personal deadline for being done and getting a scan is October 1. That should give me plenty of time to tinker. Although I do have other projects lining up in the queue. I’ll post the finished plate as soon as it is completed.

susanR 7-7
SBAI Instructor Susan Rubin discusses with class the art of signing your work. Less is more . . .

Cowslip leaves

A weeks worth of work trying to master Primula leaves. The bottom three were failures, the top three starting to resemble a real cowslip leaf.

This past week was spent struggling to figure out the complex textures of the Primula leaves. I was expending a lot of time and effort and getting unsatisfactory results. My process—underpainting, then layering colors dark to light—just wasn’t working. By the time class started Tuesday night I was really frustrated. But, a brief conversation with Susan1 (Susan Rubin), and some encouragement from Susan2 (Susan Dimarchi), and I was back on track. Not even sure what they said, but the mere fact of being in the classroom got me to focus and see what I was doing wrong. Two instructors for the price of one! SBAI rocks! I still have many hours of leaf drawing ahead but I’m feeling much more confident.

The lesson? GO TO CLASS! That’s where the magic happens.


Here we are in the SBAI classroom, with Susan Rubin making the rounds.
Susan Rubin discusses her recommendation for the best portable pencil sharpener. Love love love tool discussions!