Pressing Memories from Pentagram

This little gem came in the mail today, what a nice surprise! Pentagram, the best and most accessible design firm in the world, occasionally sends out gifts in the form of their “Pentagram Papers” series. These are projects they create because they find the stories interesting—plus they are dynamite marketing tools. Nobody does this better.

Anyway, this is the story of Marie Luise “Agnes” Leibbrand from Stuttgart, Germany, who between 1876-1890 collected flower samples on her many travels throughout Europe. When her clippings of wildflowers, leaves and ferns were still fresh and free from dew, Agnes would press them between volumes of books or with a special field press. Once dry, Agnes bound them into neat arrangements and fixed the blooms to a piece of card or unfolded envelope, meticulously labelling each one with a number, date, and description of origin.

Agnes produced 42 of these pressings, weaving Europe’s natural history with her own more personal one. This small publication beautifully shows us each one. This is what great design can do. Thanks to DJ Stout at Pentagram Austin for keeping me on their list. I treasure each and every one of these.


Image 3
Image 2
Image 1

Here is a brief sequence that hopefully illustrates the concept of bringing a drawing/painting “into focus”. First of course, is the pencil drawing which is transferred to Fabriano hot press paper. Then I begin to lightly—very lightly— lay down layers of color, paying close attention to how light hits the forms. Image number three is about six hours in, I’m still slowly applying color layers. This piece is about 40 percent done, still a long way to go. More work on lights and darks, adding leaves and grasses in the foreground, and tons of sharpening and burnishing.

In the middle: a pyramidal orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis) with two common fragrant orchids (Gymnadenia conopsea) on either side. It is quite difficult to tell these two orchids apart in the field.