Amongst the Thorns
Graphite and pastel on bristol board
Andrena varians, aka The Blackthorn Mining Bee
For the second round of FiftyBees I was allocated Andrena varians, aka the Blackthorn Mining Bee. There are substantial areas of blackthorn on the South Downs and a lovely walk between Lewes and Ringmer where they are often found by bee specialists. But this is January and I really need to find inspiration more locally.
Research taught me how to tell the difference between Blackthorn and Hawthorn. In spring the Blackthorn flowers earliest and before the leaves emerge, Hawthorn is later at the same time as the leaves. So a long walk around muddy footpaths and I found a Blackthorn bush (only to return home and find we had planted one amongst our Hawthorn hedge!)
I was particularly pleased to have a spiky plant to work with. Many of my early detailed drawings were of lichen on hawthorn twigs but I wanted to move away from the detail for this project and continue my exploration of graphite powder working with shadows and light.
An early attempt but the Blackthorns were still in bud at this time of year and the flowers were causing difficulties.
Playing with the shapes, embossing and powder
Perfecting the bee
Just in time - the flowers are exquisite
stage one and two - outline and flowers
(I forgot to photograph the end of stage one)
stage three - background shading
the finished piece ready for framing
and then moving onto:
Click on the invites for more information
It's hard to know when an idea first germinates, what makes it grow and why it suddenly needs to flourish.
The Wasps came to a head last summer when we had a huge nest in our loft and we began to find dead ones laying around the house (and a huge number of live ones too!)
They found a way down next to the chimney and, once the pheromone path was set, it became part of their daily flight path. We ducked as they shot across the room to the window, waiting patiently until we released them. Evenings were spent listening to incessant buzzing, a fatal attraction to the lights. And so the collection grew.
During the drawing there is a need to learn more. Did you know that wasps eat spiders? they clear the detritus from our gardens? they pollinated the raspberries last year? The fluffy bee has a wonderful reputation, it's time someone championed the wasp.
In 2014 a Bufftail Bumble Bee Queen made a nest in our loft space and I spent a fascinating summer watching the family foraging my garden. After a few months we noticed extra activity as the young males waited for the new queens to emerge and the next generation was on it's way. Bumble Bees do not live a long life and I often found specimens dotted about the garden.
Drawing them was so obvious but I didn't expect it to turn out quite the way it has. There are many days when I am unable to spend much time in the studio, but for an artist it is important to draw regularly. Although detailed and multilayered, I found drawing a bee to be just the right amount of time and so it began. Posting phonesnaps of the finished bees on Social Media gave me additional encouragement, as did the number of people asking to buy one!
I do not draw a bee every day, I'm not that disciplined, but they are there for me when needed. It has been fascinating to see how they have changed, how drawing them every day for a period of time has made me look for interesting angles and deeper at the way they are constructed.
Here is a small selection. If you want to see them all, have a look at my facebook, twitter or instagram photos - try searching for "#DailyBee"
Ash blackened form Piercing eyes
Sinister elegance Scouring the earth
The light turns Rays hit the wraith
Shimmering splendour Changeling filled sky
Diving, weaving, blending A million wraiths as one
Fearsome, awe inspiring A natural wonder
Dusk falls The wraith descends
Merging with the woods Disappearing as one
Again, all is ash black