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
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