Today my search continued to discover Sphagnum moss sites in the North East of Scotland.
Many of the Sphagnum moss areas, identified from the past, have been drained on the whole to build new housing estates, used for farmland or to establish commercial forests.
Located west of Peterhead, I visited Rora moss a largely forested wood with pine trees and a small area of birch holding pillows of the elusive Sphagnum moss. The land was quite sodden, but not enough to deter me. There appeared to be four types of sphagnum in the area, but on closer inspection only two types in different stages of growth.
Through searching for Sphagnum moss in local bogs, thoughts of the practice of collector in wartime come to play a large part in the experience, where cold and dull overcast days didn't deter the hardy souls looking to collect the correct Sphagnum moss. This would be sent off from the local depot and forwarded on to the depot in Aberdeen, headquarters of the North East of Scotland.
It will be cleaned, sorted and made into medical dressings and bandages, and would then be bundled up and sent on to the battlefields where it was to be used to stem the flow of blood on the injured or to the war hospitals here in Britain to help the recovery of the returning wounded soldiers. The moss can soak up to 20 times its weight in liquid and is antiseptic, making it ideal for use in a medical dressing.
Thank you Murray, for joining me on all the mossy adventures.
Further investigation into mono printing has included painting with oil paint onto an acrylic sheet. The oil paint is worked into an image using a palette knife. The outcome gives the impression of a matrix of spaces inside the moss.
Very pleased with the progress so far.
The next step is to print with oil paint onto the canvas before adding to stretchers.
The depth of field was challenging when photographing Sphagnum moss under the microscope today.
The top row of the image below is a selection of photographs captured with varying depths of field. Using Adobe Photoshop's 'clone' tool, the larger, totally in-focus rendition was created.
The image above gives an honest representation of the Sphagnum moss. Yet, the stacked and layered glasslike interpretation below is more realistic. The majority of the plant is out of focus, true to life and impressing of moss filled with liquid, gathered from the moss bog. In comparison, the image above has the appearance of empty chambers.
Today with the help of technical services officer Emily Hunter at RGU's Botanical and Life Sciences school I watched as the tiniest of plant parts and patterns came into focus on the digital microscope. Here are some of the images taken.
A good start to see the mechanism that Sphagnum moss has which makes it draw up 20 times its weight in liquid. A mechanism that helped save many lives during the First World War when this antiseptic moss was used in bandages and wound dressings to stanch bleeding and stop infection.
The structure will be explored further through painting.
2019 is welcomed by producing a unique set of monoprints.
Working to produce individual prints on paper, linen, jute and hessian, as Paul Klee would have done, later to be worked further with the addition of oil paint.
The set follows on from sketches and studies made in the past year on the topic of the 'Rose', intentionally adding composition lines as part of the print.
WASPS Studios, Aberdeen hosted its annual open weekend, with a collection of artists from Eagle House and Langstane studios exhibiting and opening their studios. As a change from the norm, this year Lorraine Taylor, Wilma Dunbar and Mel Russell put forward the idea for each artist in the studios to collectively display an exhibition of small unframed works with a limited dimension, giving the public an opportunity to buy affordable art.
Over the two days of the WASPS Studios, Aberdeen Open Studios and small works exhibition visitors from all walks of life came to view and connect with the artists and makers and sometimes purchase a small piece of work. On my part...many collaborative seeds were sown to follow up in the coming months.
My initial response was to paint the detail of the rose flower head... I continued on this theme until the first Exposition of my Masters in Fine Art at Gary's School of Art.
After further sketching and writing text in relation to the war aspect of the artefact, by this summer I had decided that this work needed to be given more attention.
So this morning I created the following study to confirm colours before proceeding onto the two 1m x 1m canvases.
Later this month I will be opening my studio doors as part of WASPS studios small exhibition and open studios if you would like to see the progress. Link here
Last month I was invited by Philip Wilkie of the Garthdee Field Allotment Association (GFAA), Aberdeen to give a talk today about my MA project work after the annual AGM.
My background as a Graphic Designer and Botanical Artist was touched upon and how I came to be doing a part-time Masters in Fine Art to progress my art practice from working on paper with watercolour or ink and changing this to working on canvas with oils.
The MA project ...a response to plant growing and collecting in the First Word War and the aftermath that ensued... was mentioned with a focus on the research, artefacts and the artwork that came out of working on my small allotment for the recent Masters Show.
An overview of the other topics on collected and grown plants from my MA project was given, with one new artwork in particular, which is going from sketchbook to canvas tomorrow and will be previewed here in the coming weeks.
Below is a screen capture of the presentation given to the GFAA.
The talk seemed to go down well with those attending, with lots of good discussion and feedback afterwards, and very pleased to be given the opportunity to share my work.
Progress of my study into the growing and collecting of plants during World War One and the aftermath that ensued, has been diverse, covering many streams of study. The decision was made half way through my first year to commit my time to specific plants collected during WW1 and also the growing of food on an allotment.
This display at the MA show had two areas and was a work-in-progress exhibition of my current work.
Below is the response made to my time spent working on the allotment.
During the second and third semesters of my Masters in Fine Art I have been growing and collecting produce from the allotment.
The culmination of this experience was turned into an exhibition for the Masters Show in September.
A 'potting shed' display with seed packets with previous plant artworks and photographs transferred onto envelopes cascading through a collection of artefacts, collected seeds and herbs; a collection of photographs and art printed onto small wooden panels showing the progress of the allotment over this time; Sage plants that had been propagated from cuttings and were given out to visitors to the show.
The second depicts the start of an artwork in response to the foxglove plant. This for a botanical artist would normally be on paper with watercolour or pencil and depict the full plant with various parts in close up.
Utilising the shape of the flower spike I decided to create an artwork that was different to the norm, using many panels of varied sizes with each depicting a part of the plant in closeup. The installation shows some of the plant materials, photographs, plans, drawings, tools to be used and the blank wooden panels ready to be worked on.
You will probably notice that the work I am producing at the moment is in square aspect...my rational for this is the veer away from the standard ideology format used for botanical or landscape painting. My works produced in the coming months will be the foxglove and also a series of plant paintings, with each in a landscape from where it would be collected. I will also be revisiting sketches from the rose exposition and turning these into paintings. So for this and the other pieces I have made the decision to continue the 'square' for the duration of my MA studies.
Fiona Swapp lives and works in Aberdeen. She has over 30 years experience as a graphic designer and botanical artist.
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