“To ‘bee’ in nature is to experience one of our planet’s most awesome gifts. Spring makes its own statement, so loud and clear that the gardener seems to be only one of the instruments, not the composer.”
Art and gardening go hand-in-hand. Nature provides a plethora of subjects for an artist - anything from a blade of grass to a ten meter tall tree and everything in between, including all the little mammals, insects, reptiles and birds that inhabit our outdoor space.
Hydrangea flower - ink sketch and watercolour
Certainly being inspired by my garden and nature has led me on some unexpected paths. While sketching a subject I have often had to research it's name if I didn't know it, which has broadened my horizons immensely and also given me insight into the habits and habitats of many of the fauna and flora I have sketched.
Hydrangeas from my garden in a vase on my kitchen table
Gardening has taught me to work with nature, not against it. It has taught me not to waste water, to recycle yard trimmings and kitchen plant-based scraps into compost and wisely disposing of plastic pots, soil bags. etc. An important rule in my gardening is to do no harm. Like avoiding chemical fertilizers that run into rivers, oceans and wetlands and not planting invasive species that could wipe out our native varieties.
Red-chested Cuckoo in my garden (Piet-my-Vrou)
I also do not use pesticides and herbicides, which tend to kill many more creatures than the one or two bugs you're trying to get rid of. By creating a friendly wildlife habitat, it provides food and shelter for birds, butterflies, lizards and ladybugs, all great sketching matter!
Bee on a Shasta daisy - Visiting flowers can be a dangerous occupation for a bee! Many assassin bugs and crab spiders hide in flowers to capture unwary bees and many bees are lost to birds in flight. Insecticides used on blooming plants kill many bees, both by direct poisoning and by contamination of their food supply.
Sketching in nature has taught me to pay great attention to detail. It has made me aware of the plight of our fauna and flora as they struggle to keep up with the ever-encroaching 'progress' of our towns and cities.
Guineafowl in my garden
A few years ago we regularly had guinea fowl passing through our property, great opportunities for sketching them. Over the past few years I don't see guinea fowl for months on end. It will certainly be a sad day when artists will have to resort to painting from photographs only...