Friday, December 7, 2012

Painting on Fabric ... T-Shirt Art

Acrylic paint on a cotton substrate ... it took sixty hours since its inception to get the shirt to this stage, and although it's tempting to add more forms and figures, I think this is enough – it's time to move on to something else.

The paintings have been through the wash and retouched where necessary. It proved difficult to work on a grey background, which tends to adulterate the purity of the colors. In order to allow for fading when the fabric is washed the contrast is deliberately made much stronger and the hues more vivid than they would appear in real life, and borders of the illustrations are boldly outlined.

The Spring Peepers and the Showy Tick Trefoil they are perching on have been through a couple of wash cycles, and this is about how much the other colors will soften when the shirt is washed again.

T-shirt #2 ... the three sphinx moths are modeled after specimens in my insect collection. The fabric has been through a good long wash cycle and the colors and details retouched where necessary. Adding textile medium makes the pigments semi-transparent and permits the colors to be layered rather than mixed, but I'm not sure how the shirts will look after a few months of wear and tear. The underpainting – the painting done prior to washing – took about fifteen hours.

The back of T-shirt #2 – the acrylics were allowed to cure for a few days before washing and adding the final touches. The second layer of semi-transparent paint and detail involved twenty hours of work. Like the front, most of the art is themed around sphinx moths and based on a combination of photos and specimens.

Underpaintings on the front of Nature T-shirt #3.

After washing and adding some more highlights, shadows and colors, Nature T-shirt #3 is ready to wash and wear. But before I continue adding any more designs to the back ...

... I've been trying to think of what might be used as a protective clear coat to minimize wear and tear of the fabric and keep the colors vibrant. So – it's time to try an experiment.

After this painting of a Luna Moth is washed, repainted/retouched and washed again I'm going to try a layer of white glue, which is transparent when cured. I have clear acrylic but I don't feel I'm gaining anything using it for a final covering as the paints themselves are acrylics. And I think an epoxy or enamel will crackle. So I'll see what happens with the glue, and if this test is successful I'm also going to add another painting, this time employing the white glue as a transparetizing medium ... nothing ventured, nothing gained ...

Nature T-shirt #4 ... the experiment using white glue as a surface finish failed. The glue washed out, but there was no harm done. I've added a Polyphemus Moth but I'm going to leave the rest of the fabric blank so I have room to test new paints, materials and techniques.

Back to work on Nature T-shirt #3. Another experiment ... I'm using toothpicks and diaper pins to make a color sketch of the subject before doing the underpainting. The first layer of paint has been applied to the sketch of the Small Yellow Lady's Slipper (meaning it's not finished yet – as usual, there will be another coat of colors with transparetizing medium applied after washing). The drawing below is a preliminary colored sketch of a Small White Lady's Slipper.

The finished painting, themed around my favourite orchids, Lady's Slippers. Two layers of paint, the fine linework traced three times with a toothpick, and a final coat of clear acrylic.

The shirts below are twenty years old so the artwork is a little worse for wear. The tropical fish shirt fabric is acrylic. As I recall the paintings are based on the drawings in The Dell Encyclopedia of Tropical Fish.

Ruby-throated Hummingird nectaring at a Cardinal Flower ... I had no photos or drawings to reference, so this one was perforce done from memory.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

When Time Stands Still

This isn't about Einstein's General Theory of Relativity and the time dilation experienced in strong gravitational fields or accelerated frames of reference. The following images are attempts to capture time as perceived subjectively by the human mind and further filtered through the medium of the digital camera. Everything from landscapes to details, and anything in between, sometimes it was the lighting or color, sometimes the feeling, thought, or insight experienced during that special moment – here are a few of my favourite memories frozen in time ...

September Sunset – fortunately I paused for a second to snap this shot from my upstairs window, because by the time I made it downstairs to get a "better" view the magic was gone. Sometimes life's most beautiful moments are the most fleeting ...

The irresistible force of water meets the immovable rocks at Point Petre on the shoreline of Lake Ontario in a contest that has endured for thousands of years and will continue for thousands more.

Caught in the middle, clinging to the inhospitable faces of the rocks, these delicate Harebells are pounded by the wind and waves along the Point Petre shoreline but nevertheless they persevere.

Kalm's Lobelia photographed at the Stoco Fen – another flower that looks almost too fragile to hold itself upright, let alone carry the weight of the dewdrops on its petals.

Infinite Horizon – looking out over the water of Deerock Lake in early September it feels like you can see forever ...

Essence of Tranquility – Flowering Rush along the shore of the Moira River.

A Moment of Reflection – another peaceful summer scene, this photo was taken at the Clare River in July.

Shafts of frozen November sunlight filtered through a frost covered stand of Tall Goldenrod.

The golden sunlight of an autumn afternoon captured within the silky strands of a milkweed follicle about to let its seeds fly free.

Opposites in Harmony – a Taoist theme. Despite their contrasting colors, shapes and textures the needles and the "berry" of an American Yew combine create a unified esthetic whole.

Acres and acres of Grey-stemmed Goldenrod, Mother Nature is nothing if not exuberant.

Freeze! This startled Red Squirrel was trying to make itself inconspicuous, it wasn't twitching so much as a whisker – save and except for pressing the camera's shutter button, neither was I.

Balancing Act – a female Eastern Amberwing photographed on a really hot, humid day at the Stoco Fen. This behaviour is called "obelisking"; by pointing its wings and abdomen at the sun, the dragonfly reduces the amount of heat and light absorbed by its body.

Ripples in Time – Crustose Lichens creating some interesting geometry on a fragment of gneiss. Lichens grow about one millimeter per year (this can vary, depending on the species and climate), making these growths anywhere from 150 to 200 years old. And the gneiss itself could well be the age of the earth ... about 4.5 billion years ...

Vestiges of Bittersweet – most of the fruits have fallen from the vine, but it only takes a tiny touch of color to brighten up an otherwise overcast October afternoon. Sometimes a little bit goes a long way ...

Splashes of Scarlet – tangled masses of eye-catching Virginia Creeper growing along a late September hedgerow.

Mute Swans at Presqu'ile Provincial Park ... "When it hurts to look back and you're scared to look ahead, you can look beside you and your best friend will be there." – Author Unknown

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Black and Yellow Argiope (Argiope aurantia)

A large, robust spider, the female Black and Yellow Argiope can attain a length of about 25 mm, the considerably smaller males, as is often typical among spiders, are only about 5 mm long. To date, a Cicada or Dogday Harvestfly is the largest prey I have ever seen one of these spiders take down.

The white zigzag pattern in many orb weaver's webs is called a stabilimentum, so called because at one time it was thought to stabilize the web. But experiments have shown that the stabilimentum – and the spider itself – reflect ultraviolet light. Since many insect's eyes are sensitive to the UV spectrum and flowers often reflect patterns visible in UV to attract insect pollinators, the current theory in vogue is that the stabilimentum and spider may act as lures to entice insects into the web. However, as adult Cicadas don't eat it's not likely this one was tricked into flying in the web – it was unlucky and simply blundered in.

A couple more views of this harmless, attractive arachnid.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Tricky Tick Trefoils, Flowering Fabaceae and Leafy Legumes

Magnificent in magenta, groups of eye-catching Tick Trefoil can be found blooming in sunny locations along the Moira River shoreline during the first week of July. After consulting the species accounts in my field guides and various Internet sources I decided that the plants' attributes were consistent with Showy Tick Trefoil (Desmodium canadense).

Growing all by itself in a much shadier shoreline area in mid-August, the stems and leaves of this Tick Trefoil are more delicate and much less hairy than the plants above, and the flowers have a different aspect. Is this a different species – Illinois Tick Trefoil (Desmodium illinoense) – or are the variances due to habitat?

Tick Trefoils are best distinguished by their loments (the pod-like fruits) so I re-visited the site where the plants in the photos above were growing, and unfortunately there was no sign of any fruits.

Regardless of which species this eventually proves to be it is definitely a beautiful and striking flower that stands out from the crowd.

Tick Trefoil are members of the family Fabaceae (a.k.a. Leguminosae) which includes the clovers (several species in our area), and economically important plants such as peas and beans. Another ubiquitous and showy legume which prefers the same riparian habitat as the trefoil(s) is the Groundnut (Apios americana).

The American Hog Peanut (Amphicarpaea bracteata) has somewhat less flashy flowers but is just as common; this vine flourishes in drier areas along the trail as well as the riverbank.

Originally native to Eurasia and Africa, Crown Vetch (Securigera varia) is planted on this side of the pond along roadside embankments and other areas that require erosion control. Since Fabaceae are symbiotic with nitrogen-fixing bacteria (rhizobia) in their root nodules they also have the added benefit of reconditioning and reclaiming poor soils. Considered an invasive species in some jurisdictions, this plant's pros outweigh its cons ... and besides, masses of Crown Vetch in bloom look nice.

In addition to improving soil fertility many Fabaceae species such as clovers and alfalfas are valued as livestock fodder. On the other hand, some – Bird's-foot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus), for example – do have their down side. Every grazing animal is potentially the enemy of a plant, and in response many plants have evolved chemical defenses to deter hungry herbivores. Bird's-foot Trefoil's defensive weapon of choice is deadly prussic acid.

Trifolium pratense, better known as Red Clover ... but there are times when "Trifolium" seems to be a misnomer. I have often stumbled across several plants – White Clover and Alsike Clover as well as Red Clover – growing in a relatively small area with leaves sporting four or five leaflets.

And then there's this unusual specimen, where a good number of the leaves had four or five leaflets. Is this due to genetics? Or an abundance of nutrients?

The leaves all appeared discolored ... is this caused by some kind of disease, and does it have some bearing on the plant's multi-leaved growth form?

Curiouser and curiouser – a "green" Red Clover capitulum? No, it appears that the flowers (there were actually two on this plant, a different specimen and location than the multi-leaved one above) are replaced by tiny leaves! If this characteristic is theoretically heritable the plant won't be passing it on to the next generation ... not by means of this particular "flower", in any event.