Saving England's most threatened species from extinction

The diary of an artist

On the 9th of December, Amanda - our Back from the Brink Community Artist for the South-East led a beautiful event for our Colour in the Margins project, set in Kent.
Our Community Art project is all about informing people of the rare and threatened wildlife, right on their doorstep - through creative processes. With events happening across England - we hope to inspire people to come together and act for species on the brink of extinction.

Amanda's event was wonderful, a day of beauty. Below is her story - a visual diary - about her journey with Back from the Brink. Take it with her as she walks you through the months leading to her event.

Enjoy...

 

September.
I'm so excited to be working with Back from the Brink on their Community Arts project, 'Colour in the Margins'…
I am planning a walking and drawing event. For me, drawing is a necessary activity and I love encouraging others to draw in a very open-ended and spontaneous way.
Here is some initial research into the wonderful pigments found in nature... Especially in and around the Kent Downs. I’ll be playing with plant dyes for a while…

 
Autumn colours (photo on the right) – researching and collecting – it’s a brilliant time of year for colour, I want to pick every berry! The smells are wonderful too, fragrant and subtle... Rowan berries had a very sweet scent.

October 2nd.
I've started my set of species drawings with natural pigments and inks, as part of my work with Back from the Brink. This is the lovely Shrill Carder Bee, a target species for BftB, which I’m thrilled to include in my project plan. Named for its high-pitched buzz, Shrill Carder Bees were once found throughout southern Britain. However, many areas that were once filled with wildflowers, on which these bees depend, have been lost. This is because of changes in the way land is managed, and expanding development. Only tiny clusters of the bee’s former population are still holding on. Drawing made with oak gall ink, wild privet and buckthorn bark wash.


October 3rd
As you can see above, I've created some abstract studies using sloe, Ash leaves, Oak gall and wild privet inks – they produce the most amazing soft and natural colours...


October 11th.
A new drawing in earth pigments, Oak gall ink and chalk. This is the Turtle Dove; it relies heavily on the seeds of arable plants like Fumitory, and has greatly declined due to changes in land management that affects these plants.


October 18th.
Today I visited Court Farm and Ranscombe Farm (a Plantlife reserve) - with Wynona Legg, Outreach Officer for Colour in the Margins.
We found many beautiful plants and flowers along our walk, the landscape is wonderful and Wynona’s knowledge is astonishing!


October 20th.
Today I'm grinding down some Oak galls in granite mortar and pestle, breaking them to release the tannin.
These will steep with rusty nails and the resulting chemical reaction of the iron salts and tannic acids produces oak gall ink, one of the world’s oldest known inks! It was the standard ink formulation between the 5th- 19th centuries, Leonardo da Vinci made many drawings with it. The brown/black colour you get from it is so sensitive, really brilliant for tone and line.


October 24th
– I have really enjoyed peering at some wonderful arable seeds and made these drawings of Cornsalad and Small-flowered Catchfly in Oak gall and Ash leaf ink.
Both these arable plants are rapidly declining. The seeds are exquisite structures. I also love this amazing photo of the Interrupted Brome seeds!


October 26th
More intricate seeds – this is the Corn Buttercup, an arable flower that’s critically endangered. Its sharp spines have earned it the names: devil’s claws, devil-on-all-side and hellweed - among others. Oak gall and Ash leaf ink.


November 9th
The Fingered Speedwell - a tiny, hairy, arable species with leaves less than 1cm long and deep blue flowers. At very high risk of extinction in the wild… Making this drawing really brought me back to my love of early botanical art…

 
November 14th
Interrupted Brome and the Necklace Ground Beetle - two rare arable species, targeted by Back from Brink's 'Colour in the Margins' project and drawn by yours truly in Oak gall ink. Ready to get these to the printers to start making sets of postcards…

  
November 23rd
Three more postcard drawings from my forays into creating inks from natural sources found amongst the Kent Downs... Its all been valuable research.


November 23rd
Thinking about the finer details of the event now... And designing my poster!


November 28th
Sadly, no sloe gin for me this year, I saved my Kent Downs sloes for making inks! What a deep colour they produce, its like velvet!


November 28th - Scores of blank postcards under here, just waiting for inky drawings… It’ll be a day of immersion: Walk, Draw and Celebrate our arable species, there’s so much to find out about!


November 29th
Two new postcards I’ve made with sloe, Buckthorn bark and Oak gall inks, plus a touch of Rosehip… they are properly earthy!
Once they are soft, Rosehips give a lovely red paste that you can push around the paper.


December
Some of the byways and footpaths of the stunning Kent Downs near Rochester that will be enjoyed at my event... With a map of the walks we'll be doing - taking us past a beautiful arable margin. Even in the winter, you'll see wildlife in these areas.


Using ground chalk and wash for these latest postcards – the brightness of the chalk is surprising! When it dries, you can brush it off and reveal a ghost mark underneath.


December 7th
Not long now till my event with Colour in the Margins!
I’ve loved making these ink test sheets of colours…. there’s such variety in them.

 
Sunday the 9th December - event day!
What a beautiful morning it is for walking in the arable farmland and making some unique artwork! All set up for Drawing from Nature at Court Farm, thanks to all those who helped transform the barn into a farmyard studio!
Look what people made:

 

 

Amanda Thesiger

BftB Artist for the South-east, 2018.

 

If you would like to know more about our Community Arts project and the events going on across England - take a look at the Facebook page - be the first in the know! Or alternatively - keep your eyes peeled on our events page.

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