I'm on the phone to the art director of a magazine where I freelance.
I draw gardens for them. I've done it for about a year and a half.
I can remember my agent calling me up in the beginning and saying, "do you know anything about plants?"
"Yes," I lied, emptying a cold coffee into a vase of wilting peonies, "I'm a keen gardener."
This job had not turned me into a plantswoman, but I do know a little more about gardens.
Some things I have learnt about drawing plants during the last eighteen months:
- There are estimated to be over 7500 different varieties of Rose. And they're increasing. You can name a rose after your boyfriend or your dog, like you can name a star. Are there as many potential different kinds of rose as there are stars in the universe? This is something I worry about.
- Leaves on plants never overlap when they don't have to.
- Green takes up a large portion of the CIE chromaticity diagram because it is in the central area of human color perception. Or, in print terms: on my color printer info sheet there are 64 million colors that a computer can decipher. Since there are 6 colors: three primary (red/blue/yellow) and three secondary (orange/green/violet) plus black, then 64 million divided by 7 is 9,142,857.1 which means that, even in the unlikely event that each colour occupies an equal share, there are 9,142,857.1 different colors of green.
Here is something else I learned about plants:
So I've just submitted my latest piece and my delightfully, scrupulously, almost painfully polite editor is calling me up to make changes. While I'm listening, I grimace, silently, into the telephone, hoping that, this month, I haven't committed many glaring horticultural errors.
Him: "Your latest illustration for us. It's really lovely."
Me: (cheerfully, suspiciously) "Thank you."
"Really, yes, really lovely. There's just a few tiny points I'd like to go through with you. The petals of erigeron"
"Which?" (I have found that using the shortest possible responses preserves a veneer of expertise without exposing my ignorance.)
"The erigeron: the small, daisy-like flower."
"Yes? Oh - yes - I know the one you mean"
"Well, the petals should be pointing up from around the flower centre, OK? You know, like a gas flame on a hob."
"I'm sorry, not sure if this was communicated to you adequately. I'm going to send a little piccy over for reference. Would that be OK?"
"Of course." (Phew - is that all?)
Him: (cautiously) "And another little thing."
Me: (warily) "Yes?"
"Well, The echeveria is almost there but our horticultural editor feels that if you were to shrink
in size the ones around the edges (so theres a little variation) it would be
a truer depiction."
"Is that the blobby thing."
"Yes, you could call it blobby. In the corner. With blue-ish foliage."
"OK - OK. I can do that."
"That's fanatastic. That's great. Wonderful."
"Oh, fantastic - good."
"Good. Great. Wonderful. There's just one more little thing."
"Yes. In the right hand corner. Right there at the bottom."
"The little tiny plant, with the red flowers?"
"Yes, that's the one. Yes."
"Yes. Well I'm not sure whether you got the reference we emailed."
"Well, the thing is, you are going to have to alter it."
"Hmmm. Yes. OK"
"You see... Well, I can see that you've drawn it at about thirty centimetres tall."
"Well, I've consulted with our in-house expert and it seems... Well it seems that it's a little bigger. It actually grows to the height of..."
Here are a few of my recent gardens (none of which caused me so much horticultural mortification).
A late spring English cottage garden with lots of acid greens.
Full summer with foxgloves and delphiniums.
...and here are the Zingerberaceae