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house martins

Broad-leaved Dock

31st May 2002, West Yorkshire

I've come out to sit by the pond and write but this plant catches my eye and I can't resist drawing it. Broad-leaved dock, Rumex obtusifolius, is classified as an injurious weed so, when I've finished my sketch, I'd better make efforts to prevent it spreading.

broad-leaved dock

It's appealing to draw because the structure is so obvious. I'm working in pen and ink so I start at the top of the plant and work down, which means that I don't keep smudging what I've just drawn and also that I can see what I've already drawn and relate what I draw next to it. Besides, it feels natural to work from the top down, as if I'm following the force of gravity.

I try not to make it a botanical study - emphasising and explaining features - but equally I don't, at the moment, want to make it an overtly expressionist drawing, one that illustrates my state of mind more than it does the plant.

Today I just want to use the simplest method of making marks, which for me is using a fountain pen with a sketching nib. I want the plant to dictate the drawing as much as I can. I feel that there's a rhythm to its structure, something that reminds me of musical form; in the variations of shape in stem and leaf, and in the intervals and proportions between them. As in a piece of music the smallest detail reflects the character of the whole.

With the wavy leaf edges and the elegantly curved stems there's something of Stradivarius in the design of the dock. A related species, Rumex pulcher, is known as the fiddle dock because its leaves are often page

Richard Bell
Richard Bell,
wildlife illustrator

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