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Wednesday, 23rd April 2003, West Yorkshire

In the afternoon sun small black flies rest on the blossoms of kingcups, also known as marsh marigold Caltha palustris, a member of the buttercup family. While I'm drawing it by the garden pond small black beetles settle on my sketchbook. Perhaps they're pollen beetles from the fields of oilseed rape that are now, like the kingcups, in yellow flower.

male smooth newt

Frogs rest in the pond with their eyes just above the surface. Their activity around the frog-spawn finished about a month ago but below the surface amongst the pondweeds male smooth newts are performing their mating dances - wafting their tails at the females who trundle around moving slowly like mime artists as they investigate plants on which to lay their eggs.


Kingcups make good subjects to draw because the structure of the flowers, leaves and stems is so clear. What I hadn't reckoned on was how fidgety these plants are: in the two hours or so that I spend drawing them their stems curve and their flowers move to follow the sun. One or two flowers open up as I'm drawing.

Despite all these drawbacks I'd rather work from the living, moving plant than from a photograph (as I was often forced to do when I worked on botanical illustrations that had to be finished on a tight deadline, invariably during the wrong season of the year). I want to improve my drawing this summer so I'm hoping to have more opportunities to draw wild flowers as they really are. I'm not aiming to create pleasing pictures to frame up and sell, nor do I wish to produce botanical studies where a 'perfect' specimen is portrayed in order to make identification easier; what I'd like to do is to draw the plants just as they are. next page

Richard Bell