A Dip Pen by the Pond

Thursday, 22nd July 2004, page 2 of 2
Wild West Yorkshire nature diary

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shearsIt's great to get back to normal things like sitting here by the pond with a colander of broad beans and podding them, removing the bean from the soft, squishy velvet that lines the pod.

I'd reached a stage with my Norfolk booklet where I felt I could break off and spend and afternoon catching up in the garden. In two or three hours I've trimmed and hacked my way halfway down the hedge, past the pond as far as the broad beans.

Ever decreasing circles

bee and pond skatersA stripy bee, perhaps a mining bee, gets stuck on the surface film of the pond. Attempting to fly it merely spins in small circles, like an out-of-control speedboat.

beeAlong come the predatory pond skaters. Six or seven of them gather around it, like hyenas watching a stricken wildebeest. Perhaps it's the yellow and black stripes, perhaps it's the vigour of the trapped insect's movements, but they keep a safe distance, in a circle several inches from it.

Moving in ever decreasing circles the bee eventually finds itself by the floating roots a water plant and, wet and bedraggled, it staggers to safety.

iris podsIris Pods

I've been intending to try working in dip pen and india ink again for some time now and these seedpods of the purple iris growing in the pond are a favourite subject for me at this time of year. Simple forms that I can draw quite quickly (compared, say, to drawing the more complex ferns growing nearby).

I find that the dip pen seems to make me work more quickly. Perhaps it's the fear that the ink is going to dry up on me, perhaps it just flows more easily than some pens might. I'm using the nature journal that I started recently which has smooth paper in it and that probably helps too.

Curiously I've read somewhere that some of the Victorian illustrators, like Tenniel who illustrated the Alice books, who you might think always worked with a dip pen in fact worked with a brush, presumably a fine brush, dipped in ink.

I'll have to give that a try too. Next Page

Richard Bell, richard@willowisland.co.uk

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