Hedera hibernica, Irish ivy
It’s always a great feeling to finish up a project and to finally clear away all the scraps of paper, paint and plants that accumulate whilst the painting is being done. This latest project has taken even longer than usual, as I needed to paint the whole lifecycle of the plant, so my colour studies began in April this year with the berries, and finished this month with the flowers.
The plant is the Irish ivy, or Hedera hibernica, or Eidhneán. It is not a plant that I would have really given much thought to before, but the more that I got to know it, the more I began to like it.
Ivy has captured our imaginations throughout history from the Acient Greeks to the Celts. It symbolised eternity and fertility, friendship and fidelity. During the Samhain festivities (Hallowe’en) in Ireland, young girls would place nine ivy leaves beneath her pillow to dream of the man she will marry.
To dream of the living and not of the dead
To dream of the man I am going to wed
To see him tonight at the foot of my bed.
Ivy is everywhere…it’s tenacious, it’s resilient, it’s adaptable. It has an elegant beauty with glossy leaves, delicate flowers and dark berries. It’s hugely important to wildlife too, with the flowers and fruit providing nourishment throughout the winter months, and it’s evergreen canopy giving welcome shelter to birds, insects and small mammals. True, it is invasive, but that is part of it’s charm… it doesn’t give up.
|Early studies ivy berries. They start off as green and slowly darken to a purply black.|
Ivy has two different types of leaves, palmately lobed juvenile leaves on creeping and climbing stems and unlobed cordate adult leaves on fertile flowering stems,usually found at the top of the plant. However when studying the plant I realised that there can be huge differences in the shape and size of leaves from plant to plant.
|Hedera flower and leaves|
I did a wasp study (rescued from a windowsill) but never painted it onto the final piece. Another studio find was a ladybird which gave a much needed pop of colour to the green leaves.
In the course of my studies, I stumbled across another "must-have" paint... Winsor and Newton Transparent yellow. What a useful colour! It made painting those greens so much easier. I must have tried a dozen different mixes before settling on cerulean, indigo, perylene green and transparent yellow.