Sunday, 4 May 2014

Laburnum and The Bee

"For to the bee a flower is a fountain of life,
And to the flower a bee is a messenger of love,
And to both, bee and flower, the giving and the receiving of pleasure is a need and an ecstasy."

Khalil Gibran

This week I have been working on Aislinn Adams’ sketchbook for the Nature Trails Sketchbook Exchange.  Her sketchbook is beautiful, already filling up with lovely artwork, but what caught my eye is right at the back, where Aislinn has included “The List of Rules for Life and Learning” written by artist and educator Sister Corita Kent.

Aislinn's Rules at the back of her sketchbook

Rule 4 : Consider everything an Experiment

I like this rule. Too often we make things difficult for ourselves by expecting everything to turn out perfectly. How many times do we find ourselves faced with a blank sheet of paper or canvas, only to find ourselves frozen with uncertainty and indecision? A friend once advised me to call every work of art ‘a study’. If it doesn’t work out, then that’s fine… it’s a study. If it does work, then that’s a bonus!

This sketchbook project has been great in that it has encouraged me to try out new things, and to experiment with ideas, plants and colours.

I decided that I would try to paint the gorgeous Laburnum anagyroides tree in my back garden. Every year it bursts into bloom; wonderfully scented cascades of yellow blossom, that delight both me and the fat bumble bees that visit. I have always wanted to paint it but never found the time.

I used floral oasis to position the stem so that the flower hangs in a realistic manner

 A piece of white card  helps isolate the flowers from the background. Colour charts are always useful.

As always I start with a single flower, just to work out what I am looking at. I paint it from different angles, and I also pull it apart, laying the pieces onto double sided sellotape to keep them flat. Yes, I know... that top one is upside-down, but look at Rule 6 below!

A note of caution- all parts of Laburnum anagyroides are poisonous. Three or four seedpods are enough to kill a child.

Rule 6: Nothing is a Mistake. There’s no Win & no Fail. There’s only Make.

As I was working on the flowers, I noticed a fat bumble bee that had followed me into the house and who was now bumping against a closed window in frustration, despite the open door nearby. Later that day I found the poor creature lying exhausted on the windowsill, scarcely moving. I popped her into a glass and decided to do a quick study.

Bees are great little subjects to paint and can be a wonderful addition to a botanical painting. 

 When I had finished, I decided to try out something that a friend had told me the week before. If you find a bee that looks like it’s dying, try putting a drop of honey beside it. A long tongue will suddenly appear, and the bee will start to drink the honey and recover. Well, my little bee suddenly came back to life, quivering with excitement as she lapped up the sweet honey. I was absolutely amazed, especially as after 15 minutes, she shot up into the air like a rocket! Next time you find a tired bee, try this!
A happy bee.... look at that long tongue!

Off she goes! Apparently a tummy-full of honey will keep a bee flying for 40 minutes.

Rule 9: Be Happy whenever you can manage it. Enjoy yourself. It’s lighter than you think.

My final addition to the page was a few senna pods from Egypt, Senna alexandrina. I have had them in my desk for a while now waiting to be painted. They were fun to do, but perhaps not to drink in tea, even with honey!

The finished spread
Sister Corita Kent


  1. we don't have too many bumble bees here but my garden has mason (orchard) bees..... we keep things wild though for them all,
    our wild messy (according to our neighbors) property is our small way of trying to help out the wildlife here...surrounded by manicured lawns
    (this is duck house, btw, my nickname is actually vi)

    1. Hi Vi! I'm glad you told me who you were! Great to hear that you've made room for your bees. They areso important to the environment.

  2. What a beautiful page--so many delightful things to look at with just the right negative space in between. Now I am on the lookout for tired bees so I can give them a drop of honey...maybe I'll even try to paint one too!

    1. Janene, you should definitely try it, and show your grand daughter too... she'd be fascinated! It was nice to paint from a live, albeit lethargic subject! I have a few dead bees around but they are never quite the same when painted.

  3. Sigh . . . another lovely post, Shevaun.
    Spring is about 3 weeks late in Southern Ontario, but I did see my first bumble bee of the season today. I think she was more busy than tired. While raking I found tons of ladybugs under rotting leaves and many tiny bees visiting the pussy willow. Ahhh, Spring!

    1. It's such a pleasure to watch the world burst into life once more. You seem to have had a very long and cold winter, Candice, but I'm glad to hear that sunshine and green leaves have returned to your garden.

  4. Wonderful!
    Oh my gosh this is all I ever wanted to draw like!
    Just joined the group and hope to see a lot more of you and other members.
    (It will take a while before I dare to contribute!)
    Wishing you a great day
    Kind regards,


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