Wildflower Walks Ireland & Botanic Gardens Guided Tour
In creating a bird design, I read all I can find about the subject before touching pencil to paper. I would like to observe it in real life, but this is unfortunately often impossible. Besides, I am not a qualified field naturalist in the sense that most wildlife artists are, having arrived at my interest in nature illustration by a more roundabout route. So I rely heavily on my library of excellent guide books by photographers and realistic painters of wildlife for reference when I am searching for ideas. (Harper, n.d.)
Having compiled an initial list of wildflowers with interesting folklore stories attached to them I was eager to see some of them in their native habitats. Although it is still a little early in the year to find many of them I thought it would be good to make a start and give myself as much opportunity as possible to incorporate real life studies into my practice. Although I do generally use the internet for compiling folders of reference imagery, this time I am keen to build a better understanding of what the natural habitats of these plants look and feel like. Hopefully this will enrich my illustrations with a sense of authenticity.
As it happened two separate native wildflower walks were scheduled locally on the same weekend so I decided to make the most of the opportunity and go along to both.
Wildflower Walks Ireland is a guided monthly walking tour held in different locations around Dublin and hosted by local botanist and horticulturist Mies Stam. I attended a walk in St. Annes Park in the Raheny area of Dublin. This was a very well organised event. Prior to the walk Mies had combed the park for early spring wildflowers and had located specimens which would have been very difficult for me to locate on my own. Mies expanded on some of the folk stories which I had encountered in Niall Mac Coitir’s ‘Ireland’s Wild Plants’ books and also introduced me to some new ones. I took a lot of photographs which will act as a useful reference when I start to illustrate full scenes. The next guided walk in this series will take place on April 8th and will explore the costal region around Dun Laoghaire Pier which will hopefully expand my set of references a little further.
The second guided walk of the weekend took place in the National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin. The walk focused was on the folklore surrounding plants found in the native wildlife collection. Even though this collection of plants was more curated and the habitats less natural it was still well worth exploring as there was a greater variety of plants present to document.
The native collection contains an example of a fairy tree. Fairy trees are generally widely known of in their locality and are considered to be the ancient homes of the fairy people. Traditionally during times of trouble, people left little offerings or tied pieces of cloth to the tree in the hope that the faeries would carry them away along with whatever troubles the offeror was experiencing. These trees are scattered around the countryside and to this day are treated with great respect. In recent years motorways have had to be redirected in order to protect particular trees. So far I had not considered including these trees in my research, but having been presented with one during this walk I immediately struck by how rich they are as a potential illustration subject.
I am delighted with the reference pictures that I collected over the course of the weekend. They will be a great starting point for my sketchbook studies. I plan to pair them off with the stories I’ve gathered so far and then use this information as the first building blocks in my narrative and visual exploration.
Charley Harper Prints (n.d.) His story in his own words. [Online] Available at – https://www.charleyharperprints.com/charley-harper/his-story-in-his-own-words/ [Accessed on – March 26th 2017]
Hughes, L., 2017. Wildflower Walks – St Annes Park. Unpublished photographs.
Hughes, L., 2017. Native Plant Collection – Botanic Gardens. Unpublished photographs.
Hughes, L., 2017. Wildflower Reference Collection. Unpublished photograph.