Nature, flowers and Hans Andkjaer

So, as part of this blog I have also to research, learn from and analyse other illustrators and my inspiration for today’s research was poppies.

I got onto poppies today after a two-day cycle round lake Geneva (my knees will never be the same..) where summer has arrived and we cycled though many fields of red poppies – photos my own, honest! I get slagged off rotten by my friends when we go on trips as I have a slight obsession with taking photos of flowers (among other things). I love the colours and their beauty, as many people do. It is perhaps not a very original subject but I wanted to start exploring for this course with things I love and nature, and protecting our environment, is a big issue for me and I would like to see how my beliefs and values can be portrayed in my work.

So I started drawing poppies in my sketchbook and googling artists or illustrators that have used poppies as a subject and I found Danish artist Hans Andkjaer who has some stunning work in charcoal and oil paint to make a really great effect with poppies (click on link to see them). I tried to find some reviews of his work, which you can buy prints of online but there isn’t much on him unfortunately and I don’t speak Danish.

I did manage to find out that he is attracted to wild plants and flowers and is inspired by the combination of art and science found in botanical books. I haven’t seen an original with my own eyes so I can’t comment on texture but I love the charcoal effect around the stocks, it gives a softness that contrasts with the bright and imposing red of the poppies themselves. It’s also quite simple, with elegant lines and I am drawn to simple as I dislike over-charged paintings and drawings. This is something I would definitely like on my wall at home – which is also decorated very simply and with touches of bright colours and lots of white space. I have never really considered myself a minimalist but some people have and now I am starting to understand why.

In my own little drawings I started off tracing a quick outline with pencil, using coloured pencils and then found them not bold enough so worked over the top with felt pen in different yellows, golds, reds and purples. I tried to mimic the flimsiness and delicate nature of poppies with lines and I quite like the crepe-style of it. Perhaps I could have filled in the white space more to be even bolder but I didn’t want too much of a blocky look.

I also came across a really great quote as I was looking at some of the recommended websites in my course:

“In the course of the 20th century, all the arts became increasingly centered on the human mind and the human sensibility, and increasingly decoupled from the material world. If you think all of the major literary and art movements of the past century, you’ll see that they all tended towards an increasing abstraction. Countervailing movements like “social realism,” etc., invariably came to be marginalized and discredited. The cumulative effect is that we have lost a sense of connection with our surroundings.”

By Amitav Ghosh from his book: The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable which I found quoted here by an artistic collective who have these interesting “Mind journeys” which are like short calls for action combined with illustrations – and this one calls for us to mimic nature more in our art, poetry and even in our democratic systems and our work environments.

It also reminded me of other books and things I have read that are aligned with this and also argue that we humans have disconnected ourselves from nature (as if humans were not a part of nature) so as to be able to justify harnessing it and making it cheap for our capitalist gains – all while destroying our eco-system. See, for example, “A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things review – how capitalism works” review available here.

I love all of these ideas as I find it sits well with my personal beliefs and concerns about the world and I definitely want to explore it more in my work. More to come…

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