And with that, the last of the designs and recolors I posted about last time is officially up, the previous gallery of potential requests has come to an end. Since it did indeed seem to help my visibility and sales to post every Friday, I’ll keep that up.
Meanwhile, something cool happened. I got a microscope. Now, not only can I improve the art I have planned for a few pages, but I can also treat the bladderwort food I culture like a pondwater life safari. I’ve had it about a week, and it’s been a blast. So, this round of weekly designs and recolors to feed the algorithm gods features a repeatable tile I drew by hand using little paper squares in an old school analog style offset filter. They make nice desktop wallpapers, so I put them up on the goodies page for download.
I like how my swamp ecology coloring book project has evolved. I’ve been frustrated with how slowly I’ve been moving forward, but I’m glad I allowed myself time to experiment with various media and work on my skills before I committed myself, because I’m excited about the changes I decided to make.
Originally, I wanted something simple for young fingers, something that educated, presenting the information in a storybook way. Now I’m leaning toward graphic novel, but still a coloring book. I’m far too excited about illustrating hydrochloric acid digesting a fly to keep thinking I want to target a younger audience. Thinking of it as something for young readers means I kind of hold myself back, while this perspective means I’ll feel more like I’m expressing myself.
Plus, thinking of it as a coloring book means I spent too much time trying to make my lines perfect and clear, I ended up overworking everything and becoming unhappy with my results. I always get so sad when the last of the sketchy lines are gone, I think it’s time I lived up to the fact that I like things a little messy, a little imperfect. So many graphic novels I have loved because there were often sketchy lines left behind here and there, it’s like peeking into the artist’s process, life, soul. Whatever it is, it means too much to me, I might like the challenge of refining my art to look better, but if I’m never happy with my art because I tried too hard to make it perfect and it became empty to me, I will never release it.
Anyway, here’s a draft/sketch of probably page one. I finished up the last bit of research for chapter one (How a Venus Flytrap Digests Its Prey), and I only have a draft, but it’s a chapter and this is page one, and I finally feel like I have begun. To commemorate the occasion, I’ll add a coloring page to my meager gallery of early offerings.
This project will cover a lot of info, and some of it (maybe all) will be animated as well. I’m still experimenting with my process, but it feels a lot less like fumbling around with a vague idea and zero confidence, and more like I’m moving forward on a project that will expresses what I want it to in a way that feels like me.
I am mightily enjoying my new journal, even though I’ve been working on it since November, and have only just finished my first real entry. I am not fast at this, but I like where it’s going. Over the last couple of months, I’ve gotten starter supplies of watercolor, watercolor pencil, and gouache to enhance my colored pencil game. It’s been years since I’ve played with these, I gave away all of my art supplies except my colored pencils long ago. Every page will be an experiment, but unlike the mess that is my normal sketchbook, it will be a thought out and planned experiment with a purpose, helping me build so many skills at the same time. I love this stuff so hard.
Now it’s time to move onward. I’ve learned just enough about telling monocots vs. dicots to figure out this could be useful info for me to have. I’m not usually interested in identifying grass-like plants, so it’s not a skill I’ve picked up yet. As the kind of person who finds treasures in “weeds”, knowing more about grasses has always been on my to-do list, so it looks like it’s time. Plus, I recently got some vanilla cuttings, and I know zip about orchids. I can study that, and my ginger. I’ll meander that direction now, and use the illustrations to refine my color blending skills using my new fancy worksheet I whipped up.
This should make things go more smoothly than fumbling around with different colors each time. I designed it thinking I could print it out on any paper I wish, then test whatever material I wish, but I’m low on printer ink. Figures. Anyway, if you want to try it as well, here you go.
Carnivorous plants can be very charming. We feed Venus flytraps with what looks like little mouths, and they seemingly smile up at us in gratitude. Sundews twinkle, and curl around little offerings. Pitcher plants look like they are singing together in chorus, or laughing at a secret joke. When they are out on the porch, I miss mine. I like to take one or two, and put them under my desk lamp, just for a little while. It feels like they are visiting, sharing my company. They’re like little pets with artistic and scientific appeal. Also, they come with the tiniest of thrills at being so close to a deceptive and seductive predator. A sun loving, flowering beauty that whispers morbid poetry.
Lately, I have been reaping the rewards of a successful quest. Somewhere around a decade ago, a grocery store was selling pitcher plants and sundews alongside their seasonal flytraps, and I jumped at the chance. Killed them all. Got very sad. Decided that every time a grocery store offered flytraps, I would buy one until I learned to keep them alive, because I am a stubborn person. If I could bring a flytrap out of dormancy, I would move to propagation. If I succeeded, I would reward myself with more pitcher plants and sundews.
While undertaking my epic quest, I learned from a whole plethora of mistakes. I didn’t have internet access or money for supplies when I started, the first couple of years were clumsy. One year, I forgot spring water wasn’t pure enough. I completely misunderstood everything important about dormancy. I did learn, though. Got close to meeting my goal once, but a toddler and a dog conspired to kill my plant, so I had to try again. But I did, of course I did, and in fact, I did it with the most beautiful flytrap that I’ve seen in a grocery store.
I took photos immediately, I knew my skills would be enough to keep her alive, but I had never managed to grow one to look quite that glorious (windowsills are not enough sun for that red, most of the time). Good thing I did, because she does not look that glorious today. I learned from the previous flytrap what happened when I left it on the porch and turned my back. Curious fingers could not resist Mama’s fascinating plant and, the dog wanted to eat it. Badly. So, my beautiful flytrap had to sit in a sunny window for a year. She is doing well, and I did propagate her, but my light was not strong enough for her to grow as stunning as she used to be.
However, as I mentioned, I promised myself that when I propagated a flytrap, I would splurge on a collection. Propagate her and splurge I did, and she benefited by getting a larger pot and a safe area on the porch, thanks to some new shelves that keep her away from the dog. The girl is older, and understands the plants will die if played with. So, my mother flytrap, named Tippi (short for Tippitiwichet, the name of my blog is one of the common names for flytrap) is finally is getting the full sun she deserves, and already she’s starting to blush. Just a little, but I’m encouraged. You can see her leaves aren’t as yellow as they were though, that was from shipping and grocery store conditions.
My coloring book project has already been morphing from swamp ecology to focusing on carnivorous plants, so it was easy to justify getting more than a couple of new living models to sketch. Plus, when I did a little research, I found out sundews can be used as a rennet substitute in cheese making, and I’ve managed to (easily) convince my partner to invest in supplies to grow enough sundew for cheese experiments. I even picked up two new flytraps, because it happens to be the time of year they show up in grocery stores, and genetic diversity can mean more fun with seeds. I’ve spent the last few weeks giddy and obsessed, just ask my ever-patient Twitter mutuals.
Naturally, I have research to do, I wish to know my new babies well. Also naturally, I wish to sketch them and include them in my coloring book. Printable care sheets for each species feels rather inevitable. It might take a while. The current collection has 9 species of pitcher plant, and 6 species of sundew, in addition to my multiple flytraps. But, I already have one printable care sheet for you, and I’ll release the others as I finish them.
Also, I want to have a visual record of my plants. I want to see how each species reacts to changes I make in their care, what pitchers looked like in spring versus summer, and the overall potential of the genetic line. I purchased a few species that were similar for the sheer joy of watching the changes between them as they grow (I am a nerd), so I may as well keep records. I thought I might share this online, it might help me to score feedback from other carnivorous plant growers. It would also enter some photos under creative commons for articles and blog posts, or artists who want reference photos and whatnot. I decided to leave photos I upload unedited, so you can adjust them to suit your needs. I like taking photos though, and I might edit some to suit my own tastes and upload them to Instagram every now and then.
If you’re still reading this, you must be at least a little interested, so take a look at my collection albums. If you see something you want to know about, let me know and I can make that be the next plant I focus on. The albums themselves will tell you where I got each plant from in the oldest posts for that plant, if you want to pick one up. Most of them have very similar care to the flytrap, so do read the care sheet above.
Looks like this blog will start to churn out some regular content as these pages get done, but no promises that I won’t focus on piling up chores for a week, or take a long road trip that slows me down (my partner works half a continent away). I am not the kind of person to post on a strict schedule. I’m kind of driven on this though, even if I’m not talking about it online, I’m reading, sketching, taking macro photographs. These plants have quietly been a passion of mine for a long time. I’m accepting my future in a cabin in a swamp somewhere, evolving into a crone, breeding fireflies, cackling madly to my flesh-eating flowers. I’ll name all the possums, and teach tricks to the carrion crows.
Here is how I spent my time this week. There will be coloring pages and merchandise based on this design, maybe some stickers. I want to order some samples and try a few different palettes out before I throw it up here. In the meantime, here’s a desktop wallpaper.