Field study, Jordan

Field study, Jordan

Silybum marianum with dissections  ~  Blessed milk thistle
Allium vineale  ~  Wild garlic
Phlomis fruiticosa  ~  Jerusalem sage
Centaurea solstitialis  ~  Yellow star thistle
Eryngium campestre  ~  Field eryngo


Watercolour and graphite on Fabriano Artistic Extra White cotton rag

29.7cm x 42cm

SOLD - Private Collection

Jordan is 94 percent desert.  Many of its indigenous plants are hardy and drought-tolerant.  In spring, fields of wildflowers emerge from the most improbable environments. 

Flocks of goats and sheep create excellent seed transfer vehicles for thistles.  Jordan is host to many varieties, and the Blessed Milk Thistle is a large, extravagant and showy thistle in the spring.  It has somewhat sinister qualities.  As it dries, it evolves into a prehistoric, spike-ridden echo of its green self, set into eerie sepia shapes.  

The leaves are astonishing in their stark beauty, with the major veins like bones whitened by the sun.  The dissection shows the thistle’s sharp bracts and their construction, as well as the seed dispersal mechanism, the pappus.

Many accidents were had with this and the other thistles in the weeks they spent in the studio, spiking all unfortunate passers-by with violent regularity.  

Thistles are an unfriendly but exceptionally well-designed example of nature at her reproductive best with seed dispersal.

The artist chose to depict a set of plants from an abandoned urban plot on a single page.  

Not all were thistles – the Jerusalem sage grows wild in Jordan and the region, and dries in a most architectural form, with the dying leaves appearing frozen in time. 

This piece reveals the dramatic differences in the colours of dying plants.  Brown is not simply brown.  Yellow ochre; raw and burnt umber; sepia: all these pigments take their place in this picture.