Newish work. Massonia pygmaea ssp pygmaea

I photographed this at the same time as the Geissorhiza picture I posted last week, though I actually finished it in February.

Massonia pygmaea ssp pygmaea. Coloured Pencil on Bristol Board 2017

It is clear to me how much my style has changed in the months since then. This is a very formal botanical illustration, after the style of my hero Franz Bauer. Whilst I still enjoy the process of formal botanical work I had more fun doing the less formal pieces subsequent to this.

This species is, like all Massonia, native to South Africa. Massonia pygmaea is divided into two subspecies, the other being ssp kamiesbergensis which has smooth leaves. Recent work by botanists in Austria looks like separating the two into full species, which I fully agree with as they are very different to my eyes and also behave differently in cultivation. Both flower in Autumn, however, at the start of their winter growth cycle.

Here is a picture of the real thing:


Massonia are a special interest of mine and I posted a photo of another species on instagram earlier (@artyplantsman).


    1. Thank you Martina. You are always so supportiveπŸ˜€πŸ’•

      Whenever I do this kind of work I see so much of the Franz Bauer influence on me as his work was incredibly detailed. He was a pioneering microscopist as well as an artist.

      Which reminds me I wrote an essay on his life and work which might make a good future blog post.

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      1. I just looked him up and googled his work – I definitely see what you mean! Your art still has its own touch though, and really reaches my heart! ❀ I d love to read more about him, what a great idea darren πŸ™‚

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      1. I’m sorry that you never got the chance to study Botany. I was a Graphic Design major for a semester before switching to Biology with a minor in Botany. I was fortunate enough to have some wonderful instructors. One took me under her wing and encouraged me to go into Landscape Architecture as my Masters after seeing a residential design I did for a Economical Botany course I took. I switch curriculums to Urban Planning with a minor in Religious studies to help me get on track for L.Arch. But after graduation I really couldn’t afford the cost for a Masters and just went into the workforce. I still have a strong affinity for Architecture, landscape design and Botany. I’m hoping I get the chance to visit Montreal, Quebec some time soon just to see the architecture.

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        1. Oh please do come in Montreal. It is worth the visit, not only for the landscape, architecture design and botany. The people are also very friendly! OK I am not objective here as you would guess I am from Montreal Quebec!

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          1. Nope. Montreal is a bilingual city with over 59% of the population able to speak both English and French. But you will definitely feel the French vibes. In the area where I work and live close by it is multicultural. Very friendly.

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        2. Your background and interests seem nicely varied πŸ™‚
          It is great that you had that mentor – it can make such a difference to motivation to have that encouragement. I notice my lovely friend Dominique has responded about Montreal and I hope you get chance to visit!

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  1. Bravo Darren. Very beautiful artwork. Really like this style too… and it’s green, my fav color! I know that you find it difficult to work with this color but all I see is UNE OEUVRE D’ART! And I think a blog post about Franz Bauer is a good idea.

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    1. Thank you Dominique πŸ™‚

      Green is kind of growing on me (and I don’t just mean the infected bite on my leg). It is a difficult colour in coloured pencil because few of the available pencils are true ‘botanical’ greens and tend to be on the bright and lurid side. Derwent Artists are the nearest (geographically too as they are made only an hour’s drive from here!) but they are very hard pencils and hard on the hands to work with.

      My default now tends to be Faber-Castell Polychromos ‘Chromium Green Opaque’, which I modify by adding layers of other greens to get the right shade.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hopefully the infection on your leg will be clearing soon. I am glad to hear that you found a creative way to reproduce the “true botanical greens” that you need for your artwork. Linda is right you know. You should get the Genus publish into a monograph. There are a few researchers I know from the Botanical Garden in Montreal who might be able to help you find the right person to write text to support your artwork. Whenever you’re ready I can put you in contact with them if you are interested.

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        1. Thank you Dominique, that is very kind. There is already a team in Austria working on the genus so I think I have missed that boat. But I would still like o finish the series of illustrations as it is just the sort of thing they like at the RHS botanical art exhibitions. At the current rate of one species per year I think I have another ten years before I am ready in any case!

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          1. You never know where life may take you Darren. Hope that an opportunity will soon present itself to you so you’ll be able to do what you really love full time. Keep your eyes open! Your shop is one step toward that goal…

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    1. Thank you Lisa. You should check out Bauer – his work (and that of his brother Ferdinand) are just the kind of illustration I know you like. I have a readers card for the Natural History Museum in London, where most of Bauer’s originals are held and have been lucky enough to examine the real thing – they are astonishing. I can recommend the book ‘Orchid Paintings of Franz Bauer’ which is a collection of his orchid paintings done at Kew.


    1. Why thank you Linda. That is the style I was aiming for.
      I did have a dream of illustrating every species of Massonia (there is another one in the gallery page in much the same style). The genus badly needs a monograph publishing but I am not the person to write it!

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