Friday, 13 April 2012

The Bare Necessities

So, after considerable about of time I am feeling like I am almost ready to announce the gist of what I want to do next. I want to do a series of very, very large paintings illustrating all of the plants I have used or consumed in a year. This includes food and drink, fabrics, any new furniture, paper, cosmetics, dyes, pharmaceuticals, bunches of flowers and cleaning products. I also plan to illustrate them to scale, but the scale is that of 'the amount consumed'. So my Wheat Grass will be very tall, but my Walnut Tree might be small.

This is going to take a long time.

This is my way of using art for conservation and getting everyone in the world together in a big project (it will go further than me). The idea began after seeing deforestation in Bali, and with the help of reading Information is Beautiful by David McCandless (blog) and seeing Rachel Pedder Smith's huge Herbarium Specimen Painting, the idea grew. I have always wanted to do something like this. I am still tackling with how to compose it, but I probably will aim for something where all the plants are upright (like below). Possibly arranged alphabetically, rather than taxonomically, as I want the arrangement to be broken up, representing how we consume things inconsistently. I had thought about calender months and geographical regions, but I hope to make some other graphic which conveys the information in this way as it's too tricky and repetitive to paint.
Book cover illustration - Onions and other vegetable alliums

So, I started at the Spring Equinox and so far, amongst a lot of things, I have learnt what is in my soap, successfully extracted the quantities of ingredients used in Tesco houmous and discovered that six species of Saccharum is used in sugar. I have yet to find out what made my new pair of Clark's sandals and Johnson and Johnson haven't told me what is in my toothpaste.

Obviously, most of the plants in my painting will be food crops (and paper). At this point in time I will only be getting a snapshot of my diet, but I'd like to stretch it out to diets and lifestyles across the globe later on. This blogpost looks at diets across the globe more closely using photography. Fascinatingly, of more than 50,000 edible plant species in the world, only a few hundred contribute significantly to human food supplies. Just 15 crop plants provide 90 percent of the world's food intake, with rice, maize and wheat comprising two-thirds of human consumption. So as I thought, my grasses will be big, and my tree's might be small. Currently I have a small problem with weight - with or without water - which I have got to tackle.

 Food consumption, pounds/person in 2006


 Production of top ten crops of the world 



So, my blog posts will probably feature a plant from now on. I can't tackle the main painting until I have a year's worth of quantities, but I intend to do some prototypes using data online.

I hope you like the sound of this idea... I know I do. It is something I have wanted to do in a while.

17 comments:

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    1. Thank you Manon, that's very nice of you to say so. I try to get a good mix of my own botanical artwork and other people's/exhibitions and mix that with science and history with the occasional bit on embroidery because I like it.

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  2. wow,thats a challenge and a half.Hats off to you Jess xxx

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    1. Thanks Claire - yep - I think I am bonkers!

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  3. WOW! Jessica what a fantastic idea! I love it, how inspiring. I see you have been putting a lot of thought into this. I am also very passionate about conservation and the mass consumption of things these days concerns me. Looking forward to more updates on this project.

    Laura

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    1. Thank you Laura, I am glad you like the sound of this project - I do too! Looking forward to it, I just need to get cracking. There has been a lot of thought and it's nice that you commented on that:) A good few years and concentrated months for sure. I hope you will enjoy the next instalments!

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  4. Phew! Way to go, girl!! Massive challenge and I can't think of anyone better to tackle it. You'll do a great job Jess, and look forward to seeing it completed,in exhibition or your next publication!!x

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    1. Thanks Terri - that's very sweet of you. Yes I thought it could make a nice coffee table book at the end. I might be on a pension by then though!

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  5. Wowsers Jess! That will be some undertaking, but what a fantastic idea. As consumers we rarely think of the quantity of raw materials we actually use. As a geographer I will be interested in watching your progress. Good luck!

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    1. Thanks Jarnie - yes, mega undertaking! I hope this project delivers some nice interesting things for you.

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  6. Great idea Jess - and I can imagine you will have so many creative options for showcasing your beautiful talent. Can't wait to see them unfold xx

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    1. Ta very much Vicki. Yes, it's so big I am not sure here to start, so I am reckoning on doing several prototypes and I'l see where they take me. Looking forward to meeting you in the northern hemisphere soon!

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  7. Wonderful and formidable idea! Look forward to watching your progress.... What a journey you are taking :)

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  8. Jess, what a creative and challenging idea! I look forward to following your posts and seeing how this all comes together. I am sure it will be marvelous and enlightening.

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  9. This is going to be something very special - a wonderful idea!!

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  10. What a great project. Hats off and hope to see the results in your beautiful blog

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  11. Sounds great Jess

    Sorghum, so important in the 3rd world, would be great to see your skill show it in a great light.

    Chris

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