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.