I’m exploring the amazingly beautiful world of pollen.
A few years ago now, a new friend and colleague of mine, LW (that would be Lori Weidenhammer, the mistress of all things bee and published author, ie. Madame Beespeaker) and I, feverishly examined (and drooled over) a rare book by Dorothy Hodges, the British artist, beekeeper and researcher. Written in the 1950’s, it’s a collection of exquisite drawings of pollen grains, plus a 120-plant color chart of honeybee pollen loads. The color charts are so rich and enticing. Who knew that pollen came in so many colors? Lori did, but I didn’t. So for me, this book has proven to be yet another priceless learning experience.
I have set myself the task of identifying each of the plant species that Dorothy Hodges included in her book, and to record the experience of studying each plant, its pollen and a little of its “story” through a series of drawings. This is an on-going project, which, I am certain will change and evolve as the work progresses.
Hodges spent 6 years researching, collecting the pollen that bees brought back to the hive, recording the colors of the pollen loads and meticuously drawing the microscopic pollen grains for each plant that she included in her study. Only 200 copies of the book were printed (It has gone through 2 reprints). This is a rare book and a delicious pleasure to explore!
For reference purposes, I’ve recreated the color swatches that Hodges made, although I find myself going back to Hodges’ original swatches often to check my color interpretations against her own. She used Windsor Newton watercolors for her color charts. The swatches in her book however, were produced professionally with sprayed paint, the color swatches were then cut up and hand-tipped (1). I’ve tried a variety of different media for the color studies, the buttery and rich Schminke soft pastels are my preferred medium for this part of my project.
(1) Kirk, W. 1994. “Recording the Colors of Pollen Loads,” Bee World 75(4) 169-180.
Update on the pollen path: The color samples based upon Dorothy Hodges’ work became part of my exhibition at the Richmond Art Gallery last fall. The exhibition entitled, “not by chance alone,” included a large section of my big bee project, as well as this pollen work. I am continuing to collect pollen, beyond the beautiful pages of Hodges’ book, to study the plant it comes from, to observe the bees and pollinators that are attracted to the plant, and to document the process through photography and drawing. Bees, flowers, pollen, nectar–truly amazing subjects to study!