Books and Binoculars

STRAIGHT FORWARD pen and ink drawings appeal to me at the moment as I try to settle back into creative work after our home improvements and the practice I’ve been putting in to find my way around the new computer.

This time I’m testing an old bottle of Nan-King Indian Ink and it’s still free-flowing – perhaps a bit too free flowing as I spill a drop of it from an overloaded nib.

I like drawing with no end use in mind, well apart from scanning it for this online drawing journal, because I can be freer with technique; it doesn’t matter if things turn out looking a bit odd because it’s not a commission and it’s not needed for a book. A bit of hatching here, a bit of stippling there. If one side of the binoculars doesn’t work out quiet right I can experiment with the other side.

A flexible arm magnifier on the top shelf, a microscope on the bottom and the binoculars in between suggest my interest, obsession almost, for looking at the world in close up and at a distance and that’s confirmed by the books on this end of the shelf, on botany, birds and landforms.

See How They Grow

As I’ve been reorganising my shelves, I’ve been tempted to read some old natural history books recently. Books that I bought as a student 40 years ago, which I still hadn’t got around to reading. I’ve caught up on Rachel Carson’s Between the Tides and I’m currently on See How They Grow, an illustrated popular introduction to plants published in 1952 and based on a series of time lapse films on plant growth shown in cinemas. Television was only then becoming established in Britain, given a boost by the live broadcast of the coronation the previous year.

I hadn’t realised how far back natural history filmmaking went. One of the three authors of See How They Grow was F. Percy Smith.  He ‘started film work with Charles Urban in 1908 and in 1925 was engaged in making Secrets of Life and Secrets of Nature films. He always worked alone or with one assistant, using relic cameras and home-made apparatus, and published over 200 subjects varying from popular nature films to specialised technical ones. He died as a result of bombing towards the end of World War II but still has an international reputation as a master of cine-micrography.’

Link: Percy Smith, British Film Institute

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