Springing forward

It's the weekend when the clocks go forward. The first tulips are out.

In the nearly-three-years of this project, sketching plants has taught me a lot about time. But today, it shows me a parallel universe.

This project started in the surreal stillness of lockdown, in an unseasonably-warm Spring. I drew the project's first tulips on old proofs and paper from production dummies. It used up materials moved hurriedly to home from my co-working space. Much of my work cancelled or in limbo, I had time on my hands so my urban plot was well-tended, seedlings thriving in neat trays.

Today, I draw in a lunchtime half hour grabbed from a working weekend, in a moment of light, in a sun-shower Spring. My paper now is handed-down, this week a rough surface. My watercolour sketching has become fast and painterly (I've worn my brushes down to rounded tips, all pretence at a point gone). My eye is tuned to the oddness of horticultural colour.

This year's tulips sit in a messier plot. Long Winter, changeable Spring and welcome work have kept me away. The wild things left in peace, everything is slightly nibbled. My soundscape now is the racket of the local flight path. But these tulips' colours are no less astonishing, buds blending from red to green to turquoise.

The second wave of narcissi is out, wafting perfume as I draw. Their almost-white blends to yellow and drawing now on robust paper instead of the strangely-behaved printing stock I started with, I can work in a pool of colour.

Earlier in the week I greeted the broad bean seedlings with their own lunchtime sketch. They're a rare success in a Spring of failed sowings, as I work out the behaviour of new kinds of compost. I love how beans emerge, these reaching out like crab claws.

In the small world of lockdown, my gardening was respite. In this parallel world of scarcity and cost, it takes on a more practical air. There will be more sowing, and hoping. And through drawing, I will have got to know that bit better the nature on my doorstep.

Ballpen, watercolour and fineliner on handed-down paper.

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