Succulent inspiration

Updated: Nov 17, 2021

Succulents plants have long been a source of inspiration for artists, sculptors and architects in search of beautiful forms and symbols. Personally, I love the way in which they make such a wonderfully rich tones and such wonderfully intriguing shadows.

Square Dance #4 and #5

These monotypes are inspired by the succulent plant called agave attenuata, the leaves of which curve sensually and create rich, dark tones and beautiful shadows.

I used masking tape to create nine squares on the acetate sheet before inking it up. I then wiped it with sponges, cotton buds, palette knife and who knows what else. The ink leaked a bit under the tape but I quite liked the more organic edges that produced and so decided not to do any touching up. I re-inked and modified the ghost to make #5, trying to achieve a bit more texture in the process.

Square Dance #1 - #3

I made these linocuts (32cm x 32cm) back in 2005 under the tutelage of Gary Shinfield. I remember being pleasantly surprised at how quick the process of photo etching was compared to etching on zinc plates. This was only the second time I had worked in the abstract and I found the experience surprisingly liberating.

Leafy Vortex

The striking leaf pattern of the aloe plant was the inspiration behind my series of etchings entitled Leafy Vortex. I knew there was some mathematical sequence behind their fascinating leaf structure but I hadn't a clue what it was.

Researching it later, I was intrigued to learn about the Fibonacci sequence. Leonardo Fibonacci was considered the most talented Western mathematician of the Middle Ages. From his observations of nature, he discovered a sequence of numbers in which each number is the sum of the two preceding ones. Starting with 1, the numbers go 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21 and so on. If you draw a line describing this sequence, what you get is a lovely spiral!

But there's more! Adjacent numbers in the sequence are related by the same proportion, roughly 1.618, or its inverse 0.618. This proportion has come to be known by many names including the golden ratio, the golden mean and even the divine proportion. What's amazing about this is that it seems to have a fundamental function for the building blocks of nature. For example, if you divide the number of female honey bees by the male bees in any given hive, you will get 1.618. Sunflowers, which have opposing spirals of seeds, have a 1.618 ratio between the diameters of each rotation. The leaf structure of the aloe plant is yet another example.

Here are a few of my photo etchings in my Leafy Vortex series. The embossing was achieved with uninked plates from the same series but, unfortunately, it's a bit difficult to see in the photos. From top left (size in cm): #2, blue (14.6 x 9.5), edition of 4; #4, blue, (30.5 x20.5), edition of 3; #7, (32.5 x 22.5), edition of 1.

I recently heard a report about Richard Leakey's hopes to construct a museum on the edge of the Great African Rift Valley. The well-known palaeoanthropologist and conservationist shared his vision of creating "a cathedral without God to celebrate life". On the one hand, I definitely agree that life is worth celebrating. On the other, I do wonder how it's possible to account for such order in nature without God. I respect people's right to disagree on this, and I know many will, but to my mind, without a Designer or Creator, I would expect to see nature spiralling out of control. On the contrary, though, what I see all around me is nature spiralling under control in such an amazing way that it inspires artist and scientist alike to observe and celebrate!


"Since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made." (Romans 1:19-20).

98 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All