Ferns and Spirals

Everything we do in drawing is done with love. Thus, we need empathy with what we see and with what is happening on the drawing sheet.
This time we want to turn to ferns. Already Leonardo da Vinci used ferns in his works as forms which he also used to create clouds and water. He developed these motifs from spirals. Spirals also often appear in the works of Friedensreich Hundertwasser. He was inspired by ferns in New Zealand. Besides the kiwi bird and the kiwi fruit, the silver fern is one of the most famous symbols of New Zealand.
Ferns have great significance in mythology and folklore. They’re mysterious plants associated with elves; it’s said that ferns lead to the elves.

For a long time, the way ferns reproduce couldn’t be explained. Reproduction by spores wasn’t yet known. Until this mystery was solved, it was said that ferns bloom exactly at midnight on the longest night of the year: on St. John’s Eve. Only on this night it would produce a golden flower with a seed that disappears as soon as it lands on the ground. This so-called wishing seed was said to have miraculous properties: among other things, it was said to help you in the search for hidden treasures, to give you the strength of 40 men and even to make you invisible. However, you had to be careful not to miss the magic moment. So you had to put a plate under the seed to catch it safely. When doing so the plant was not to be shaken but you had to wait until the seed would fall by itself. Whoever received the magic seed in this way luck was with them.

The spiral is directly derived from the fern. The spiral itself is a symbol. Where does it come from? We don’t know exactly. But humankind must have understood deep down that all life develops in a spiral. The fern is one of those plants through which we can observe how something develops in a spiral, deep from within. We can also see the spiral shape in our galaxy. In the same way, clouds and other weather phenomena are laid out across the sky in large spirals. Whether it’s a snail shell or the inside of a sunflower, we can find many spirals in nature.

In art, spirals have been appearing for a long time. In prehistory and early history we can already find the spiral on clay vessels. Experts wonder what it symbolized at that time. Was it a symbol for the sun? Or for life? I think it’s a combination of both: the spiral represents life and there’s no life without sunlight.

For this impulse, we focus on ferns. Study the ferns, look for them in the forest. If you look carefully, you’ll find that all kinds of ferns thrive in the forest near you. Study the differences between them carefully. In prehistoric times ferns were much larger than today. They were numerous and abundant and provided the foundation for our coal resources. Today they can be found all over the world, as ornamental plants, in the forest, in the garden. You encounter them at every turn.

There are different ways to study ferns: As a study of nature or abstracted, already moving towards the spiral. I encourage you to do both. The fern develops out of the spiral, from the inside out. Green is a fascinating color and the fern is an interesting opportunity to work with this color.

Turn lovingly to the subject and to yourselves. Stretch yourselves. Make sure you’re comfortable when you sit down to draw. Take a deep breath. Look at how the breath flows in and out of your body. Set up your drawing space well. When the impulse is there, take the pen. Concentrate on the pen and start drawing with the utmost attention. Good luck!