Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Foxgloves

The foxgloves have me painting them again.
  Digitalis purpurea, It must be the plant I have illustrated the most and one of my favourites. My garden is full of them and all different shades of magenta, to pink and cream then also to white.

A new painting, but not yet finished
 Some interesting facts and folklore;
The generic name is from the Latin for finger, digitus, probably due to the flower shapes resembling thimbles. Foxgloves are often associated with fairies, hence the old country name of folksglove;
 folks refering to faerie folk.
Fairies, in legends, were supposed to have given the flowers to foxes to wear while hunting, to keep them magically quiet and so become efficient hunters. 
    Other common names include fairy caps, fairy bells, fairy thimbles, witches glove, goblins glove, dead men's bells, butchers fingers and throatwort. Welsh names include Ffion and Maneg Ellyllyn which means the good people's glove.
 A Gaelic name is Lus Mor, the great herb or most magical of herbs.

A different perspective

     An old Shropshire woman is said to have used foxglove (along with other plants) in a healing herbal tea, which was found to cure people of heart problems and dropsy by an 18th century physician. He discovered the cardiac glycoside Digoxin and a synthetic form is still used today as a heart stimulant, for kidney problems, edema and aconite poisoning. In too high a dosage it is a toxin, causing dreadful symptoms, hallucinations and often, death. So using it was always a balance between poisoning and healing, maybe this one reason why it has such a mystical past.

Especially loved by bees, I may add a bee to the painting
    Wikipedia tells me that Vincent Van Goch apparently had digitalis therapy which may have caused visual disturbances like blurred vision, light halos and colour imbalances and could have influenced some of his work, especially 'Starry night' and work from his 'yellow period'. 


 The colours I have used are winsor yellow, winsor lemon and perylene violet by Winsor Newton, quinacridone violet by M Graham, and ultramarine finest and purple magenta by Schminke. Quinacridone magenta by Winsor Newton is just as nice, it's the same pigment of PR122. Schminke Ultramarine finest is very slightly less granulating than other makes.


I hope you'll agree it's a most fascinating plant and still to be respected and wary of - don't let the leaves or flowers fall in your tea, like me!