Growth and Form

by maggie

A couple of ideas have come together to make this project something special.

Firstly, I was thinking about Spring and Green and remembered the phrase from the very end of ‘The origin of species’, by C. Darwin.

It is interesting to contemplate tangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth,

And then I was looking through some books on Bookbinding and came across something called a meander book, where you make a little book by cutting into one sheet of paper and then folding it up. The spreads of the book occupy different parts of the single page.

Putting these two ideas together would give me a series of related images where I could explore the ecology of darwin bank.


This is a very quick drawing that i put together so I could explore the different paths through the image various designs of Meander Books would take.

With the meander book I wanted to be able to produce an image that would work as a single large image (51×74 cm) and a series of 16 double pages.

I wanted the book to progress from a single plant to a confusing mass of entanglement.      I also wanted the book to begin and end towards the middle of the large image – a more complicated meander than the book made in the link above. It took 15 attempts to learn enough about how the cuts and folds worked to get a design that I liked.


Here is the layout shows that where the spreads are (in red). (Green lines are for cutting.) The book starts on the lower left with the blue square and circles outward before curling back to the green scrawl top right. You can just make out page numbers at the bottom of each page. Prototypes like this helped make sense of the complexity.

Once I had the vague plan of an increasing density of image, I needed some plants and animals to populate the plate. There were landscape and portrait spreads and the occasional 4 pages interspersed with the usually 2 page spread. Lots of research to do then.


I managed to find most of the plants for the composition either in the garden or on the walk to the station.


One of those creepy weeds with tiny little snapdragon flowers


Our hazel lives in a little pot.


There are mice in the garden, but this dormouse was off the internet (check out the videos of the snoring).

Originally I was going to work on 13 separate plates, one for each of the spreads, but instead I’ve been working on one very large plate, which is rather unwieldy. However it’s very easier to keep up consistency across the plate.

Here’s the drawing that I have been using to compose the large image as well as control the rhythm of the book. I then traced the elements through the polycarbonate plate, turning it over to scratch the inverted image. this way the image that I draw will be the same as the print.

With the brambles and bits of tree I drew directly from life. For the smaller plants I referred to my observational drawings as I arranged them on the plate.


Here is an early iteration. You can see the shepherds purse bottom left and the fern frond that joins the two halves of the image together.  I went out and harvested some plants from the railway embankment as we don’t have room in the garden for big plants. Everything was drawn life size so it was easier to move the cuttings around than their drawings


Thisprobably won’t be the final version of the cartoon, but I’m ready to print the second state and hopefully I’ll just be adding bits and bobs to the plate rather than new species.

Lets hope that the final image is as good as all the preparatory work.