Banana Leaves

Sometimes the best ideas are so obvious that you almost skip over them. That was certainly the case for this summer’s Leaves of Trees window display.

One afternoon, while Roohi and I were brainstorming ideas at her shop, a customer overheard our conversation and suggested we simply put a bunch of leaves in the window to go along with the name Leaves of Trees. We took his advice.

banana leaf sketchbook window display

The initial plan was to create a tropical leafy paradise out of paper which would act as a back drop for a new product being launched. Above are some early sketches.

I was fortunate to be working alongside my friend and fellow illustrator, Elena Viltovskaia, again. (See my Paper Poppies post for our last collaboration.) After experimenting with different tropical leaf shapes we decided to keep it simple by just focusing on our favourite one: the mighty Banana Leaf!

paper banana leaf, window display, Leaves of Trees

Seamless green-screen paper turned out to be our star material. Because it comes in a roll, the paper is permanently curved, and when folded and creased against this curve, it creates just the right shape to mimic a banana leaf!

paper banana leaves, green screen paper

After everything was cut and creased, we drew on the veins using pencil crayon. Subtle strokes of turquoise blue and lime green spray paint were applied as a final touch to help accentuate the edges and add some colour variation.

banana leaf installation

A nice mid-installation shot taken by Roohi. (Elena’s on the left and I’m on the right.)

paper banana leaves, tropical window display, headache balm, leaves of trees

The window had to be attractive from both the inside and the outside. Floating leaves were the answer, and luckily we had made just the right amount!

leaves of trees store front, banana leaves, paper leaves, headache balm

Now that it’s mid-summer, I’ve got to start thinking about a new window display theme for fall and winter. Any suggestions out there? I’m all ears!

Leaves of Trees is located at 177 Queen St. East in Toronto. http://leavesoftrees.com

Painted Ladies

Have you ever witnessed a butterfly break free of it’s cocoon? I had always imagined the molting process as being long and gradual; something one surely wouldn’t miss in the blink of an eye.

Last week my neighbour, Kathryn, called me up in an hurry, asking if I wanted to come over and witness a chrysalis hatching. (Kathryn’s son is an insect enthusiast and for the past two years, they’ve ordered Painted Lady Caterpillar kits through the mail.) I went over not knowing what to expect. On their kitchen table sat a netted enclosure (which looked like a collapsible laundry hamper) with cocoons pinned to the inside wall. Eight butterflies had hatched earlier that morning and were now flexing their wings along the mesh wall. Lucky for me, there were still 6 cocoons remaining. The one we focused our attention on had a deeper colour showing through the chrysalid shell…a sign it could open any second.

painted lady butterfly cocoon

Kathryn and I sat in front of the hamper with our eyes glued to the cocoon. Sure enough, a little break started to form along the cocoon’s side, and then within seconds, out popped the butterfly! As it pumped up it’s wings, a red liquid trickled down. What I thought was blood was actually a substance called Meconium: a metabolic waste product from the pupal stage. You can see the red stains from the process in the above photo.

Toy and the butterflies

Butterflies are pretty low maintenance, however, they do require a a fresh supply of fruit to feed from until their release. Because Kathryn and her family were heading out camping that weekend, I was delighted to be given the task of butterfly sitter. Toy, our cat, was equally delighted and kept a close watch on her new flitty friends.

paintedbutterfly_sketch3

I was able to make some sketches while the butterflies were resting. The top and bottom of the Painted Lady wings are so different in colour and pattern.

painted butterfly sketch

The underwing has such a sophisticated pallet of chocolate browns, honey browns, creams and clever hits of turquoise and sky blue.

painted lady butterfly wing eating

Perhaps next year I’ll order a butterfly kit of my own. It would be neat to witness the caterpillar stage all the way through to the big, final release!

Time Lapse of a Flowering Croton

Have you seen the film Dennis the Menace? There’s a scene were Mr. Wilson is hosting a garden party to celebrate the anticipated blooming of his treasured “Night-Blooming Mock Orchid”, a fictional species of plant that only flowers once every 40 years.  Just as the flower’s petals begin to unfold, Dennis bursts into the scene, drawing everyone’s attention away from the spectacle—only for it to have completely withered by the time they look back. (Here’s the clip)

I feel for poor, old Mr. Wilson. Forty years is a long time to wait for a plant to perform a 10-second show and then miss it. Luckily for me, one of my houseplants performed a flowering show that was a little harder to miss.

croton marker drawing, croton illustration, croton plant

Sketch of the same Croton plant, back in 2012.

For the first time in the seven years I had cared for it, my Croton plant decided to grow a strand of tightly clustered buds from it’s crown. It was early July and I had just moved apartments, and so instead of sitting in its usual south-facing window, my Croton found a new place in front of a north-facing window. A little research revealed that it’s quite rare for indoor Crotons to flower, so perhaps the change in light direction really did play a part.

Well whatever the reason, this plant sure put on a nice show. And thanks to the magic of time lapse photography I can share its blooming spectacle with you. (see video below)

flowering croton plant

one week into flowering

flowering croton

3 weeks into flowering

time lapse photography, flowering croton

To make the time lapse video, my boyfriend, Kevin, hooked up an intervalometer to his Canon 6D. After experimenting with different frame rates, we settled on taking one frame every 5 minutes. A soft box gave us a steady source of light throughout the two and a bit weeks we spent shooting it.

Math in Nature Show

Since the start of my work on the Math in Nature series, I had always entertained the thought of having a show once all four books were complete. Well, this summer my dream came true thanks to a very special gallery in my home town of Whitby.

Station Gallery’s Curator, Olex Wlasenko, was really the driving force behind this becoming a reality. He first got in touch about a year ago, to present the idea of featuring me in the artist’s spotlight section of SG’s membership magazine, Platform. Since then, I’ve been welcomed into the Station Gallery family.

I call it a family because it really feels like one. On top of everyone being super welcoming, it turns out I have some old friends there. I soon found out that Chrissie Wysotski, illustrator and former neighbour of mine, was now working as SG’s educator and family programmer. Chrissie and her husband David were the first illustrators I had ever met and encouraged me to apply to OCAD back in high school. As well, Olex’s sister, Kathryn Wlasenko, was my high school art teacher.

Station Gallery has also given me the opportunity to flex my teaching muscles. I taught my very first adult art class titled “Paper Landscapes”, as part of SG’s winter programming. It went so well that I’ll be giving another go at it this coming winter with two new classes titled “Paper Pets” and “Paper People”.

Ashley Barron, Math in Nature, Station GalleryMath in Nature, Children's Book illustrations, station gallery
Math in Nature, Children's Book illustrations, Station Gallery

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Olex comparing the Prairie Chicken spread from Sorting Through Spring with the original art. Toronto Image Works did a wonderful job photographing all four books.

Station Gallery, Whitby, Math in Nature, Ashley Barron

2014 OAC Logo Colour JPG

Thanks again to Olex Wlasenko and the rest of the gang at Station Gallery for putting together an excellent exhibition, as well as the Ontario Arts Council for their Exhibition Assistance grant. And of course, thanks goes to Owlkids for believing in my abilities and for welcoming me into the Children’s Book market. The Math in Nature series was made possible through the combined efforts of Lizann Flatt (Author), Jennifer Stokes (Editor), Claudia Davila (Designer), Barb Kelly & Mahak Jain (Art Directors).

To learn more about what the Whitby Station Gallery has to offer, visit their site: http://www.whitbystationgallery.com

The Math in Nature books can be purchased through the Owlkids Store, as well as Chapters, Amazon and all sorts of smaller book shops.

Paper Poppies

Earlier this spring, I had the pleasure of teaming up with my art director/illustrator friend Elena Viltovskaia, on a rather pretty project.

Roohi Qureshi of Leaves of Trees was preparing to launch her official shop opening and needed a fresh window dressing to help celebrate the occasion. Winter’s stronghold was finally loosening and so we all agreed that a bright burst of blooms was well in order. Poppies seemed like the right flower for the job!

Process shot of making paper poppies, petals

Elena and I researched how to make large paper flowers that were structurally sound. Most online tutorials suggested creating accordion-style folds for each petal, but it looked a bit distracting and not true to the poppy’s form. After some experimenting, we found a way to keep the petals smooth but curved by overlapping them one by one and using staples to retain their domed tension.

elena_paperpoppy_construction

Elena and I are quite happy with the resulting crisp, graphic look of the poppies and have been told there’s a little marimekko-ness to them, which is a huge compliment! We hope to collaborate on more paper floral creations in the future.

paper poppy, poppies, window display, leaves of trees

paperpoppies_waiting3

paperpoppies_waiting

paper poppy window display, leaves of trees

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Our Paper Poppy window display will be up for the remainder of the summer. I highly recommend coming by and sampling the many natural lipbalms, deodorants, lotions and argon oil products Leaves of Trees has to offer. The shop is located at 177 Queen Street East, Toronto. http://www.leavesoftrees.com

Thanks goes to @fio_85 and @makerscartel for these two window shots!

Solitary Bee House

Bees are a hot topic right now, and rightly so.

Bee populations are falling at an alarming rate, which isn’t cool when you consider how essential they are to our food system. The use of pesticides and monocultures of commodity crops (like wheat and corn) that sterilize the landscape of biodiversity are just two of the contributing factors to their disappearance.

Agapostemon, Solitary Bee

Last summer I attended a Pollinators workshop put on by the good people at TheStop.org. The presenter that day was artist and bee enthusiast, Stephen Humphrey. He explained the differences between solitary and communal bees and how important it was to encourage their presence in our yards through the help of bee houses and by growing native plants.

I was especially delighted to learn that a certain emerald wasp-like insect I had photographed in my garden (see above) was in fact a species of solitary bee called Agapostemon. In fact, it’s one of Stephen’s favourite species and it’s not hard to see why. They’re absolutely gorgeous!

Stephen is part of an ecologically-minded artist’s group called Resonating Bodies. I recommend checking out their bee house installations!

paper cut bee illustration solitary bee house

Flash forward 6 months later, and there I was, illustrating solitary bees for the Canadian Wildlife Federation’s kid’s publication, WILD. (Thanks to AD, Steve Balaban)

Bee_Bungalow

The step by step guide teaches kids how to make their own bee house out of the simplest of materials: drilling holes into pieces of wood. Here’s another way of making a bee house I spotted at Toronto Blooms, using clustered bamboo sticks.

bamboo_beehouse2

The construction of bee houses combined with the replanting of native wildflowers is one small step we can all take to help improve our bee numbers.

I plan on making one for my backyard and I’ll be sure to post an update on how it turns out!

GCBC Season Opener Show

There was this time in little league when my entire team caught lice from sharing the same batting helmet. Lesson learned, my mom rushed out and bought me my very own baseball helmet…only for it to collect dust in the garage because I had switched over to soccer the following year.

I was 6 years old when I played in that league and so my memories are few. Other than the head lice fiasco, the only thing that really stands out is our coach and his pre-game mantra: “If we win we get ice cream and if we lose, we still get ice cream.”

There’s a lot of comfort in a simple phrase like that, no matter how old you are.

(I was really happy to be part of this year’s Season Opener show, put on by Garrison Creek Bat Co. Below are some process shots of my bat submission titled: Sweet Deal.)

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Hello

My name is Ashley Barron and I'm a Toronto based illustrator. This is my online show & tell of new artwork and anything else I find inspiring. Thanks for taking a look :)

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This is Kyle. He's the star of my newest book, Kyle Goes Alone, written by Jan Thornhill and published by @owlkidspublishing 
#kylegoesalone #kidlitart #sloth #papercollage #childrensbook It's been a very good year for Toronto pear trees and here's some proof. Picked 53 Lbs of these gems with @nfftt the other day from a homeowners backyard. If you know of anyone who'd like to register their tree, it's not too late! Apples will be taking us through to October. Kiwi is really enjoying budgie-sitting for @charlotteohphotography. Cats are controlling my life now...and my subject matter, just so you know. Portrait of a very special bird named Cocopuff. #indianringneck Practise makes purrfect. @_jenbarron_ "We're best buds now." 📷: @kevincwwong #torontocats #dearkitten two friends

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