Seen and Unseen

At last the painting for my Lyme doctor is complete! A tick is not the most natural subject for fine art and regulars to my blog will know that the oil painting (subtitled, ‘Ticks in the Field’) has been painstaking work. However the upper component of the work took longer in research than in execution. I was inspired by Hooke’s Micrographia and wanted to combine the exacting, scientific look of typewritten text with a pen drawing similar to the wonderful engraving of Hooke’s famous flea. I hope the central drawing suggests to the viewer a solidity of structure that almost any object acquires on being observed under the microscope. The combination of latin classifications and detailed labeling gives, I hope, the impression of all-powerful science, compartmentalizing and circumscribing the natural world.

'Seen and Unseen'
‘Seen and Unseen’

By contrast, in the oil painting I wanted to capture the patterned intricacy and chaos of the tick’s world. It is so easy to see a field of grass as a smooth blanket of green, wherein a tick should be easily visible, but the closer you get the more visual detail there is to obscure these potentially dangerous, blood-sucking arthropods. In this context the neat and precise scientific diagram seems out of touch with reality. Can you see the ticks in the field? Read to the bottom of my post to find out where they are hiding!

However, though a challenging and intensive piece of work, I loved painting the light effects in this dew-strewn grass: the cold aqua-blue of the glaucous blades, the glowing lime-green of the illuminated leaves and the criss-crossing shadows. The way I have laid the composite out above reflects the way I plan to frame the piece, using a custom, two-windowed mount.

I thought the oil painting would provide a good opportunity to produce some greetings cards that will raise awareness of Lyme Disease. Below is a greetings card that I have now added to my online shop. The proceeds will not be going to a charity, because sadly there isn’t yet a charity which is fully confronting the problem of under-diagnosis and lack of treatment in the UK. But as you will see below, the cards carry a short message on the back to raise awareness of the signs, symptoms and cause of Lyme Disease.

Lyme awareness demo


To reflect the fact that these cards are being produced primarily to raise awareness, rather than to make money, they will be £5 per pack – £1 off the usual price for full-colour cards. Who knows, the person you send this card to might someday have a friend, parent, child or sibling who starts to show symptoms of Lyme Disease or who has a strange rash which they can’t explain, and because of this card they might recognise what’s going on. Being back on treatment at the moment, and having to confront the hold which the Lyme bacteria has taken on my body during years of being undiagnosed, I am reminded of how this information could have transformed my life if I had only known about it in 2010.

I have many more painting projects in the offing, so hopefully my health will continue to improve over the coming weeks. The most imminent project is a companion piece for the owl painting of many months ago. And while you ponder what that might entail, I can reveal that I have not deliberately painted any ticks into the painting of grass, above. They are hiding, behind this blade of grass, or that one – perhaps they have already been caught in your dog’s fur, in your clothing, on your boots or already on your skin… Just because you can’t see them, it doesn’t mean they aren’t there.


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