Scarlet Battalions – Nature Illustration

The corn or field poppy (papaver rhoeas) has always been one of my favourite flowers. Despite my favourite colour being purple, the poppy’s vivid scarlet colour is pleasing to my eye. A sight that always gladdens my heart is a field of corn poppies in full bloom. A number of years ago, a ‘field of scarlet’ appeared in my home village in County Durham. My Mum, Dad and the family dog, whilst going for a ramble, couldn’t resist but venture into the outskirts of the field. There’s something about nature that appeals to our inner souls and my camera!
Scarlet Battalions for blogDuring the Millennium celebrations, when I was staying in a lovely part of Los Angeles, I began working on the coloured-pencil illustration – using photographs I had taken on the day of the family walk. It was pretty intense work colouring all of those stems and leaves and not forgetting my ‘signature tune’ ladybird (pardon the pun, but can you spot it?). After what seemed a lifetime of drawing petals and stalks I finished the illustration, which was presented to my friend and former colleague, Helene, as a wedding gift.

This particular illustration has been on my mind this month with the centenary of the First World War and the associated imagery of poppies that is often evoked with the mention of Flanders Field. The title ‘Scarlet Battalions’ is also linked to the soldiers who fought so bravely for their countries and freedom. The inspiration for the illustration came from the Simon and Garfunkel song ‘Scarborough Fair/Canticle’.

The portion of the song that inspired me:

Tell her to find me an acre of land
(On the side of a hill a sprinkling of leaves)
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
(Washes the grave with silvery tears)

Between the salt water and the sea strand
(A soldier cleans and polishes a gun)
Then she’ll be a true love of mine
(Sleeps unaware of the clarion call)

Tell her to reap it with a sickle of leather
(War bellows blazing in scarlet battalions)
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
(Generals order their soldiers to kill)
And gather it all in a bunch of heather
(And to fight for a cause they’ve long ago forgotten)
Then she’ll be a true love of mine

Are you going to Scarborough fair?
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
Remember me to one who lives there
She once was a true love of mine

Michael Quinlyn-Nixon Scarlet Battalions photoforblog
Michael, with the camera, taking shots for the ‘Scarlet Battalions’ illustration

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