Amanita muscaria (watercolor on paper)


Although myself an avid mushroom hunter (and eater; Cantarelles) one would do well to show extreme caution when rooting about in the kingdom of the shrooms. If you are not at least 120% sure of what it is, leave it alone. The results of downing a meal of Amanita virosa, the destroying angel, are indeed dire, as the common name would indicate.
The species in this illustration, Amanita muscaria, aka the fly agaric, is not as bad as its reputation, although I certainly wouldn't recommend trying your luck on it, either. The name fly agaric is thought to have been derived from its special European use; when pieces are sprinkled in a dish with milk it is said to attract and kill flies. It has also been reported that Siberian shaman have used this colorful fellow as an entheogen, that is a plant or mushroom that 'creates god within'. That's a hallucinogen to you or me, especially me. Definitely not one to try at home as the symptoms include nausea, twitching, drowsiness, cholinergic crisis-like effects (low blood pressure, sweating and salivation), auditory and visual distortions, mood changes, ataxia, and loss of equilibrium. That's pretty much me on any given Monday morning. I don't even know what ataxia is, but it does not sound good.

Be that as it may, they are lots of fun to paint. How often do you get to use scarlet red with such reckless abandon?




Well, since quite a few of you seemed to like the Amanita, I may as well trot out his companion, especially since there is a typical Son disaster story connected to it. By the way, this is Lepista nuda, aka the Wood Blewit. Or is it?

Back when I was studying botany at the University of Oslo, I thought I might earn some pocket money on the side by illustrating articles and publications for the professors at the Biology Institute. I knew most of them in the plant and fungus departments pretty well and decided one day to make my pitch. I cornered mycology professor G.G. in her office and trotted out my mushroom illos. She stopped at this one.
'What's this?' she asked me with a puzzled voice.
' Lepista nuda,' I said, squirming a bit. Like, aduh. I mean, wasn't it obvious? Except there was one little problem. See, I had just done a series of three fungi as an art project - as apposed to a biology project. The first illo was the red Amanita, the second was a yellow shroom, I think it was a Common Yellow Russla (Russula ochroleua), although I'm a bit uncertain. That picture disappeared (unphotographed and lost forever) with many other drawings and paintings in the undertow when my second marriage sank like an anvil to the bottom of the existential ocean.

In any case, when I started on the third illo I decided it was time for something green. For the series. Except the mushroom that I wanted to use, the Wood Blewit, was a tawny brown, not green. But you might remember I said 'art project'; so what did the constrains of actual color matter? I work with an open palette. Introducing a new ecotype, the green Woody Blewit.

Professor G.G. was neither particularly impressed nor amused. I had sacrificed hard science on the soft, squishy alter of aesthetics. I'd blown it - there went my biological illustration career off the cliff, like a flock of lemmings. Or should I say, I Blew-it.

Through the wonders of Internet you can see the actual insulted Blewit here: nuda
My heartfelt apologies to Mr. Phillips.

- Son

13 have said their bit, now it's your turn:

Arne said...

Eat as mush.. as you want.nothing is going to happend.

j. said...

i love this.
it looks as real as a photograph.

j. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DEB said...

LOVE your art! When we lived in Indianapolis in the 1990's, I was at lunch with some of my coworkers, and they were talking about mushroom hunting. It took awhile for me to realize they were serious! They had some coveted morel mushroom spots, and I swear they would guard those coordinates with their lives! Too funny.

gracefulCraig said...

Your water colour skills are epic. Well done

happychinchilla said...

Wow,gorgeous mushrooms, just beautiful.

tusen said...

they are very beautiful.

ArtSparker said...

Very impressive work.

Tammie Lee said...

Son, this is a wonderful botanical rendition! I remember seeing the forest floor sprinkled with hundreds of these in New Zealand. I have read we have them here, but have never seen them. Yesterday I picked a basket of tiny puffballs, ate them with dinner and then again lunch today. I guess they were edible ;-}

Emily said...

The detailing is sumptuous! I particularly like the inverted view of the cap!
Definitely a fan of the chanterelle though!
cheers!

michele said...

Your mushrooms are dangerously beautiful.
Do you suppose "ataxia" means "Spotting little people living under the caps?" Just kidding : )

Son of Incogneato said...

Thanks for all the comments. As a booby prize I decided to upload another mush illustration, replete with Son disaster tale. Yes, and another inverted cap, Emily.
As an extra added attraction I will be posting a bunch of fungus photos from my little forest expedition yesterday, featuring Norway's most popular entheogen! That'll be at Son's Awesome Revenge.

Deb; here we guard our cantarelle sites like treasure was buried there. Friends won't go for walks in the forest together for fear of revealing their canti stashes.

Tammie; 'I guess they were edible ;-}'???!!!

By the way, Michele, The International Ataxia Awareness Day is observed each year on September 25. For real (Wikipedia). It might have something to do with little people, I'm not sure . . .

Cheers!
Son

Indigene said...

These images are so beautiful! It would be wise to be caution, with beauty like this!