After a solid week of strong practice, I entered my most recent botanical art class with a strong sense of satisfaction and competence. I am developing botanical skill and it’s been clear to see. This confidence continued right up until the point that I saw the topic of the day. Guelder Rose berries. Normally, I’m a huge fan of all kinds of berries (especially with a little icing sugar and cream) but the sight of the little bunch of orangey-red berries made me feel uncomfortable. This small bunch of berries was by far the most complex thing that I had ever set out to draw.
After my initial overwhelm, I got started and once I started plotting out where the berries would be placed on the page I felt a little better. Although I did take the time to place out where the main bunches of berries would fall on the page, a little later on I still found that I needed to revise the placement as the bunches were too far apart. To make the most out of my skills in the future, the placement of each of the sections is going to be something that I’m going to have to take note of and watch.
Once the basic sections were in play, the shapes of the berries were the next things on my mind. Just prior to going ripe the berries themselves are spherical, but as they continue to ripen the bases become pointed and little black things start to protrude from the bottom of the fruit. The majority of my berries wasn’t ripe and was fully spherical, but there were a few that had started to change shape, that I attempted to capture with a degree of success, perhaps not the degree that I would have liked either.
Towards the end of my time on this sketch I started to feel a little tired (I’m still surprised by the sheer amount of energy required to put into this new skill of drawing) so I started going a little off-piste to speed up the process, so some of the later berries in this picture may not have existed in the specimen. It did break the rule of the day, which was ‘draw what is in your specimen’, but as I didn’t go overboard you aren’t left with the impression that there are too many berries there.
Too many berries or not, looking back I feel that this sketch would have been improved if I had taken a few more minutes to clean up the sections that were rubbed out, and ensured each of the lines in the image were free of hesitation lines.
After refuelling with some coffee and a couple of biscuits I took the time and effort to make sure my next target, a bunch of Camellia leaves, was well represented. I’m not sure if my skills are sugar dependant, but by far this is my best work of the day. This was my first subject with serration, but I felt that I rose to the challenge of a toothy leaf well; no matter the angle the leaf took.
Serration detailing was achieved by placing little lines alongside each of the leaves that continued part way into the leaf shape. And by cleaning up the work to ensure that these serrations were clear, the overall effect worked well. So, when in doubt clean up your work so that all lines are clear and there are no distracting marks on your work!
The final drawing challenge for the day was the case of the Brazilian Cherry Nut leaves. While these leaves look great in person, I personally found them a challenge to draw as they’re so simple. The leaves are a glossy dark green, without any serration, marks or even variation in colour. Even at this early stage in my botanical drawing career, I’ve found that my best work comes out of the flaws and unique twists to the plant, but with these leaves, I was stumped as to how to bring them to life with great detail. I ended up simply drawing a basic sketch of two leaves and their little adjoining stem resulting in a clear picture of leaves, but that’s about it. There’s no strong character or interest with these leaves, and I feel that this is something that I need to build on in the future to ensure the images I draw have a reason for being.
- Top Tips
- Draw what you see instead of drawing what you think is there. If in doubt check your specimen.
- When drawing a botanical piece it’s a good idea to take a little time to plan where the major elements of the specimen will sit on the page. If you don’t take time to do this early on it’s likely that you’ll need to rub out sections and reposition them so that they look correct.
- Botanical art is usually done on a scale of 1:1. Try to practice using this scale.
- Plants are alive. Try to draw them so that they are alive. This is a skill that comes with time and practice.