The Carrot Top Conundrum (Botanical Art Homework Week 4 – Entry 7)

In anticipation for the second round of botanical art classes that will introduce shading, I decided to spend my homework time this week tackling the shapes that give me the most grief. Ellipses. Faced with the prospect of drawing hundreds and hundreds of ellipses turned my stomach a little, so I decided to capture another one of my small indoor plants, a Calathea first.

Calathea Plant Sketch - 28.02.2018

Many of my indoor plants were purchased as tube stock, which are very small plants that are available in small pots or tubes that you can purchase at the fraction of the price of a more advanced plant. With a winning price and petite pocket size, I think that tube stock is fantastic for drawing as you can draw the entire plant in 1:1 ratio.

Looking at the end product, I have to say that I think this Calathea is one of my better drawings, and I think that might be because it is a picture of the entire plant. So far, the majority of my drawings have been of small botanical elements like a leaf, a flower or a nut, but I feel that the ability to capture an entire plant in a single drawing without scaling to fit the paper means that none of the botanical personality is lost. Overall, I’m really happy with this picture, as the lines are pretty clear, clean and accurate. Hopefully, there will be many more pictures that turn out as well as this one in the future.

Frangipani Flower Sketch - 26.02.2018

On a bit of a whim after the Calathea, I decided to see if I could speed up my frangipani flower pace. Last time I tried a frangipani flower I was surprised at just how long it took to get an accurate flower down on paper. The second time around I was feeling much more confident with my lines and shapes and I managed to get to flower-looking shape much faster. Getting to the end result faster must mean that my practice is starting to stick!

Freckle Face Plant Sketch - 27.02.2018

Confident that stuff is sticking in my brain I decided to pick another plant from my tube stock collection, this time my Freckle Face plant. This cute little plant is more delicate than the Calathea, which was something that I think I mostly conveyed in the sketch by using fine lines for some leaves, and the thinner stem. Again, I was pretty happy to be able to capture an entire plant, but I feel that I could have improved the overall sketch by putting just a little more attention toward some of the leaves as a few of them look a tad wonky. Wonkiness aside, I still feel that this image is still a fair and accurate representation of a Freckle Face plant and a solid botanical art effort.

Walnut Sketch - 28.02.2018

Drawing an entire plant is a time and energy consuming process, so I gave myself a little break by taking on a walnut as my next drawing subject. I really like the walnut as a botanical subject because of how efficiently it manages to pack in a large amount of detail into such a small space. Getting this detail onto paper accurately was a different matter, and I think this might have been because I used an aerial view. This view makes it very easy to get the walnut to stay still if you just lay it flat on a surface, but I found it trickier to draw all of the lumps and bumps on the nut surface. For a while, I thought about drawing topology lines, like what you would find on a map to show the ridges, but that’s not accurate at all. I ended up deciding to draw lines around the top of each of the walnut ridges and I think the effect mostly worked. A simple outline drawing might not be enough to bring a walnut to life, so I’m hoping that I’ll learn enough in the next series of classes to get a walnut to work.


After much procrastination, I decided to bite the bullet and finally draw what I’d set myself earlier in the week. Ellipses. Short of having a lot of gum nuts on hand (setting up my own gum nut collection is something that I’ve already added to my to-do list) I found it challenging to find a small ellipse shaped botanical subject. Flashes of brilliance do come to me, and halfway through cooking dinner one night I found that I was overlooking the abundance of ellipses in the form of carrot tops in my kitchen scraps. Carrot tops in hand I set them down to see if I could conquer the battle of me vs. elliptical shapes. (Spoiler Alert: I think I lost).

Carrot Top Sketch 3 - 01.03.2018 Carrot Top Sketch 2 - 01.03.2018 Carrot Top Sketch 1 - 01.03.2018

I really struggled to get the carrot tops onto paper. Like in my most recent botanical art class, each time I tried getting an ellipse shape onto the paper I ended up with a perfectly drawn circle as my brain kept spinning them around. I tried to overcome the circle conundrum, by breaking down the drawing into steps. First I drew in the detailed section where the leaves meet the carrot body. Once this looked fairly accurate, then I started to work on the outside shape, continuously referring back to the subject to make sure the relative distances between the centre and the outside were correct. This approach did work at turning out sketches that were carrot top shaped, but I’m still not very happy with any of them, as they’re not very accurate. It looks like the ellipses won this battle, but I won’t let them win the war so you can expect to see more ellipses in the future.

  • Top Tips
    • When an outline looks flat, it can often be improved by adding a bit more detail in.
    • I still need to practice ellipses. I lost this battle, but I will win the war!