The Finesse of Flower Lines (Botanical Art Class Week 2 – Entry 2)

The lure of the curved leaves wasn’t enough to entice me to do any homework this week, but if nothing else I turned up and participated in my second botanical art class. And what else could we draw after the splendour of curved leaves, but flower outlines!

With a couple of chrysanthemums, a pencil and a few hours in hand I started dissecting how to draw flower outlines. First up was the front-on view of the flower. If you look closely, particularly towards the bottom of the flower you can see that I’ve used a basic circle as a guide to setting up the size and general shape of the flower face. It’s clear that this trick has helped me put a basic shape down on the paper, but when I look at the petals they do look a little strange, which I feel is due to the actual petal shape. I’m happy with how most of the petals turned out, but I think there were a few that weren’t right which detracts from the overall picture.

Front view of Chrysanthemum - 10.02.2018
Front view of Chrysanthemum


The next view I attempted was to draw the flower from behind, while the flower was leaning over the edge of a cup. I’m happy that this picture is clearly of the backside of a flower, which has a relatively accurate ratio of 1:1 with the flower subject that was used. But the big let down of the picture was the petals. Like my first attempt, the shapes of some of the petals are a bit odd.   The shape of the sepals* are even stranger and together they draw your eyes to the flaws of the sketch. I was a little frustrated at this point in time so I took a chance with my next view, an attempt at the side-on view of the chrysanthemum.

Back view of Chrysanthemum - 10.02.2018
Back view of Chrysanthemum


Third time wasn’t much a charm unfortunately.   Again, there were some fantastic wins, being that it is clearly a picture of a flower and the size is fairly accurate. Nevertheless, the petals still seemed to be resistant to being drawn, and I ended up with some unusual shapes. With the side on view, I was also presented with the challenge of foreshortening, which I attempted, but making the petals at the bottom of the image (which were closer to me) wider. I also tried using a darker line to create a emphasis to highlight that these petals were closer, but the effect didn’t work as nicely as I had hoped. But since it’s clearly a picture of a flower I’m pretty content with my attempt. And I’d like to think that my feelings of contentment lead to the development of my forth, final and most fantastic image of the day, my attempt at a slightly opened bud.

Side view of Chrysanthemum Flower
Side view of Chrysanthemum Flower


This image worked! I’m really happy with this picture as I feel that all of the elements worked together to create a fairly harmonious picture of a flower bud. As you can see there’s a clear distinction between the flower stalk, the sepals and the petals. The petals themselves are great because they all look like petals, including the petal tips that are visible towards the back of the image.

Side View of Chrysanthemum Bud
Side View of Chrysanthemum Bud


As I compare these sketches, I feel that it’s clear that once I get a better handle on how to get the right shapes on the paper my drawings will improve. So, practice, practice, practice drawing botanical shapes!

Top Tips

  • If you have a botanical specimen that you’re not sure how to draw, then start with a sketch using basic geometric shapes (i.e. circles, ellipses, triangles, squares and rectangles to name a few). This will set you up with some guides as to the basic shape and size you’re working with.  Once you have this in place you can work on the individual shapes, in turn, to get you to your goal.
  • Most flowers have a line of symmetry (e.g. if you place a mirror on this line then the image in the mirror would be the same as the other side of the flower). If you can find this line, then you know and how to draw half of the flower, and you can just mirror this back to draw the other side of the flower.
  • When you want to draw something that is foreshortened (e.g. you want to create perspective to show that the object is closer than it really is) you need to remember that the part that is supposed to be closer to the viewer needs to be wider and fatter than the parts at the back.
  • If you’re drawing petals on a flower like a daisy, don’t simply start at one point and work your way around to the end. If you do this you’re likely either run out of space or end up with too much space at the end. To get around this pretend the flower is a clock face and put petals in at the hours 12, 3, 6 and 9 so that you have a regular spacing of petals. Working from here you should be able to continue to add the remaining petals into your drawing without running out of room.

*Sepals are the little green structures that surround or cover the petals on a flower.