Shading Seed Pods (Botanical Art Homework Week 6 – Entry 11)

After my success in this week’s art class, I wanted to challenge myself by setting myself some tricky shading homework. And I did just that when I picked up an open seedpod from a tulipwood tree (Harpullia pendula).

Tulipwood trees are Australia natives that have green leaves, nice flowers in summer, and are covered in bright orange seedpods for several months of the year. The hollow seedpods themselves aren’t particularly strong – it’s easy enough to tear them apart with your fingers, but the nuts inside aren’t as forgiving. These shiny black seeds are pretty tough and aren’t pleasant to stand on. Because I’ve stood on one too many of those seeds, I made sure to pick a fully open pod to work on this week. And when I got to work, it turned out to be a little more than I had bargained for.

Setting up the sketch was simple. The pod sat nicely on the table and as each of the sections were spherical they were fairly straightforward to draw. Then it got tricky. Fast. The seedpod I picked up was a cluster of about 5 different pods that had all opened in different directions. Think of it as cutting a hollow Easter egg in half, but keeping the sides attached to each other by a hinge. And then sticking it onto another four hollowed and halved eggs. Each half of the pod is pointing in a slightly different direction to any other half, and some halves are preventing light from hitting other places in the cluster. I was confused. I hadn’t had enough instruction to really understand how light would work in this kind of situation.

After several minutes scratching my head, trying to figure out how to make it easier, I remembered, that I indeed ‘had an app for that’. So I pulled out my phone and turned my torch on. The change was like night and day! The torch concentrated the light and made it so easy to see what needed to be shaded, and what didn’t. The only issue I had was holding the light steady while I took notes on the next steps I had to take.

As you can see I never took the next steps to finish this sketch, but the notes pointing out sections that I need to make ‘very dark’ or lines indicating where the shading should stop, show a little more of the thoughts behind the drawing, that I feel make it a work worth sharing.

Shaded sketch of a tulipwood seed pod with shading notes


Top Tips

  • If you’re having trouble figuring out how to shade of your botanical art specimen, whip out your phone and turn on the touch. A concentrated light source will make it much easier to see what’s going on and where you should be shading.
    • Bonus Points: If you have another phone or a camera, take a quick photo of how light falls for your future reference.