Shadow and Light (Botanical Art Class Week 7- Entry 12)

Do you know where to put the shadow and light when there’s no dedicated light in sight? That was the question of the day in my botanical drawing class, and if you look through my work of the day, you can see if I answered it correctly.


My first attempt to answer the question of how to add shade without a dedicated light source came with a side of Swedish Ivy leaf. You might remember from my progress journal that I’d already tackled this leaf for homework many weeks ago, so I started this sketch on a confident high. The high extended through right to the end of shading the left-hand side of the leaf before it hit an abrupt stop. When I reached the right-hand side of the leaf I was puzzled. How was a supposed to apply light to the right-hand side of the leaf? After scratching my head a little, I started adding shade to the bottom right-hand side of the leaf, but I was quickly corrected and told to shade in the top right-hand side of each of the leaf panels. Looking back on the finished sketch now, I think the right-hand side works, but I’m still not certain why, so I’m going to revisit this leaf again in the future.

Sketch of a Swedish Ivy Leaf - 17.03.2018


Next, we moved our sights and pencils onto the illustrious lines of the tibouchina leaf. Like the Swedish ivy, I’d done a basic outline of a tibouchina leaf before, so I started this sketch out with all guns a blazing’, but again this fervour was short lived as I quickly ended up scratching my head when trying to figure out how to bring the large veins to life. Since answers from my mind were in short supply, I decided a little tea break was in order, and on the way to my caffeine hit, I glanced at the work that a few of the other students had done. Browsing the work of the others in the class, turned out to be a fantastic idea as I could see that at least one of the students had tackled the thicker veins by drawing two parallel lines on the page, instead of simply putting one ugly thick line on the paper. With my tea in hand, I returned to my paper and filled in the veins, and their associated shadows as you can see turned out nicely below.

Sketch of a tibouchina leaf - 17.03.2018


After tackling two leaves with moderate success, I felt that I was prepared as I was going to be for the final subject of the day, a small green orchid (whose Latin has unfortunately escaped from my notes). With my pencil and eraser in hand, I put all of my skills into bringing the orchid to life. Much rubbing out was done, but overall I’m fairly happy with the end product below. The major items were ticked off:

  • It looks like an orchid- check
  • It has dark and light sections – check
  • It has is throwing shadows – check

But despite the successful checks, I was a little saddened by the end result. And really, the only reason why was because I caught sight of another person’s orchid which was so light and delicate on the page, it looked like if you were to pick it up it would be blown away by the slightest breath. I just need to remind myself that I’ve been drawing a grand total of seven weeks, and the light and wispy sketches a still a little while away for me. For now, I’ll just need to practice my fine lines a little more.

Sketch of a green orchid - 17.03.2018


Top Tips

  • Sometimes it can be difficult to figure out how to translate the details of a botanical subject onto paper. When these times come around, don’t stress, instead, take inspiration from the works of others. Even when drawing the same subject, different people can tackle details differently, so if in doubt, borrow advice from others.