Tag Archives: botanical art

Progress and Felt

Not much chance to do very much this week with a trip to London to help with a house move.  But some colouring in did take place.  I am happy with the intensity of colour I am getting, but a mysterious mark has appeared on my white paper and I am at a loss as to where it came from…. Not tea or coffee, I suspect a spider or a fly or even an earwig!  Using an eraser has not worked so I am going to have to try the Milton fluid technique.

Work in Progress

Work in Progress

There was also a meeting of our felting group this Saturday and here is the piece of felt I produced, only 3 more to go and then I shall make myself a multicoloured waistcoat, or bag, or pillow, or tea cosy – who knows? something anyway.  Circles seem to be a theme…….

Spotty Felt Panel

Spotty Felt Panel

Back to real life and drawing when I can fit it in…….

A few days away in Liverpool (wonderfully interesting city by the way) meant that I have not had much chance to do anything. So a very short post this week.

My eyes were attracted to the rose hips yesterday, and now I realise that they are very similar to the tomatoes I have just finished – not necessarily a bad thing as I can have another go at working with red and shiny.

Test page for colour

Test page for colour

This is as far as I have got with the drawing, I have laid down some ground colours and am now starting to build on that.

Rose hips in progress

What a week I have had! 6 day course with Ann Swan at Dedham Hall

An enthusiastic group of students, an experienced and knowledgeable teacher (Ann Swan), a great studio (despite the abundance of spiders and other creepy crawlies) wonderful weather and a full six days of time; the recipe for a really enjoyable and productive week.

I learned so much:

  • Which side is the right side of the paper, I got this wrong twice and was made to start again. A stern teacher indeed but I will pay attention in future.
  • Which greens are ‘good’ and ‘safe’ and make natural looking greens for leaves.
  • How to use a light box, I got this wrong too in two ways 1) I reversed my image and 2) used wrong side of paper.  Had to laugh though…….. and I will be much more careful next time.
  • Found out what a Plamp is (no I am not telling you, you will have to look it up for yourself).  Have also found out how to make one for myself (super scrimper that I am).
  • How to sharpen and pencil and why a sharp pencil is important.
  • The order that a coloured pencil drawing is best done.
  • Different methods of underpainting and how this works really well if a graphite drawing is planned.
  • What baby oil really is; not oil at all – who knew?
  • Burnishing and bloom: what colours to use and how to do it.
  • How to remove random marks e.g. fly poop, pencil slips from paper starting gently and moving onto the heavy guns of Milton fluid.
  • How to select colours for shadows, not necessarily greys but a pale complimentary instead.
  • To be much much braver when I lay down my first layer……….this is hard as I can feel myself not wanting to ‘go wrong’ but to get deep intense colour I must plunge in.

Here is my output for the week:

Abandoned drawing due to wrong side of paper used

Abandoned drawing due to wrong side of paper used

Here you can see the resist veins and the initial shading.


Leaf showing highlights and shine

Leaf showing highlights and shine

Here is a finished leaf, photo has dulled it rather but the depth of colour was good.

Backside of leaf

Backside of leaf

Backside of leaf (if you excuse the expression), this is generally duller than the top often with a velvety texture, Veins incised with ivory, bluntish pencils used to create softness. Used wrong side of paper again and reversed image on light box.  Tutor commented on lack of observation on where the veins finished, but I was able to add some extensions to bring the veins to edge of leaf.

Perky Tomatoes

Perky Tomatoes

A lot of hours went into these little babies! I loved the little dancing calyxes and that was what made me want to draw them.  They ripened as I watched.  I feel I have captured some of their perky nature, and preserved some of their luminance and translucency (don’t read on Karen because there is a ‘but’ coming) but I could work on them some more to intensify the colour.

Tangutica clematisMy final piece of work was this drawing of Clematis Tangutica and I don’t think the photo does it justice, it is not quite as washed out as this picture portrays.  I am happy with the composition of this drawing and used many of the ‘tricks’ I observed and learned to put this picture together.   I thought it was finished but it needs ‘beefing up’ Ann’s words and I will do that and try and strengthen the colour.

I had a really positive experience on this course and am fired up to keep going, I have improved  skills and a better understanding of the medium as well as a long shopping list for pencils and paper and other sundry equipment.




Still here!

It’s not that I have not been drawing but I have not been drawing very much, my intentions of drawing every day just flew out the window.  The only artistic tool I have had in my hand for the last month has been a paintbrush – a house painting brush.

So, what have I done?  Well on two occasions I was overambitious and started drawings of large specimens which I was unable to continue with or to finish.  I did not think forward about how my days were going to pan out and then when I got back to the drawing the specimen had shrivelled, withered and I did not have back up photographs.  Another good lesson to learn; think hard before starting something ambitious.  Pictures attached are very poor as the graphite is too faint for my photography skills and I have over adjusted the contrast.  I have just put them in for the record.



Drawing of Teasel

I also had a go at drawing outside again, sitting in the sunshine with the breeze waving the plants around.  Good practice at looking and remembering and not being too precious.  I love poppy seed heads, they are so much fun to draw, seem like little crowds of people.

Drawing of Poppies


I also had a go at Crocosmia, which actually flowered in the garden this year, it seems to have been a good growing year for many things.   This also was a venturing into colour for the first time for a long time – and it was orange again – I have a weird attraction to orange I realise that now…….  Again I was disheartened by my efforts, my petals end up heavy and lumpy.

Drawing of Crocosmia

Drawing of Crocosmia

Drawing of CrocosmiaThe final drawings I have managed are of a fantastic Dahlia flower that is so luscious in colour changing from apricot (orange!!), peach (pale orange!!) to yellow with lots of yummy shades in-between.  A massive challenge to draw with so many petals twisting and turning this way and that, but that bit went quite well. I then traced off my drawing to give me the base for a colour drawing.  Taking advice from others that have been kind enough to support me I used an underpainting of yellow watercolour to cover the paper before starting with the coloured pencils.

Drawing of Dahlia

Pencil drawing

Working drawing

Working drawing

Coloured pencil drawing of Dahlia

The colours are not quite right in the photo so this detail shows them better.

Detail of Dahlia drawing

Detail of Dahlia drawing

But my petals are still lumpy and thick.  However, excitingly, I am starting a coloured drawing course later this afternoon with Ann Swan who is a brilliant coloured pencil botanical artist and I am hoping to learn loads; whole week of drawing and learning, how lucky am I!

You shall draw everything and every day – a new resolution

Still reading ‘The Awakened Eye’ by Frederick Franck and mulling over his ideas.  One of the consequences is that I have laid aside my coloured pencils for a while and I have been working outside rather than in the studio (grand name for the spare bedroom).  At the end of the book he lays out his ten commandments, and as I found them so interesting and shall be trying to integrate them into my practice I am taking the liberty of including them here in full:

The ten commandments on seeing/drawing were revealed to me on a mountain, but also in a meadow, on an beach and even in the subway.  For their revelation did not come all at once, but in instalments, as it were, over the years, and always while I was busy drawing, and invariably on holy ground.  But that may be because, while drawing, all ground is holy, unseparated from the Whole.

      1. You shall draw everything and every day.
      2. You shall not wait for inspiration, for it comes not while you wait but while you work.
      3. You shall forget all you think you know and, even more, all you have been taught.
      4. You shall not adore your good drawings and promptly forget your bad ones.
      5. You shall not draw with exhibitions in mind, nor to please any critic but yourself.
      6. You shall trust none but your own eye and make your hand follow it.
      7. You shall consider the mouse you draw as more important than the contents of all the museums in the world for..
      8. You shall love the Ten Thousand Things with all your heart and a blade of grass as yourself.
      9. Let each drawing be your first: a celebration of the eye awakened.
      10. You shall not worry about ‘being of your time’, for you are your time. And it is brief. 
  • Frederick Franck

That’s the plan anyway, since writing this I have already not achieved commandment #1 but what the heck? I am really thinking about #4 and #5 these are the faults that I need to challenge.

Here are this week’s efforts….. working outside in the shade trying to draw foxgloves in the breeze, the ones where it does not look like I was looking? well that’s how I drew them –  I did not look at the paper, experimented with pen and ink.  I think my eye is not confident enough to draw with ink so I went back to pencil.

Next I tried my most complicated plant yet – a trailing geranium.

Trailing Geranium by Sue Hagley

And lastly, another afternoon in the garden where my beloved teasels are stretching up to the sunshine, great crowds of them lifting their arms up.  My first coloured pencil drawing was a teasel leaf; I could only manage a section of leaf then as I thought the whole thing way too difficult to draw.  But one year on it looks like I am more confident.

Teasel Plant by Sue Hagley

Getting to be an exhibition junky………..The Society of Botanical Artists Annual Exhibition 2014

P1010470I went by myself to a Botanical Art exhibition, ‘how sad’ you say, but no it was great, it was just what was needed.  I had no one to talk to, no distractions, no worrying about if someone else was bored, tired or hungry, needed the loo or just wanted to go home.  I just had myself to please and somehow that does not happen very often.

I was able to go around the show which ran to nearly 700 pieces and look at each one individually.  I treated my visit as a learning experience and decided to analyse the pictures I liked and to decide what it was in that image that ‘spoke’ to me, and then I took notes (nerdy or what?)  Still I was there by myself so I could please myself!

At the end of three and a half hours, these are my findings about the things that I liked:

  • images that were larger than life size
  • compositions that overflowed their own boundaries
  • images that were ‘arrangements’ of separate items
  • gouache compared to straight water colour
  • images that were a single item (e.g. leaf)
  • interesting cropping that filled the picture plane
  • the combo of graphite and colour

I also noticed that some subjects are just ‘done to death’ and however beautiful and clever the work there is really nothing much new to say about strawberries, peppers, conkers, aubergines, tulips, daffodils, onions, garlic, carrots, cherries, orchids, iris, violas………….. I could go on.  That said, I’m sure I’m going to have a go at all of these over the coming months.

Artists I liked:

Some amazing work in the exhibition and so many talented artists.

Back at my own drawing board, things are not so amazing………. This week I followed instructions from a book called ‘ Creating Radiant Flowers in Colored Pencil’, this had instructions about using solvents to dissolve and blend coloured pencil.

With and without solvent

With and without solvent

First petal is just blended/burnished pencil and second one has had solvent applied to blend the colours, not only is it bigger (not caused by solvent but by operator error) but it is brighter, so I guess that is one way of getting really intense colour.

Then I went onto my plant of the week, which this week is my flowering ‘Easter’ cactus, this flowers for me every year and survives on neglect.  Have not put much time into it but I did try to have a go at the flower, pale pink almost white in places, how do you draw white petals on white paper?  Another skill to learn – to be added to the list.

Easter Cactus drawing by Sue Hagley

Easter Cactus

Botanical Artist – yer ‘avin a larf!

Since last week’s instalment my time for Botanical Art has been used up as follows:

  • Saturday – teaching (see Pink Sky Cycling), domestic duties (shopping) blah blah, and the start of an addiction to Breaking Bad.
  • Sunday – cycle ride to Hadleigh (30 miles round trip) and continuation of Breaking Bad.
  • Monday – a  Bank Holiday, a stream of visitors plus a little time at the drawing board.  Evening lost to Breaking Bad.
  • Tuesday – teaching all day followed by evening class.
  • Wednesday – trip to town to run errands (12 miles round trip on bike), visit to a friend, arm twisted by dear husband to keep him company at the dump (he has been having a clear out). In the evening I squeezed in 20 minutes at drawing board after the ironing and before a planning meeting with our Felting Group.
  • Thursday – my so called ‘art’ day started with another trip to town to collect gift of chair from friend.  I did spend the afternoon at drawing board but the lure of Breaking Bad was strong and the evening disappeared.
  • Friday – trip to Felixstowe to be present as representative of Pink Sky Cycling at the start of Stage 3 of the Womens Tour.  Weekend looming so domestics took over the afternoon and Breaking Bad called…..
  • Saturday – and back again to Saturday, teaching, domestics etc etc ……. Breaking Bad…..
  • Sunday – trip to London to see the Society of Botanical Artists 2014 exhibition.

The moral of the tale is……..don’t get sucked into an addictive TV show, especially one that ran for five series and we are still only on the second series…………..

Well I did get some drawing done, and I had another bash at the marigold, a scribbly fast session, I find I have developed a real liking for the marigold, it has an interesting way of growing and I will revisit it later in the year because it has good seed heads too.

Pencil Marigolds

Scribbly marigolds

The new plant that called to me this week, and which has been a favourite of mine for several years is the Cerinthe.  Wonderful, electric blue/purple colour and, even better, not many petals.

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Did not have much time (see list above) so not much done, but found the colour work on this plant was very interesting – what colours!

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