Tag Archives: botanical art

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

 

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

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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Another week, another exhibition!

This week’s experiences were a contrast to last week’s as I visited an art exhibition put together by local people, mostly amateurs and hung in a local community centre.  Eight hundred plus works created in a variety of media and curated mainly into groupings by subject.  I went around quickly scanning the works and when I got to the end I paused; I noticed how I had been  subconsciosly grading them into ‘good’ and ‘bad’, or worth my consideration or not.  Wow! harsh!

So I went around again, much slower this time and trying to give each work its due notice and consideration and this time I was aware of my judgements as they arose.  Looking with kindness on these artworks brought a different appreciation.  I noticed that each artist has the same problems, the struggle with colour and establishing a palette, the struggle with composition, the struggle with light, the struggle mastering the media and on and on, each problem needing a resolution.

I noticed the things that people felt were important, so important they spent hours of their time and much effort to try and express their experience of these things.  I noticed how simple these things are; their pets, their homes, their villages, their food, their gardens, other people, plants, birds, trees, the ocean, machines, the landscape.  Things that we all engage with every day and that have a profound impact on us.  I noticed the differences in approach from those with colour straight  from the tube laid on boldly with a flourish to those tentative and shy with the brush.  I thought I noticed those with some formal training as opposed to those who were self taught.

Later, I thought again of my judgements from the first time around and remembered that I am a product of my own culture and experiences and that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and that notions of what is ‘good’ and ‘bad’ change.  Not quite sure where I am going with my ramblings, but I am glad I went to this show and took the time to try and see.

Back in the studio………..I have had my own personal struggle with colour, composition, light and use of media, but I have finished my first ‘composed’ picture and it is posted here for the record.  Onto the next one………………the garden is bursting with material and today (Thursday) is my ‘art’ day so I shall take a little wander around outside to see what demands my attention.

How to decide what to paint? I would be interested to hear how others make their choices.

 

Clematis Montana - pencil drawing - Sue Hagley

Finished clematis

 

In which the author meets a virtual internet friend in real reality and spends the day in London.

I obviously don’t get out much! But this has been an exciting and encouraging week, in which I have seen some quality botanical art, met a great teacher and met some new people.  I am a member of the FaceBook page Botanical Art for Beginners, and I found out that a fellow member would also be at the RHS Botanical Art Exhibition in London.  We arranged to meet and amazingly we found each other, in that great crowded hall.  She introduced me to Ann Swan a pencil art teacher and author, who was coming to Dedham Hall (just down the road from me) to teach for a week, she was kind enough to let me gatecrash one of her classes so I did.  Some wonderful work was going on, and Ann is a supportive and knowledgable teacher, everyone was really friendly and I have made contact now with a local group which meets monthly.  The quality of the artwork at the RHS show was amazing, very inspiring and very varied, something to aspire to one day (in my next lifetime!)

Clematis Montana drawing

Clematis Montana drawing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even with all the excitement of London and Dedham I did get some drawing done, and this week what interested me was our Clematis Montana coming out, it seems to be best ever this year, maybe all the rain last year helped.  Petals again, oh dear, but practice makes perfect so I had another go.

Two clematis flowers

Two clematis flowers

Rough drawings

Rough drawings

So it is all very well being able to draw a plant fairly accurately, but what I realised at the exhibition this week is that accuracy does not an ‘artwork’ make.  Well, that’s obvious, obviously but it had not really sunk in; but visiting this class I could see that although the plant material was there the students were using it as inspiration rather than a guide.  So having done my preparatory drawings and photos of the clematis I thought I would have a go at ‘composition’.  I therefore spent a happy few hours with tracing paper, IPad, drawings, scissors and eraser laying out my first composition.

Clematis composition

Clematis composition

What I had noticed when I photographed the plant was that all the buds looked like little faces searching for the sunshine, so I tried to get the feeling in my picture of the buds and opening blossoms straining towards the warmth.  Not sure if it has worked but I am going to go with it, it is only small (a finished size of 6 inches square).

 

 

 

Draws Shoots and Leaves but how to decide which Shoots and Leaves to Draw

Euphorbia Lathyris

Euphorbia Lathyris

My most recent drawing (Euphorbia Lathyris), a plant picked from my own garden; a plant not planted, a volunteer plant of a type that pops up on and off in the garden.  A plant usually called a weed and ruthlessly pulled up.   But I am looking at plants differently now, with new eyes, not seeing weeds or choice specimens but seeing and noticing shape and colour and if it is not too strange a ‘personality’.

I have been thinking about ‘style’ and looking at my work.  I know that a ‘style’ develops and grows and it will appear (hopefully) of it’s own free will but I can’t help thinking about what will be the best way to nurture and encourage it.  From my previous life as an artist in other fields I know that following my own interests and concerns brought me most satisfaction and ultimately led to a fruitful way of working. So I suppose this is how I will develop my botanical ‘style’; it will come out in the sort of plants that attract my interest, the sort of plants that make me want to engage with them the sort of plants that I choose to draw.

I am already feeling my way towards this, as I am attracted by the slightly strange, the little bit ugly and the oddly shaped, and I suspect the easy to draw……..

 

 

 

Going crazeeeeeee – GIMP, scanning and photography

I never thought that botanical art would lead me down the dark and tortuous road of photography, but it has, and let me be up front about photography – I don’t like it.  The camera does not see as I do and I am always disappointed by the results.

So I finished my drawing of the Photinia and of course I needed to photograph it – why? 1. to put in the blog of course and 2. as a record.

Photinia drawing by Sue Hagley

Finished Photinia coloured pencil drawing.

 

Arghhh!  Lighting, getting it right is sooooo hard, lots of research on the internet and it all seems so time intensive and boring and even more nit-picking than even I can cope with.  My research lead me to consider scanning – ah ha! much easier, the darn thing lights itself and I will just get some software to do a little colour correction. What a blind alley that turned into.  Most of my images are bigger than scanner plate, so software would also need to ‘stitch’ several images together as well as adjust colour.  More research and the dread word GIMP came into my life.  Anyway – this is all way too boring but I have just wasted two of my precious days on this earth wrestling with GIMP and some esoteric things called layers – it’s all been too horrible and I’m done with it!   The solution came to me when I was meditating – surprising what a little bit of stillness and silence can do, and it seems glaringly obvious now.  My room has been rearranged, and in that rearrangement new lights were installed, which means the room is evenly lit enough for photography (at least for the standard I need).  So I tested it out, and it works, YAY!  Only problem was a support to hold the artwork, so a request to my resident woodworker resulted in a lovely new stand, with the addition of two elastic bands my Heath Robinson ensemble is good to go.

Photography Stand

Heath Robinson ensemble

Seems to  work alright, see photo of Photinia above (although I have not cropped it properly); I will experiment some more with a tripod and a better (bigger) camera, but not today……………………..

P.S. ………if you are still with me, dear reader, I did go back to it, like an itch you can’t help scratching.  My later experiments came out really well and I am now HAPPY!  I found out how to set the white balance on my camera, lower the ISO and use a tripod.  I also used up about 500 calories going up stairs to take the photo and down again to put it on the computer, so I have had my exercise for today, which can’t be bad.  Didn’t do any drawing though………..