Tag Archives: drawing

Frederick Franck – The Zen of Seeing – ‘I have learned that what I have not drawn I have never really seen, and that when I start drawing an ordinary thing, I realize how extraordinary it is, sheer miracle’.

Found on Botanical Sketches and Other Stories and shared here because it echoes my own experience.

Don’t rush the colour selection process

Well this blog is about learning and I am learning.  Every time I sit down and draw I learn something. Another note to self – always take a picture of the finished drawing before you put it away in the depths of your portfolio, this matters right now because I am going to talk about a picture and I don’t have a proper image to show the end result.  I need to get to grips with photography and I am not really motivated to do that.

The plant that I was drawing was an agave (I think) although someone called it an aloe so I’m not sure, it was a gift anyway, and is a houseplant in England as it is too cold to put outside.

Agave drawing

Agave drawing

I was interested in the folding shapes of the leaves and the serrated edges and of course, the colour.

Agave drawings

Agave drawings

The colour of the plant was a really important quality of the plant, it had a very blueish tinge and a sort of dusty look.  It’s so important to choose the colours correctly otherwise there is no chance of making the image match your observations, and dear reader, I begrudged the time to do this.  I wanted to get on with things and rushed this process, and consequently paid the price – the drawing was the wrong colours.

Agave plant set up

Agave plant set up

Even as I was doing it I knew that it was wrong………….. but too late to go back, I was already committed so I went on.

Agave plant ready to draw

Colouring in in progress

What happens if you continue despite the odds?  Well you get a sense of achievement at finishing something, but you end up disappointed because you know it could have been better, with a little more effort and just a little more planning at the very beginning.  It’s trite but it’s true ‘if you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail’. Nuff said, lesson learned.

How I get what I see onto paper……………

There are several ways to get an outline of an image of an object onto good paper ready to make a finished drawing.  And these are the ones I have tried:

1) I took and printed a photo which I gridded it up and used the grid to copy the image accurately onto good paper.  This is a very process driven way of working and I ended up working from a photo rather than life which felt a bit sterile and mechanical.  However, what I liked about the finished picture was the abstract nature of the piece of leaf I chose, so although the method did not suit I was interested in the effect and the finished image and I think that I will follow this up in the future.

Coloured pencil drawing of a Teasel Leaf by Sue Hagley

Teasel Leaf

2)  I took a photo of a leaf, which I then ran through an app to get a black and white line drawing which was traced onto tracing paper and then transferred onto drawing paper.  I ended up with an accurate shape that I enjoyed colouring but actually it did not teach me much about looking and seeing.  So I learned that it is important to me to make the original image my own as well as the finished image.

Coloured pencil drawing of a Dead Leaf by Sue Hagley

Dead Leaf

3) I viewed the subject matter through a gridded transparent sheet and then drew the subject onto a matching grid on tracing paper.  This was long winded and hard on the eyes squinting through the grid and copying, and it felt mechanical and hard work.  I also ended up with an image that was rather bigger than life size, so my crab apples look like they have been dosed with steroids.

Coloured pencil drawing of Crab Apples by Sue Hagley

Crab Apples

4) I took a leaf rubbing and traced the rubbing onto paper, but the leaf dried out, so when I came to resume my work the next morning the leaf had shrivelled unrecognisably – so my time was wasted!

5) I just sat down and drew the d**m thing!  The easiest and the most satisfying; well I know that now as I have tried all the other methods!  More importantly, my skill is improving as I continue to practice – that’s a really obvious observation but it is true, true, true – if you practice you get better! Doh!

Pencil drawing of a Dead Leaf No 2 by Sue Hagley

Another dead leaf

Ever heard the expression ‘all the gear and no idea’? That was me………………

So now I had all the ‘stuff’ and I had done a few initial pencil sketches, I had coloured in lots of squares and read a few books.  Now what?  Well, dear reader, I copied a picture – shock, horror!  Actually, it is not so bad, lots of artists copy/copied other artists, it’s a great way to learn, at least you know what you are trying to make it look like, which is a help.  Back to my trusty ‘Colored Pencil Solution Book’ where I found helpful instructions on how to colour a day lily (Hemerocallis).

How to portray a Daylily Instruction Page

Instruction Page

In the back of the book there was a line drawing to photocopy and I then used tracing paper to transfer it to drawing paper.

Photocopied line drawing of daylily

Photocopied line drawing

Interestingly, the dark values are applied first which was a surprise to me, and then gradually lighter and lighter colours are applied, until a final going over with the palest colour (leaving the highlights uncoloured).

Finished Daylily

Finished Daylily

It was interesting to follow instructions, and I learned loads.  It is really important to look at the values and to establish the darks and lights against each other.

I can’t possibly start now, I don’t have all the right stuff!

Major distraction technique, this.  Of course I can’t start drawing because I need this, that and the other.  Of course this is not true, but despite this I frittered away several happy weeks sourcing all the (supposed necessities) of my new activity.

First of all the coloured pencils, I used a book by Ann Swan called ‘Botanical Painting with Coloured Pencils‘ as my guide to colour choices and then spent many happy hours making colour swatches.  Now, this looks like a really nit picky thing to do, but I have to say I enjoyed every minute of it.  It was lovely to make little squares of paper and to colour them in, to see how different the colour was no the paper than in the pencil:  then sorting the coloured squares into groups of like colours: then making paper strips and colouring squares again: then using sticky backed plastic to protect them: and finally to lay them all out and look at all the pretty colours.  I should get out more, I hear you say…..

Coloured pencil swatches

Coloured pencil swatches

Well it may have been a labour of love, but I use the swatches for every drawing I do, so there! They help me establish the palette for the plant I am drawing.  I have even found a stash of Derwent artist’s pencils from way back in the 70’s when I was at art school, so they have been sharpened and added to my kit.  So now I had 100+ pencils and I must have a way to store them and find them – so with the advice from Janie Gildow & Barbara Benedetti Newton’s book ‘Colored Pencil Solution Book‘ I requested my DH to make some stands.

Wooden blocks for holding pencils

Blocks for holding pencils

And here they are in all their glory.  Most are made of Cedar wood so they are lightweight and fragrant too.  Each colour has its allocated place and the blocks have hinges so they open wide and stand alone.  Then using both books as guides I collected together or purchased the remaining ‘essentials’.

coloured drawing essentials

Drawing essentials

Best things in kit – 1) battery pencil sharpener, what fun and what sharp sharp points it makes & 2) battery eraser, it’s like holding an angry bee in your hand but it really works.  Also in kit – makeup brush for brushing away debris, blender, burnisher, embossing tools, kneadable eraser, eraser shield, fixative, masking fluid (not used yet), Zest It solvent (not used yet), value finders, magnifying glass, protractor, ruler, masking tape and on and on and on.  But all was finally collected together and finally a spare tool caddy was found and all the equipment found a home.

drawing kit in tool caddy

No more excuses time to get started.

Sue Hagley's drawing space

My drawing space

Here is my space all set up, the plant I am working on here is an Iris Foetidus and the picture was taken in December 2013.  Below is the finished drawing.

Iris Foetidus by Sue Hagley

Iris Foetidus by Sue Hagley