Botanical Illustration for Beginners


water droplets practice.jpg

Water droplets - watercolor.jpg
Water droplet practice – watercolor

I love to paint and draw loosely, expressively and with lots of color. In an effort to bring more clarity, neatness and discipline to my work,  exercises like the one above, painting water droplets, from a book I just purchased (Botanical Illustration for Beginners) can help.

This exercise looks easier than it is (here’s a link to show you the steps from the book). To paint these droplets correctly, I had to really think about what I was doing. Some of the droplets are too heavily shadowed, too clumsily shaped, messier than I’d like. The smaller ones at the bottom have a different feel from the ones at the top, and I kind of like those better. These were painted with QoR’s magenta watercolor, and here are some practice droplets in pencil … (I like the watercolor better).WP_20161128_003.jpg

What I’m learning:  It is easy to look at an exercise such as this one and think, “I can do that!” but never try. Instead, I am trying and happy to learn by doing.  I expect to find some surprises along the way. Another thing is that I don’t want to just do it half- heartedly and be satisfied with mediocrity. I want to try and do my best. The point is to be more precise without overworking the art – with fewer, more intentional, more defined, sharper strokes and well placed (well applied, too) washes of color.

my-inspiration-studio-deskAlso, when I thought about creating botanical illustrations, I always thought I must pluck a sample of a flower or plant that’s in its prime state of bloom or beauty, blemish-free and perfect in shape, form and color. While that’s an ideal situation for sure, this book helped me realize that’s not the only way to learn how to create botanical illustrations.One of the first exercises in the book is to practice painting Anemone flowers that are past their prime. So I had fun walking around our yard finding bits of “Florida fall” – a dried up Magnolia leaf, a Magnolia pod, acorns, and more to paint, or merely observe.

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Bits of Florida Fall

The book also talks about many things watercolor artists need to know – about painting techniques and mixing colors, drawing, and more. I plan to work through the exercises in the book, one by one, and learn as much as I can.

A good magnifying glass can be extremely helpful for botanical illustrations. I have a couple of handheld ones, but a nice desk magnifying glass would be quite nice – and so I ordered one, which should arrive the beginning of December.

Mixing colors – using a simple primary palette (red, blue, yellow). Well, okay – I went a little crazy on these pages. No neat little squares as the book suggested. But hey, I was having fun. I was surprised how brilliant these colors came out on the page.
Mixing greens using yellow and blue, then mixing greens using manufactured colors. This was a little dull for me. I am going to have another go at it tomorrow, along with mixing some browns and grey using primary colors.

Quick drawing from the book verses a closer study from a live specimen …




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