Saturday, 4 July 2009

SBA Assignment 3, Leaves and Greens

I always loved painting leaves, so was looking forward to this one. Here's an autumn leaf, beech leaf on vellum. This assignment is is all about mixing greens and painting leaves.  It's a good idea to create a leaf library for reference!

Leaf library

A minimum of eight leaves to paint for this assignment- difficult part is choosing which ones. There is so much to choose from at this time of year in the the garden but I've gone for as much diversity in adaptations and colour e.g. shiny, hairy etc. Leaves are: (top row) Pulsatilla vulgaris, Althea rosa, Euonymous fortuni, (middle row) Trifolium repens, Stachys byzantina, Lilium auratum, (bottom row) Papaver somniferum, Polmonium pulcherium var. hidakanum 'Purple rain', Cotoneaster franchettei, Leycestaria formosa.

probably could have added a bit more on both the lily and pheasant berry leaf . I always think that leaves should never be overworked and should have clean edges. Over painting is a total no no! so thats what I try to keep in check.

Opium poppy lefaf. I love these leaves, the colour ( overall a blue biased green but with that interesting lemon colouation)  and the texture and that venation, it's a great subject to paint.  I build up leaves using transparent or semi transparent colours, and, if its a tonally light leaf I use high light value colours, e.g. cerulean and lemon yellow. 

The Stachys was Margaret's favourite! Agian light leaf = high light vale colours! dry brush over a wash to give the effect of softnes and hair......thinking texture here

A different coloured leaf! this lovely dark Jacob's Ladder from my garden ( all were) I like the two tone green /purple look. Add the purple over the green wash when it's completely dry. Little cotoneaster at the bottom. A blue wash first for shine

Margaret Steven's was the tutor for this assignment, I got a very good mark for this and some really nice comments, she particularly liked the Stachys, with the pale hairs. And also the use of dry brush and fine line work. personally I thought the Hollyhock and Euonymous were poor, too detailed. I would have marked myself down for that one, but thought the others were ok.Margaret criticised the Euonymous saying iot was a little too dark and the lighting could have been better. Again she picked me up on fiunising off the base of the stems! Must pay more attention!

 UPDATE May 2015
Here are a few leaves painted since I finished the course. I like to teach leaf painting now - could spend forever painting them! Decaying leaves are my favorite but I like a smooth shing green leaf too!
Decaying lime leaf on vellum

Work in progress

Cherry on vellum
Red maple

Another maple....falling through space

Another lime
Rhododendron and the process below

Saturday, 2 May 2009

SBA Assigment 2, Monochrome Drawing, Fritillaria pallidiflora

Could have done with a bit more variation between flower and leaf. The flowers are considerably lighter than the leaves, th eclue is in the name pallidiflora ( means pale flowers!)

A couple more pencil drawings, this time using only continuous tone for Assignment 2, Monochrome. Next up colour work.
Fritillaria pallidiflora. These seem to grow well in the garden, the bulbs came from the Cruickshank Botanic Garden at the University of Aberdeen - I was lucky enough to work for there a few months in 2005.

Fnal piece. I was quite happy withthe shapes etc but needed to push a bit further with tone

Fritillaria species are some of my favourites - they're generally pretty easy to grow and I hope to paint more in the near future .
F. pallidiflora is a native species of the mountains of central Asia, E. Siberia and N. W. China, IUCN category vulnerable.

So I need to go darker, this tonal work is new to me, but I can see the point, Julie Small said: Could be a bit deeper, yes totally agree! She said the detail was good though. Funny how you don't see things when you're working on them! So will stand back and take a good look next time....and be brave.! I've done a few other pieces since and think I've got it now!  

We also did a cylinder and a sphere ro practice using tone to create form

Still hoping to find some other students out there....

Sunday, 29 March 2009

SBA Assignment 1 Graphite and more

My first graphite piece for the SBA Diploma assignment, Iris reticulata. Enjoyed it so much I just carried on with the seedheads below
Poppy seedheads, saved from the garden
Iris seedheads
A couple more images. Seedheads of iris and poppy. The drawing of Iris reticulata was used for my first very first SBA DLDC assignment submission. Looking forward to the next assignment.

Some new images, between SBA assignments

Artichoke, I grew this in my garden and dried it, such a great why didn't I think of that before!
Now that I've vcompleted the first SBA graphite assignment I have found the time to explore the medium more. I love graphite....can't believe I never really used it before. These are a few of the pieces.
Lichens on a branch. I love lichens and there are lots in Scotland- this branch from Aden Country Park in Banffshire

A good old pineapple, a botanical favourite, Have painted a few but never drawn one
Here are a few more works completed after the initial pencil assignments. I think (hope) that I have managed to create a bit more tone and shape in these works compared with some of my first attempts. There's definitely a need to be bold with pencil to achieve tone....go dark!

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

SBA Assignment 1. Graphite line and tonal drawing

First SBA assignment - pencil drawing.
Never really drawn in this much detail before or used such a broad range of pencils (from 4H to 8B). The Faber Castell 9000 Series is my preferred choice for this work. Have now completed numerous studies an look forward to trying more, particularly seedheads and lichens which seem to work well in this medium. This was basic line and tonal techniques, stipple, hatching and continuous tone etc. We used Sennelier paper for the course which is a lovely paper.
I enjoyed doing this, there was also line drawing but it doesnt photograph so well and there seems to be lots of time to complete the exercises. I hope to do lots more around the course work if I have the time. My tutor for the grapite work  is Julie Small, she's a wonderful artist.

What did we have to do:
1. A line drawing, This should be clean, no indentation of paper the weight of the line should be even and the linse continuous. Draw without lifting the pencil until you come to a natural junction
2. A flower or with leaf in stipple or hatch. A4 in size I chose stippling.  
Detail from the stippling technique on a's all abut density of dots. I used this technique a lot in the past  with ink for illustrations. If you twist before you lift the pencil it prevents elongated dots!

3. Complete tonal study using continuous tone, using small elipses to create a smooth even finish and moving through the grades of pencil from hard to soft to build up from highlights ( using the white of the paper to mid tonnne and shade). I used 2H, H, HB, B, 2B and 4B for this study. I think you shouldn's skip more than one grade to achieve smooth transition from light to dark. It's surprising how how little white of the paper shows.    
Continuous tone, Iris reticulata. Love this technique 

Struggled slightly to find a decent garden subjects at this time of year but there is always siomething!  the Hellebores, Helleborous niger and H. lividus, and Iris reticulata obliged just in time.
We also produced a toinal strip, a bit like this. It can be used as reference for futire drawings.You should be able to see the transition from one grade to another clearly. See they get progressively darker with the softer grades. Pencil brands differ too becaus ethere is no standard. This is a fairly common activity. I've done this a few times before so it wasn't too bad. Basically id you cant see the difference between grade then the pressure is wrong. Majority of weight  should be in the arm/hand and not at the point wher pancil meets paper....never indent the paper! that's bad  

This is a tonal strip I did more recently using different pencil brands - can't find the one I used for the course
 I like to photograph plants and turn to black and white on screen - helps me to see the tonal values.

This assignment was worth 10 marks.

What did the tutor say?
It was good  but I lost marks for not finishing up the base of the stem on the stippled helebore.
And could maybe increase the depth of tone - yep agree
But good feedback and guidance

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Recent work 2008

Here are a couple of examples of older work as a starting point to compare to new work as I progress through the Society of Botanical Artist Distance Learning Diploma.I've been exhibiting with the SBA off and on since 2002 and though a distance learning course seemed like a great idea!
Scots Thistle, Onopordum acanthium 

Foxglove study on vellum, Digitalis purpurea. My first painting on vellum 2007

Gloxinia, exhibited at the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation for the 12th International, painted 2004 or 2005 . This img from the catalogue

 A study of a foxglove flower Digitalis purpurea in the style of Arthur Harry Church and a Scots thistle, Onopordum acanthium. You can view more of my work at
The thistle is painted on Arches HP using Windsor & Newton Artists paint and Kolinsky sable WN brushes.
The foxglove study is on Kelmscott vellum. I prefer vellum as a surface because it gives a greater vibrance of colour and allows very fine detail that I find hard to achieve on paper.
The Gloxinia was exhibited as part of the 12th International at the Hunt Institute in 2007. I was invoted to participate in this exhibition by James White back in 2005. Such a shame that I didn't attend

Beginnings, the SBA Distance Learning Diploma

Having just started the Society of Botanical Artists Distance Learning Diploma Course I thought it might be useful to create this blog as a personal record and to share with anybody that might be interested. I hope there are others out there!  I've been drawing and painting for as long as I can remember but only started to focus on plants about five years ago.

RHS judge Gillian Barlow advised me not to bother with this course the last time I exhibited with the RHS in 2008 but I hope this course will help me to have a more disciplined approach and to focus on my weaknesses.

Looking forward to it. I finished my BSc in Biology in 2006 and several post grad heavy duty things so ready for a slightly more chilled subject.

Never blogged before so forgive me for I know not what I am doing!

UPDATED info May 2015.... Looking Back

I've been prompted to come back to the start and add some more information simply because I've been made aware that these posts can help potential students. At the time of writing this post in Jan 2009,  there was no communication between students it was a very isolating experience, there was also very little feedback from tutors and no videos but maybe that's changed. I believe there are new resources.  The books to accompany the course are fairly limited compared with what's available today and I think confusing. I wouldn't say I regret doing the course and some aspects were ok but I don't think it was the best value, at the time it was around £2000, I think its considerably more now so I assume it has a lot more to offer.