Exercise 6 – botanical illustration

For this exercise I approached a variety of techniques to achieve an illustration.  The first was related to botanical drawings from a realism drawing perspective.  I bought a bouquet of flowers in Aldi and used the leaves and flowers in it for this exercise.

I wanted to try to use watercolours as many botanical drawings would have been done in watercolour.  I lightly sketched the samples using a HB pencil, but later found out that a H would have worked better to keep the lines light.

I started with a base layer for the watercolour, choosing to apply the watercolour to wet paper.  After letting that dry I applied another layer and proceeded to build it up until the depth of colour was achieved.  There were parts left untouched in layers 2 and 3 so that there was some contract given on the leaves. 

The process was time consuming and often the colour of the leaf was difficult to achieve.  I was using Dr. Ph Martin’s watercolours at first as they’re strong and give a more true colour for petals.  However, for the leaves I stuck with my travel set from Windsor and Newton.  The greens in the travel set were much easier to manipulate to achieve the right tones for the leaves.

After finishing the watercolour sketches, I tried another sketch and used a polychromos pencil to lightly go over the leaves first.  After achieving a tonal contrast on the leaves, I put a watercolour wash of a light green over it.  This worked great and I found that it was much easier using pencil to achieve some depth in the sketch and a watercolour layer over at the end to achieve a softer finished sketch.  The two worked well together.

As a contrast I used Procreate to create a more abstract drawing of a different bunch of flowers.  I wanted to achieve a more colourful but abstract piece, that might be more suited to prints.

I used the basic brush in Procreate to outline shapes of the flowers, with one at the centre being the focal point.  The flowers were created on different layers so that each layer could be played with in saturation and opacity.  I wanted to make sure the main focus on one flower remained. 

To produce a more abstract feel to the image I created a texture layer using a painting done in acrylics and not digitally.  I then added some finishing touches using a pencil brush on a separate layer.

As a final test I used the watercolour illustrations and scanned them into Procreate.  I separated them onto separate layers and created a bouquet of flowers in a jug.  The cut out of the images was rough, so the illustration looks almost like a collage of real flowers. 

After that I created a farmhouse background to place the flowers into a setting.  I wanted them to be the main focus, so the farmhouse kitchen table and background were deliberately sketched roughly, and a texture background used to add noise.  I wanted to convey a sense of collage through the illustration so between the effect of the ‘cut out’ flowers, characterised background, and pencil sketch scissors, I feel that was conveyed.

I had also created a series of drawings in Procreate, using a variety of sketches from my sketchbook that were based on nature table sketches and sketches from photo references of walks.  I wanted to try and use them to create a story, so  the images were put into Procreate and adjusted in size and a texture layer added to create a four panel page.  I did this with a few sketches as I was enjoying the process. 

I feel that they were successful as they are a mix of realism and rough sketches.  The energy from the object was captured using pencils only.  The texture effect is added to give a sense of coherency to the images and link them together visually.

In Part 1, panel 3, this was important as this was the only image created using posca pens.  It was quite strong compared to the pencil and crayon sketches of the trees so I wanted to make the colours soften in their tone a bit and the texture layered did that for me.

I went on to try out some different approaches with abstract botanical illustration and see if I could convey a story in a single panel.  This was created using photo references from my own walks and an image of myself as a reference for head and shoulders.

The colours are vibrant in this image and I feel very happy with it as the linework is something I strive for, the abstract background plays with nature and how it can appear vibrant in colours to different insects ( I was thinking of how bees perceive colour when creating it).

The story behind it was a sense that April was a hopeful month and that walks in nature keep you in good mental health as things shift and change beneath us.