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DRAWING & PAINTING PLANTS & FLOWERS
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Introduction; Throughout world history flowers and plants have influenced and affected peoples' lives. Many plants' common names, such as forget-me-not, love lies bleeding, passionflower, lovage, and lungwort are an indication of how emotionally, psychologically and medicinally we have responded to flora. Flowers such as the lily - the fleur-de-lis - and the English rose are examples of how flowers have been used in family crests or as national emblems. Flowers are given as gifts to celebrate, commiserate, apologise, help in recovery or purely as a show of affection. Fashion, though, can dictate or influence our image of flowers; lilies that a grandmother associated with death might now be seen as a clean, pure architectural plant custom-made for a minimalist interior. All of which makes painting plants and flowers a deeply personal experience. You have to view your chosen plant in your own way. An Edwardian drawing of poppies is going to be a vastly different image from that of the silkscreen prints of pop artist, Andy Warhol. When drawing a plant it is essential to study it carefully prior to committing a mark on paper. Knowing how it grows, how the junctions of leaves to stalk are constructed, the pattern of unrolling petals and the subsequent seed formation; all will give a knowledge of the habits, movement and character of the plant. This will help when deciding whether to use line or tone, or how to use colour sympathetically. Part 1: Getting started: Materials used for first exploratory studies; Although colour may be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of flowers, simple line studies initial selection of materials and drawing surface is important - the wrong selection can be detrimental so, when starting, keep it simple so the technique doesn't take over. Pencil and other black and white materials; The humble graphite pencil comes in many forms, from the soft 'Bs' with their increasingly darker tones, to the harder 'Hs' giving sharp lines but lighter tones. Examples using conte and wax crayons with their various textures and qualities will be illustrated. Monochrome watercolour pencils are shown to be useful as quick indicators of line with tone or shadow, and conte pastel or charcoal sticks are used expressively, showing the power, texture, or strength of larger, structural plants. The more permanent pen line is demonstrated, showing how it can give a wonderfully fresh line and image. The wide variety of pens -dip, technical, bamboo, felt tip and even ballpoint, are all shown giving a wide variety of marks and lines. Equipment for colour studies; Watercolour has many obvious advantages: it is compact, convenient to carry, and clean to use. Colour pencils can be useful when quickly sketching. Watercolour pencils conveniently combine the two. Types of paper; Shows a selection of papers, hot and cold-pressed, rough and smooth, as well as board and sketchbooks, and explains their different qualities and uses. Equipment for sketching out of doors; Keep it quite simple and uncluttered. For quick sketches an easel, however small and portable, is not essential. Alternatively, a folding stool, especially if it has a storage bag attached, can be very useful. Other smaller, essential items are - a knife for sharpening pencils, masking tape and/or clips for holding paper in a breeze, paper for mopping up accidents with water. Choosing your plant; Sketching indoors; Where do you begin with such a vast subject? The simplest way is to get out and pick a flower or leaf, lay it on a plain sheet of paper so that all other complications are taken away and the linear contours, structure and colour can be studied without distraction. Start to draw, relax and explore. Stick paper together if one sheet is insufficient. Sketch additional details, slightly different views, use different materials, maybe dissect a flower to study. Take a pot plant, look at the arrangement of leaves, how the plant forms; is it dense in its formation or open and airy? On site studies; Preparation of art materials for easy transport and comfort. A sketch book, pencil and blade may be all you want as a minimum for quick sketching, but a slightly wider selection of materials will help with tonal and colour reference. Don't clutter the mind too much with concern for composition etc; concentrate on one flower or plant, or a simple relationship of flowers to each other. Examine their patterns, colours and textures. Look for simple still lifes such as a pot of flowers in a doorway, or a selection of wild flowers making their home in an old stone wall. Developing your studies; Materials for more developed work; Any art materials can be used out of doors, in the field but it is more likely that pastel, oil pastel, gouache, acrylics or oils would be more usually used in the home or studio when executing a more finished piece of work. Consider watercolours again using more involved techniques such mixing gum Arabic with pigments for lustre or blocking out with masking fluid to achieve fine, white details. Look at other materials and mixed media and their relevant techniques. Look at different papers and the different qualities of marks made on more absorbent and less absorbent papers. Consider other surfaces such as gesso primer, and canvas. Composition; Basic principles are explained and their relevance to flower painting is shown including the 'Golden Section' and the proportions of your painting surface i.e., whether to choose rectangular or more square format. The use of diagonals or curves to lead your eye into the centre of the composition. Strong diagonals giving drama and parallel or horizontal lines giving a calmer feel. Composition indoors; Indoors there is greater control and choice of plants and combinations; their colours, structure and position. Lighting can be artificial and constant. Other solid objects, vase, pots, table, and room interior even, can all be carefully chosen. Composition out of doors; Consideration of viewpoint; is a close up preferred, a simplified background or more extensive view? Leave things out or change your viewpoint if you are not happy. A viewing frame in card can help. Look at optimum time of day, when the light works best, more interesting shadow patterns. Perspective; Inside or out, when giving your plant picture a context, an understanding of basic perspective is important to give the image structure and stability and, ultimately, conviction. Colour; When painting plants, colour is a prime consideration. Gardens can be a riot of colour, even to the point of confusion if you try to incorporate everything. Without flowers a rich tapestry of subtle greens can give stunning results. Winter scenes with their varied light, soft patterns and muted colours make appealing subjects. Strong tonal and colour contrasts demonstrate how to pull part of the image forward or recede with cooler hues and gentle tones. Includes illustrative examples of colour palette and hues and tones. Part 2; Stage drawings with extra similar examples; Exterior subjects; Combination planting - view of a garden; Wild plants; More detailed view - mainly one plant; Ponds - Water - Streams; Architectural setting with plant; Winter scenes; Spring scenes - sketchier; Tropical botanical gardens, i.e. Kew; Autumn colours; Interior subjects; Informal set-up; Formal arrangement; Dried flowers, maybe hung; Simple approach - Japanese style; Set-up, with architecture; Framing and presenting artwork

About the Author

Polly Raynes studied art at Brighton College of Art where she obtained a First Class BA Honours degree in 1983. Since then she has worked as a painter/illustrator in publishing, advertising, design and television. Although she has covered many subjects, including architecture, wild life and landscapes, flower painting is the area that gives her most pleasure. In recent years she has concentrated on her own work and has exhibited and sold her paintings in London, Brighton and Chichester as well as abroad.

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