Assignment 11 – Mixed Floral

A short post about my 11th Assignment for the Society of Botanical Artists Distance Learning Diploma.

My time working on the commission for Rebecca Cragg Floral Design meant that I had about a week to complete the assignment. It was extremely busy. I had all these plans about my mixed floral piece, but in the end I had to incorporate the sweet peas from the commission with a delphinium I had also started preparing.


Working on the delphinium drawings.

The delphinium was so beautiful, but as you might be able to imagine, a challenge to draw.


My workspace at the time.


As you might have read in my previous posts, I like to complete an ink drawing as well as a pencil drawing as part of my process. It aids the transfer from cartridge paper to watercolour paper, and also acts as a good reference image.

It was a matter of getting the job done.


Here you can see my initial underpainting in botanical grey, before I begin to add the layers of colour on top. This flower had a wonderful combination of vivid blues and delicate pinks in its petals.



Building the washes on the leaves. Detail yet to be applied.


The delphinium bloom, with the sweet peas growing around it.

Final Piece



The main comments from this piece, which I totally agree with, were that that the sweet peas needed to be stronger to stand up against the delphinium. I needed to increase the tones in both the flowers and the leaves. The tutor also commented that my work was a little too stylised. Again, I agree. This happens to my work when I don’t have the time to really look closely at my subject!

Here is the breakdown of my marks:

Choice of subject: 8.5
Line: 9
Form: 9.0
Tone: 8.0
Colour: 7.5
Composition: 7.5
Botanical accuracy: 8.4
Technique: 8.8
Presentation 8.5
Labelling: 8.5

Final Mark for assignment: 8.37

Thank you for reading!



Rebecca Cragg Floral Design Commission

I had a wonderful opportunity last year to create the branding for a new florist opening in West Sussex. Becky contacted me having read my blog, and I was so excited to have my first ever commercial commission.

Becky started her floristry company a few years ago, however decided to dive in and open a shop in the South Downs Heritage Centre.

We brainstormed for a while, and settled on sweet peas for the design. I was really excited about her choice. I love the delicate colours and the alien-like shapes the flowers form!

Initial Drawings and Studies

As always I start with making my initial drawings from life. I made sure I mapped out the delicate veins, as I knew the flowers would fade fairly quickly, and the veins are important to give structure and dimension to the petals. My initial drawings always have as much detail as I can put in them.


Starting to add in the details to the drawing…

My next challenge is colour. To colour mix, I start by looking carefully at the specimen, and picking out every paint from my paint box that I can see in the flower, even in the smallest amounts. I then put these down on my paper. Then, I start to mix. I begin to work out which colour mixes match exactly, bearing in mind I like to, where possible, work with a limited palette. For example, the blue that I use in the purple on the flower I try and use in green of the foliage. I feel as though this gives the painting better unity at the end. Of course, sometimes it’s not possible.


My first attempt at painting sweet peas. The tendrils were my favourite part!


Further studies.

My process

I hope the picture below demonstrates my process quite well. I actually painted these with a slightly different method to normal. Initially I tried painting the veins on top of washes and it just didn’t work, it didn’t look right.

So, as you can see below, I actually started by painting in the veins first. Then, adding in the darkest areas of shadow. This meant that the veins appeared to be below the surface of the washes, and they became muted and blended into the rest of the flower.


Composition planning

I found the composition planning for this piece really difficult. What you see below is only a very small snapshot of the process! I drew, re-drew, traced, copied, re-traced, asked a dozen people their opinions. It was by far the most time consuming part of the commission! I wanted something that looked natural. I sent Becky a few options to choose from and she liked the one that we finally settled on.

Work in progress


The final piece


The branding

Below you can see how Becky went on to use the design. I love the combination of the soft colours in the painting and the oak.


If you want to visit the shop in West Sussex:


South Downs Nurseries
South Downs Heritage Centre
Brighton Road
West Sussex
Bn6 9LY



Assignment 10 – Working from Photographs

Assignment 10 of the Society of Botanical Artists Distance Learning Diploma was entitled ‘Working from Photographs’. We were supposed to take our own photographs, and create a design in the form of a greetings card or poster. I do incorporate … Continue reading

Assignment 9 – Working in the Field

Assignment 9 of the Society of Botanical Artists Distance Learning Diploma was entitled ‘Working in the Field’. For this assignment we were asked to find a location we liked, any natural habitat, and study, record and illustrate the species that were present.

I deliberated for a long time about my location of choice! Eventually I chose a spot in the village of Preston in Kent where they had the most amazing display of bluebells.

I took my Jack Russel Lily along for company which turned out to be a mistake as she was nothing but a distraction…!


I found working in the field really difficult, but enjoyable at the same time. I missed the comfort of a desk to lean on, bugs kept landing on my page and somehow I’d accidently squish them and end up with bug sauce all over my paper…! I didn’t want to pick the flowers as it’s a nature reserve, so I was rolling around the ground at all sorts of angles to try and study each flower, and I kept dropping pencils/rubbers/rulers on the ground and spending a good while searching for them on the woodland floor! Those obstacles aside, I love being outdoors, and sometimes the endless hours of painting inside at a desk does leave me craving sunshine, fresh air and exercise!

I did as many sketches as I could of each plant I could spot, picking 5 to focus on in particular:

Red campion
Woodland fern
Field mouse ear

The Drawing

After all the initial drawings in my sketchbook, I then traced images which I liked using tracing paper, and started to build up my composition. I will add photos of my sketchbook pages soon, but I still need to tidy them up from their time in the wood – (i.e. they’re a complete mess!)

You’ll see in the photos above that there is a drawing of a drying bluebell. I really wanted to paint this, as I thought it was such a beautiful specimen, but unfortunately I ran out of time and I had to leave it out of the composition.

Here is a photo of the specimen, I would love to paint this one day, perhaps larger than life, to really show the colours and delicacy of those drying petals:



The Painting

Here are some photos of this assignment in progress. I didn’t have quite enough time to give the painting the level of detail I would have liked. As a result my image had quite a stylized feel about it, which my tutor did pick up on. For example, the bramble leaves below, I didn’t get the opportunity to paint in the finer veins, only the main veins.

In this photo below you can see the bramble and fern fully painted, and the delicate field mouse ear beginning to grow up the page, entwining with the bramble.


I really enjoyed painting the bluebell, it’s definitely a subject I’d like to paint again. You can see the bluebell ended up with the same styleized look as the bramble and fern. I found the earthy tones in the calyxes of the red campion difficult to master!


The final piece



In general the feedback on this painting was quite good, but I let myself down a lot with the sketchbook pages we were asked to submit. I submitted the pages from my work in the field, with no refinement at home, so they were definitely not to the best standard.

My tutor picked up on the fact that this piece of work was painted quite stylized, which I agree with. He thought my tone and form were good, but that the tones were quite similar throughout – for example the bramble leaves at the bottom have the same light direction as those at the top.

Here is the breakdown of my marks:

Choice of subject: 9
Line: 9
Form: 8.7
Tone: 8.7
Colour: 9
Composition: 9.5
Botanical accuracy: 9.5
Technique: 8.8
Presentation 9.5
Labelling: 8

Final mark for this assignment: 8.97/10

My final thoughts

I had this really romantic picture of what ‘working in the field’ would be like. Sat in the woodland, sketching, painting… but in reality I found being away from my home comforts really difficult. I have a lot of respect for artists who spend most of their time in the field, and it’s something I would definitely like to expose myself to more, and practice.

Also a tip for this type of work – don’t underestimate the amount of time it takes, and the value of getting really detailed and thorough drawings of the specimens.

The next assignment is almost the direct opposite in terms of a botanical artists working style – working from photographs!

Thanks for reading, I hope it was a useful read, particularly for students currently on the SBA diploma.



Assignment 8 – Botanical Illustration

I was really excited about this assignment. Botanical illustration, what the course is all about! I love painting flowers, and it was great to get back into that after the fruit and veg assignments (which I did enjoy, it was … Continue reading

Cherry Blossom Painting – and my first exhibition!

I recently completed 2 cherry blossom paintings, which I painted specifically for the Society of Floral Painters Oxmarket Exhibition. As much as I am enjoying my paintings for the SBA diploma, I really loved painting something completely different, for the … Continue reading

Assignment 7 – Vegetable

Assignment 7 for the Society of Botanical Artists Distance Learning Diploma involved painting a vegetable of our choice. I went to a number of different farm shops and farmer’s markets trying to find the perfect subject. I wanted to paint something … Continue reading

Assignment 6 – Fruit

Assignment 6 of the Society of Botanical Artist’s Distance Learning Diploma involved painting a fruit of our choosing. I really struggled with my choice of fruit in my head, but as soon as I got out into the farmer’s markerts/farm shops … Continue reading

Assignment 5 – Rose ‘Birthday Girl’

I loved this assignment. I feel like I have improved since the last assignment, and each element (the drawing, planning composition, painting) all came much more naturally. I chose this rose because my friend has asked me to do a commission, and this rose suited her brief. I thought at this time in my life where everything is very hectic, combining the commission and the assignment made sense…


After many hours studying the rose, photographing different elements and views of each flower head, I settled on the aspects of the rose I wanted to paint and set about drawing. If you’ve read my blog before, you’ll know that I like to draw onto either tracing paper or cartridge paper, and then create an ink version of each individual component on separate sheets of tracing paper (shown in the photograph below). This makes composition planning much easier, and it means I forever have an ink copy of each drawing individually.



Composition planning is made much easier by the process I’ve explained above, but it is still always a challenge to get it right. I had lots of components and so lots of options. A couple are shown in the photos below. I settled on the final composition because it felt balanced, with interest at both the top and the bottom of the piece. I did have to move around some of the leaves in order to make the composition flow naturally and not be too busy.

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Final Composition

Colour studies

The next stage is the colour studies, to ensure the colours are botanically accurate. These also give me a chance to have a ‘practice run’ which I am always eternally grateful for, as it always turns out completely rubbish (see examples below!)

I used varying mixes of Quinacridone Rose (Daniel Smith), Opera Rose (W&N), and P. Alizarin Crimson (W&N) for the flower heads.

For the leaves I used a mix of Indanthrone Blue, Quinacridone Gold, and Green Gold (all Daniel Smith).



IMG_0163 Working out my Greens using my “Indanthrone Blue” colour chart.

A really key part of the colour studies are making a botanical grey. This is a really crucial component of the painting, as it’s used to create realistic shadows on the plant. A good botanical grey is particularly important on pale flowers, as it’s really the main way to demonstrate form. To make a botanical grey I take three of the primary colours used in the piece (in this case Quinacridone Rose, Indanthrone Blue and Quinacridone Gold).


I think it’s a bit easier for me to just post photos of the painting process.

IMG_0156_2IMG_0157_2IMG_0158_2 IMG_0155_2

IMG_0168_2 IMG_0171_2

IMG_0173_2  IMG_0186_2




I got 8.37 for this assignment, but lowest mark so far in the course. At first I was very disappointed, but the criticism was very constructive and I have a few areas that I can work on. They mark us on a number of different areas, I’ll just go over the main criticisms, as the feedback is very thorough…

Line: I need to make sure that my stem widths are even, particularly where a leave or another stem overlaps. A basic point which I’m annoyed I didn’t get quite right.

Form and Tone: This was generally good but could have hard darker tones in some places.

Colour: According to my tutor this particular rose has some yellow tones in the centre. My particular rose didn’t have this, but perhaps it’s a lesson in doing some research on what the ‘true’ specimen should look like…

Composition: She was pleased with the composition.

Botanical Accuracy: This was also fine!

Technique: Some uneven washes on the stems, and sometimes the veins on the leaves can be more indistinct, particularly where there is less light.

Presentation: There was a small dot of paint on the right which I couldn’t clean up off the paper – I’m always so careful but accidents happen occasionally. Will have to find a way to try and fix it, there are ‘magic erasers’, maybe I’ll try one of those….

Labelling: My labelling with the latin/english names wasn’t quite right… again. I need to spend more than 5 minutes on this at the end.

I hope you all enjoyed reading this post, and it was helpful, especially for those of you on the SBA course or equivalent!


Assignment 4 – Flower Heads

Assignment 4 was a fun assignment, the first opportunity to use a lot of colour after the first two graphite assignments and then all the greens in Assignment 3. Choosing which flowers to use was really tricky for me. I’m … Continue reading