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…!

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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:

Bluebell
Red campion
Woodland fern
Field mouse ear
Bramble

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:

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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.

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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!

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The final piece

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Feedback

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.

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Assignment 8 – Botanical Illustration

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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!

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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

The finished piece

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

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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…

Drawing

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.

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Composition

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).

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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).

Painting!

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

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FINAL PIECE

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Feedback

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!

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Assignment 4 – Flower Heads

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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

Assignment 3 – Leaves

I was really excited for Assignment 3, but for various reasons (including finishing my 4th year at University, moving house and county, and welcoming into the world 7 jackapoo puppies) I only had 2 weeks to paint, rather than 2 months. Those 2 weeks were manic, and unfortunately I couldn’t create exactly what I wanted. Here is a short photographic summary of assignment 3.

Composition

For this piece, I really struggled with the composition. A minimum of 8 leaves are required, and I wanted to avoid just plonking down (love that word) 8 leaves on a page. I wasn’t too happy with my final composition, but with time constraints it would do!

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Neither of the above compositions are the final piece. It so happened that the Iris instantly found it’s place as the leaf to plan the composition around. I liked the ivy coming down from the corner as in the righthand photo. In the end I decided to keep each leaf as it grows, i.e. the Acer hanging down as it does from the tree, the ivy climbing across the page, and all the other leaves growing upwards from the ground.

I am told with compositions with multiple specimens such as this, it works best to keep the heavier components a the base of the painting. I kept this in mind, with the hellebore in the bottom right.

Ivy

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Euonymus

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Rosa

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Iris

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Hellebore

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Geranium 

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Acer

 

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Beech

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The Final Piece

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Bold Washes

One of things I love about watercolour is the way you can build up layers of washes to create different effects. You can lay down really bold colours first, and when other colours are layered on top, everything can soften together and create a really interesting effect. I’ve demonstrated this with an ivy leaf.

I kept my mix for this really simple. Indathrone Blue  and Hansa Yellow Light (both Daniel Smith).

I determine first which areas of the leaf are facing away from the light, and which parts are not. This is a general impression, the details of shadows are added in later.

On the areas away from the light I laid down a wash of Indanthrone blue, and areas facing the light I laid down a wash of Hansa Yellow Light.

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I then use a mix of the two to add in the details, now adding areas of shadow.

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I’ll go and finish painting it now!

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Jasmine

So, 6 weeks (or so) later I have completed my Jasmine… And most excitingly I have completed all the art diploma work that I will need to whilst also tackling university work; my next assignment (leaves in watercolour) will have my undivided attention!

I thought I would do a short summary of the process of drawing the Jasmine polyanthum. You can see it grow!

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TWO CLOSE UPS:

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THE FINISHED PIECE:

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Thank you to everyone on here who gave my advice before starting! I hope you are all satisfied with the result!

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