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 just very out of my comfort zone!)

When you sign up for a 27 month course, life is bound to throw changes and challenges your way during that time. I didn’t for-see anything major affecting the diploma apart from returning to my final year of medical school in June this year! But this assignment coincided with a really difficult period, with a close family member being diagnosed with breast cancer. I did have to ask for an extension for this assignment, which the SBA were very happy to allow.

Because of this, to be completely honest, my heart wasn’t entirely in this painting. I think it’s a lesson to be learnt though for anyone who aspires to be a professional artist; painting is lovely and relaxing when the time is right, but like all careers there are challenging times, and doing what you do is a struggle…. or maybe that’s just me… but you have to plow on.

Anyway, onto the painting itself…

I chose my plant after a lovely day out with a friend at RHS Wisley. I chose Primula Polyanthus ‘Supernova’. It was a really beautiful vivid pink, and I got to use my favourite paint Quinacridone Rose from Daniel Smith!

Initial drawing

Unfortunately I didn’t take any photos of my initial drawing stage of this assignment. But as always, I started out with a very detailed pencil drawing of the subject. Including veins on the (hugely challenging leaves) and detailed pencil drawings of the different stages of flowering, and the important component of this assignment specifically botanical dissections. 

I used my magnifying glass to really study the components of the flower heads, noting specifics such as number of petals, stamens, calyxs, size of petals and stems, and detailed colour charts. I dissected the flowers with a sharp scalpel.

Composition planning

After I’ve traced each drawing with an ink pen onto tracing paper, I can start playing around with my compositions:

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Watercolour paper

Next I transfer my drawing onto watercolour. I pre-soaked and stretched my watercolour paper this time around, as I knew I was going to be applying large washes onto the leaves. Nothing worse than painting on buckled paper….!

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The pencil drawing, after transferring it from the ink drawing on tracing paper.

The flower head

In this photo you can see the grey underpainting, and the first pale washes going down on the flowers.

In this photo you can see the grey underpainting, and the first pale washes going down on the flowers (sorry for the terrible photo!)

Now I start to darken the washes on the flower heads, increasing the tones to those shockingly vivid and bright pinks and purples.

Now I start to darken the washes on the flower heads, increasing the tones to those shockingly vivid and bright pinks and purples.

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And finally the detail can go in to the centre of the flowers, and I can begin painting the fine stems and calyxes.

Where we are up to so far....!

Where we are up to so far….!

The leaves

With hindsight, although I loved this plant, I really should have thought about how difficult the leaves were going to be to paint! They really were super tricky. I had no idea how to approach them, so I decided to stick with what I knew, and used my method of underpainting with a botanical grey, building up the depth of colour with carefully chosen greens, and then adding in the finer detail.

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Initial tonal washes in a botanical grey.

A number of tea washes are laid down next, slowly deepening the intensity of the greens.

A number of tea washes are laid down next, slowly deepening the intensity of the greens.

Detail can then start to be added.

Detail can then start to be added.

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The dissections

As you saw above, I drew out a lot more components of the flower head than I actually included in the final piece. I re-read the brief to ensure that I understood the instructions, and it was clearly stated to only include dissections/other components that added something that couldn’t be seen on the main illustration. Therefore, I decided to keep it really simple with just the one main dissection, also showing the components of the flower I removed to perform the dissection…

IMG_0082_2 IMG_0085_2 IMG_0087_2 The finished piece

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Feedback

The feedback was generally good, my tutor was pleased with the line and colours, and mostly pleased with the tone and form, perhaps suggesting that the tones could have been darker on some of the leaves. The tutor thought my botanical accuracy was good, as was my technique, but unsurprisingly I came a bit unstuck with the labelling! I can’t seem to get to grips with it, and always leave it till the last minute!

I received 9/10 for every component that is marked, except labelling, which was 8.5.

Total marks for Assignment 8: 8.95 / 10

Thanks for reading!

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3 thoughts on “Assignment 8 – Botanical Illustration

  1. It is a pleasure to see your process and enjoy the outcome of that hard work. Most people have no idea of the amount of background work that goes into a painting before a brush is picked up. What colors are you using for your botanical grey?

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