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 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:
Field mouse ear
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:
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
Botanical accuracy: 9.5
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.
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!
TWO CLOSE UPS:
THE FINISHED PIECE:
Thank you to everyone on here who gave my advice before starting! I hope you are all satisfied with the result!
This afternoon I went to the post office and dropped off my first assignment to be sent to Guy William Eves, a wonderful botanical artist and tutor on the SBA Diploma. It feels incredibly exciting (and intimidating!) knowing that he will be judging my work. He will also be marking Assignment 2.
In my previous posts I have described the outline drawing required for the first part of the assignment, and the stippled lily for the second part, so I will focus this post on the final part.
I chose to draw a hyacinth, and as I got into planning the composition I realised I wanted to include not just the stem and flower head but also the leaves, and also the bulb and the wonderful roots. Inevitably the piece got far too large and intricate for assignment 1… but I managed to get it finished.
I really liked the composition, and I did enjoy drawing the hyacinth, but I have to say I do find pencils much harder than watercolours (I am dying to reach for my paintbrushes). I struggle with keeping the paper crisp and clean despite all attempts to do so (my drawing board has tracing paper everywhere!)
So below are the final 3 drawings that I sent today, plus a tonal strip and a note to my tutor with a few points, particularly querying the size of my pieces.
And here they are all ready to be sent!
This was such an exciting day for me today. Although I’m feeling apprehensive now, I definitely know that I am going to be completely in my element during my year out from my studies. I can’t wait to see what I can come up with for the next assignments.
Now for a breather whist I wait for my feedback before Assignment 2. Perhaps I can start thinking about my subject choice…!
For the second part of my first assignment they ask us to use the stippling technique on a flower, stem and leaf. I’ve never stippled before, and after practicing with pencil and pen I decided that pen was much neater, much cleaner and gave a much better result!
For a new technique, I didn’t want to rush straight in to the final piece (something that I am very prone to doing!) I chose to draw a lily for the final stippled piece, so I practiced with a lily also.
Here is my first study, unfinished to show my progress: (apologies for the poor photographs)
I shall post the final stippled piece, along with my thoughts as to how it went and tips on stippling, in my next post!
Having seven roses to work with, my next challenge has been to think about a composition. There were so many options. My technique of creating a painting involves drawing the subject, then using tracing paper to create an ink line drawing. This technique is really useful for planning compositions.
I liked the centre rose facing forward, and having a rose on each side looking out the edge of the page. After that, I wanted to show the different aspects and views of the rose heads. The only view missing from the arrangement in the photograph is seeing the rose head directly from behind. I changed the final composition to incorporate this:
I knew I wasn’t satisfied with the stems. I think that the stems are one of the most important parts of this composition, I’ll make sure that I focus on these when it comes to putting the whole thing together.
So to update you all on how the assessment day went for the Society of Floral painters… They accepted me, so I am officially a full member! I was very surprised but extremely pleased to get the letter!
They gave me a lot of constructive criticism, but I was grateful for that. I’ve never had my work formally assessed, so it was refreshing to hear how I can improve.
Now to get painting again!
I was thoroughly spoilt this weekend by my Mum. I got these amazing flowers through the post. When re-arranging them I thought the hydrangea on its own was so spectacular, I wanted it separate from the rest of the arrangement so I could admire it properly. So it’s in a separate vase and will be going by my bed.
I have finally got my work back from the framers! Let me know your thoughts! So these are the 3 pieces I will be putting into the Society of Floral Painters exhibition in October. I’m getting really excited about it now…It seems like a long way away still and a long time to wait, but hopefully it’ll fly by!