For the last three Monday mornings, I have been taking a wonderful class with botanical artist Sarah Roche. There was so much information to learn and share that I think I'll need to do a few separate posts.
The first day we focused on shading from dark to light. I thought I would show you how she sharpens the pencils (we used HB and F). Using an exacto or utility knife, she widdles the wood off the lead so that about 1/4" to 1/2" of the lead is exposed. This then allows you to sharpen the point by rubbing on the sandpaper .
Sarah had us practice a tonal rendering technique she likes to call "roundy-roundy". You are really just caressing the paper with small circles that are overlapping and slowly build up as you go from dark to light. This was the first shape we had us render.
As a second practice exercise, she had us draw several strips that were overlapping one another on our paper. Here is my "fetticini" rendering.
For this exercise, you want to make the strips in back the darkest and the strips in the front the lightest shades. If I was going to shade these before taking this class, I would probably use a combination of lines, cross hatching, and smudging with my finger. I found this roundy-roundy technique very relaxing and it forced me to take my time and really get in the zone.
In botanical drawing, traditionally the light comes from the left. She showed us this "football" diagram and said that all leaves can be rendered with this shading once you see how the light is hitting it.
Then, she gave each of us a purple pansy plant and we discussed the different types of leaves we could see, the varied growth stages of the flower, and the parts of the plant itself. She had us pick one leaf from the plant and, using this chart, we tried to identify it's outline, tip, base, etc.
Here is my rendered pansy leaf.
For homework practice, she had us shade each of these shapes. She says that most plants are made up of these different shapes, so knowing how to render them is critical. Note the scale at the top going from 1 to 7. You never want to have too much of one of these shades. It should be a smooth transition from dark to light.
Next up-Day 2.