Surface Contour for Botanical Artists

 

Where are the bends, twists and curves of any given object? Think of surface contour as a topographical map or the terrain of an object. To clearly see the surface contour it helps to create an armature drawing. An armature drawing shows the formation of how the different planes move, curve and shift. To simplify it, look at the basic forms. Each form can be broken down into specific planes or surfaces. The shape of each surface changes as lines go from being straight to being curved.

The overall shape of the artichoke is simply a globe on top of a cylinder. Within the globe there are cone shapes. In the drawing above I created a surface contour armature drawing to better understand how the artichoke grows. When it came time to tone the drawing, I transferred a simple line drawing onto my drawing paper and used the armature drawing as a road map. My application of graphite was placed on the paper in keeping with the surface contour. I used the scientific method of illuminating my subject to get the best form and detail. I often do this kind of preliminary drawing to get to know my subject better. By doing a study like this, I become familiar with the surface contour, light source, as well as the surface texture. When it comes time to do the piece in color I have already done a lot of the hard work.  Click here for a quick video on light on form and surface contour. There is more detailed information about how to render botanical surface contour in my book, ”

The Biggest Beetle EVER!

As many of you already know I LOVE bugs! Here is a favorite beetle I found while traveling in Costa Rica. It is a giant long horned beetle – Macrodontia batesi. It was 5 inches long! Most people are terrified when they see something this big because they think it will hurt them. This was a male beetle, noted by the elongated mandibles.  The word Macrodontia is from the Greek μάκρος (makros) meaning “long or large” and οδόντος(odontos) meaning “of teeth”. The males are usually larger than the females. They use their mandibles to fight off other males during the breeding season. The only danger they pose to humans is if you pick them up and stick your finger between the mandibles it will clamp down on your finger…… and it won’t let go! Here is a photo I took while in Costa Rica of this super cool bug and a painting I did of it afterwards when I got home. The painting is done in watercolor on calf skin vellum. The vellum had an irregular coloration and I thought this was interesting to work with.


Interested in going to Costa Rica to paint, photograph and find cool bugs? We are going in February 2018. Click here to join us!

SaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSave

Understanding Eyelevel

One of the most important aspects about drawing is training your eye to recognize the level that you are looking at something. All too often we don’t pay enough attention to the height of a subject in regards to the relationship of our field of vision. In this illustration I have drawn a tulip at three different view points.

The first drawing is “at my eye level”. I started out by drawing a simple cup shape to show you how the tulip breaks down into a simple form. Notice that the tulip is slightly going away from me. I do not see the inside and the dotted line on the cup shape indicates the circumference of the tulip.

The next drawing illustrates what happens when I slightly lower the tulip.  I was able to see the inside of the tulip as well as the back petals. The ellipse shows this as well.

The last drawing I positioned the tulip further downward.  This view point exposes the pistol and stamens. The shape of the ellipse is almost a perfect circle. The petals in the foreground become foreshortened.

The easiest way to get your drawing correct is to establish your view point or eyelevel and then determine if there are simple shapes like a cup or cone that you can work from. Getting the initial perspective correct is key to creating an accurate drawing.

Also don’t forget to make sure all the petals, pistols, stamens, and stems all line up at the center!

Happy drawing!

 

Interested in taking a class? Check out my online video classes.

Draw Through Your Subjects!

When you are drawing multiple images that overlap remember it is important to draw the background object through the foreground object. Erase any overlapping lines. This makes all of your lines read correctly. You can even decide to place a leaf that might be in the background in the foreground. Don’t be afraid to play with your composition until you are happy with it. I do this on multiple layers of tracing paper until I am happy that everything looks correct. The foundation of a drawing is the first and most often the most important step in creating a composition. If you are interested in learning more about composing botanicals try my Drawing Plants Class . It is 8 weeks of step by step instruction on how to accurately draw the many components of botanical illustration.

Costa Rica- Gorgeous Art Created by Jill Crouch

I am always amazed at the beautiful art that is produced after participants come home from a tour with me to Costa Rica. The 10 day tour is a whirlwind experience with so much amazing wildlife encounters it is difficult to know where to focus one’s attention. Part of my focus on these tours is to help artists gather information through field sketching, color notes and specific methods of photography to help the artist create works when they get back to their studios. One participant who has done a fantastic job at recreating art and the excitement of this tour is artist Jill Crouch. Jill continually amazes me with the beautiful art she creates. Here is what she has to say about her experience and some of the wonderful paintings she has produced.

 

In 2013, I was a retired research scientist with a love for nature and a strong desire to develop the skills necessary for capturing its beauty in a photograph, drawing and/or ultimate painting. Not knowing how, when or where to start, I immersed myself with a small group of similarly minded people into the jungles of Costa Rica. By bus we traveled with Mindy Lighthipe, a professional natural and botanical artist. The 10 days was packed with the knowledge and tools necessary for absorbing the attributes of nature in all its colorful glory. For me, this was the journey of a lifetime and an opportunity to explore any “hidden talents” I had yet to discover in myself. Each day was filled with a nature walk, a visit to an animal reserve, at least one natural wonder, and a “Master’s Class” in drawing, painting and/or photography, with continuous “how to” instructions for almost every imaginable curiosity. There were new lessons around every corner, more miracles to see and more surprises to experience. 

2Toed -Sloth- Watercolor © Jill Crouch

Four years later, I still “draw” on that experience for inspiration with my extensive library of photographs, documented notes, and sketches and paintings from our trip. Today, I have grown as an artist, I continue to take classes and I am starting to feel confident as an animal portrait artist whose journey began lovingly in the jungles of Costa Rica. 

Spider Monkey- Watercolor ©Jill Crouch

“Room for Everybody!” Watercolor ©Jill Crouch

If you would like to join us in 2018 we would love to have you! For more information click here.

 

Shooting Botanicals with the iPhone 7 Plus

I am super excited with my new iPhone 7Plus! Having a camera with me at all times is essential. You never know when you are going  to come across something special that you want to take a quick picture of. Lugging around cameras especially DSLR’s that have interchangeable lens can get heavy and cumbersome. One of the great advantages to these types of cameras is the “depth of field feature”. The longer the lens, the longer the field of view. You can take pictures of things further away and by using a “zoom” feature it brings the subject closer to you in the view finder. Things that are in the background tend to be out of focus. These lens usually are big and can even require a tripod. This kind of photography could not be done using a simple smart phone camera until now!

The two pictures below where taken with my iPhone 7Plus. My aloe plant was blooming and I wanted to capture the flower stalk for details and maybe a future painting. The photograph on the left shows the camera setting as “normal”. I just pointed the camera at the flower stalk and took the picture. As you can see my garden is full of other plants and the background is complicated, making it difficult to see the basic structure of the plant. In the iPhone 7 Plus there is a setting called “Portrait” and by switching the setting to this I was able to take the same photograph while blurring out the background. The structure of the flower stalk “pops” forward. The image is not perfect….. I am still learning but I can see the overall structure better and having both images really helps to see more of what is going on. Making sketches and color notes helps too but I didn’t have the time.

In addition to these two photos I went back to the original setting of “normal” on the phone and got closer to the subject. It was able to get some of the small details that I was unable to get with the other 2 photos. I am experimenting with all kinds of photography in preparation for the upcoming Art & Photography Tour to Costa Rica. I will be exploring more ways to work with smart phones, point and shoot as well as DSLR’s. Interested in joining us? We would love to have you. Click here for more info.

Toucans, Owls and Sloths!

I have been traveling to Costa Rica for over 30 years. In my travels I search out places that are off the beaten path. I am not much for conventional tourism. It would be unusual for me to be drinking a pina colada on a white sandy beach. I prefer to find places where everyday people are doing extraordinary things. The Toucan Rescue Ranch is one of those places. It has been a place I have returned to every year. This colored pencil drawing was done to help promote The Toucan Rescue Ranch in the rehabilitation of injured and abandoned animals of Costa Rica. I am leading an Artistic Adventure Tour to Costa Rica for artists and photographers in 2018. We will be visiting the Toucan Rescue Ranch to support their efforts. You will be able to see owls, toucans, sloths and more up close and personal. Want to join us? Click here for more information about the tour. 50% of the sale of this painting will go to The Toucan Rescue Ranch…… You can OWN IT TODAY!

Protect Our Waters- Stop the Spread of Invasive Plants

I recently had the opportunity to create this painting for IFAS- Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences at the University of Florida. The project was designed as a new product for educators and aquatic plant management enthusiasts. Many people are unaware of the damages invasive plants can do to the environment. Back in 2012 I took a  week of Plant Camp studies through IFAS. I was blown away by how many invasive species of plants and animals are wreaking havoc in the USA and Florida in particular. The climate in Florida is the only sub-tropical ecosystem in the USA. It harbors many species that can not survive in the colder climates. The 6 plants depicted in my painting are the top 6 invaders in Florida’s waterways. They are choking the lakes, rivers, ponds and streams. Many invasive plants are available at garden centers and places like Lowe’s and HomeDepot because there is no regulation prohibiting their sale. Regardless of whether you live in Florida or any other part of the world…. when choosing plants for your landscape find out the latin name of the plants you are thinking of purchasing and research them before you purchase. It is well worth the small investment of the time it takes to research the plant than the time and energy you will spend trying to eradicate it from your garden. To find out more about invasive plants visit IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants Website.

Click here for to read the full article written and published by Aquaphytes pages 7 & 8.

INVASIVE plants 

1. Alligatorweed (Alternanthera philoxeroides) is an emersed plant native to South  America.

2. Water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes) is a free-floating plant; nativity disputed.

3. Torpedograss (Panicum repens) a wetland grass native to Africa, Asia and Europe.

4. Water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) is a free-floating plant native to Brazil.

5. Giant salvinia (Salvinia molesta) is a floating plant native to South America.

6. Hydrilla  (Hydrilla verticillata)  is a submersed plant native to Africa, Asia, and Europe

For more information on the above species, visit the University of Florida/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants website: plants.ifas.ufl.edu

NATIVE animals

7.  Largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides)

8. Yellow-bellied slider (Trachemys scripta scripta)

Insects

9. Alligatorweed flea beetle (Agasicles hygrophila) is used as a biological control agent introduced to control alligatorweed.

10. Dragonfly is a beneficial native insect that eats mosquitos.

11. Dragonfly nymph is a casing left behind after the adult emergence.

12. The mosquito is an insect pest that can harm humans and animals; it breeds beneath dense aquatic weed infestations.

Florida Society of Botanical Artists Exhibition

In December of 2016 I had the wonderful opportunity to teach a group of artists at the Florida Society of Botanical Artists in Sarasota Florida. The society is a local chapter of the American Society of Botanical Artists. This was the third time they invited me to teach the group. This particular workshop was about drawing birds. I teach a variety of subjects and incorporate some ornithology anatomy in my Intro to Scientific Illustration class at the University of Florida. I wondered why this group wanted to work with birds instead of botanical subjects…….. The answer is they were preparing for an exhibition at the Sarasota Audubon Society which is located at The Celery Fields.

The exhibition is titled “Backyard Beauties” and will show case beautiful paintings of native plants and birds found in the unique ecosystem of The Celery Fields. Native plants are very important to the survival of many local and migrating species.

The Celery Fields is a 360+ acre site which consists of open marshlands, deep ponds, shallow pools, and canals. It is edged with oaks, willows, and pines. In early 2001, Sarasota Audubon began conducting bird surveys at the Fields. To date, 217 species have been recorded. Wintertime offers particularly good birding, hosting sparrows, Marsh and Sedge Wrens, and several species of rails, including Sora and Virginia. The Fields also host breeding birds, including Black-necked Stilts, King Rail, Least Bittern, Limpkin, Purple Gallinule, Eastern Towhee, Barn Owl and Eastern Meadowlark. Least Terns breed on nearby buildings and use the ponds as a primary food source. Rarities show up from time to time, including Upland and White-rumped Sandpipers, Short-eared Owl and Nelson’s Sharp-tailed Sparrow.

Sarasota County, recognizing the importance of the Celery Fields as a food and habitat source to a wide variety of birds and other wildlife, worked with Sarasota Audubon to restore 100+ acres in the Southern Cells into a more traditional wetland.

If you are in the area please visit The Celery Fields, do some nature hiking and see some of the wonderful art by the Florida Society of Botanical Artists. Details about the exhibit are located on the flyer.

Page 1 of 2312345...1020...Last »