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, ”