Foreshortening for Botanical Artists

by Mindy on November 24, 2011

in Uncategorized

Great Videos Explain Foundation Drawing of Flowers

The single most important thing that a botanical artist must do to make a successful illustration is get the proportions and morphology of the plant correct. The foundation of this is in the drawing. Drawing is so important that if something is drawn poorly the plant will not come to life. In my teaching I stress this. For most botanical artists drawing is challenging and time consumming and most would rather skip the drawing and get to the painting. I find that I spend more time on drawing and composition than I do with my brush in my hand. I start out by drawing multiple angles of the flower/plant. I do a front, top, side, 3/4 view and any other view I can think of to get an idea what the parts of the flower/plant I want to depict in my painting. I usually have more than one flower of the same variety so I can pull it apart and see how it grows. My non-artist friends think I am nuts when they see me dismembering a flower but for me it is the only way that I can see how it is put together. I keep a sketch book and draw as much as I can of each subject I want to paint. I make written observation notes and mix color swatches before the flowers wilts and dies. I was on Facebook reading through the Botanical Art Forum and one of the members found a YouTube video by John Muir. I quickly went to the YouTube channel and found that he had a series of videos on drawing plants. Here is the video,

This is one of the best visual explanations/videos of how to draw a cone shape/tubular flower I have seen. He does it with simplicity and clarity. Foreshortening can be very challenging and this video really explains the proper way to "see" what is really happening. I invite you to go to his website and his YouTube channel and subscribe to his videos, I did!

In closing I want to remind you of the structure he provides, follow the rules but also do it with grace, movement and details that make your painting come alive.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Jarnie November 25, 2011 at 1:42 am

Mindy, many thanks once again for some excellent advice and help. The video is indeed a great visual aid and I will certainly look for the rest of the series on You Tube. The idea of taking the flower apart seems a bit brutal but makes perfect sense, I will give this a go. 

Mindy November 25, 2011 at 8:40 pm

Hi Jarnie, I know that pulling apart a flower may seem brutal but it will really help you see what is going on. The drawing in the video is a simple composite flower, like a daisy. The way that he has made the petals is very generic and much to fat at the disc part of the flower. Once you pull the flower apart you will see how it tapers. His video is excellent because it is so simplistic and formulaic. The problem with this is that many artists follow the "formula" but loose the subtle details of each component of the flower. So go for it……. rip the head off, pull the petals off and see what is going on!

John Muir Laws November 28, 2011 at 11:59 am

I am delighted that the video was helpful for you. I agree that the formula is not the flower. I think it helps to understand how the geometry of the flower works as a framework in the back of your mind. The next step is to turn it from a generic cone to the real petals you are looking at. I will have two videos coming out soon on drawing curling petals and leaves. The trick is not to draw the flower that is in your mind, but the one that is in front of you. I love how you put it- the grace of a flower. 

Mindy November 28, 2011 at 5:51 pm

Jack~ Your video is wonderful and I will be sure to be watching for the next ones. I subscribed to your YouTube channel and encouraged others to do so. I have been teaching botanical drawing for over 15 years and see how students struggle with simple concepts. I am always looking for ways to communicate with them better so I am always looking for different approaches. Your handling of foreshortening takes it to the simple level that is easily understood. I like to break things down so that they understand, grasp the foundation and then move forward to really see what is in front of them. Your video does just that! The next step is to capture detail, grace and beauty and make it come a live.

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