Images of plants and flowers are so readily available that we tend to use them solely for our art references. And yep, while we can quickly grab a picture of a flower online or from a book when we need it, drawing from nature provides us with so much more information about the subject and helps our drawing in so many ways.
Senior designer Katrina loves to go on “inspiration gathering excursions” because “it gives you new ideas and keeps your work fresh and exciting,” she says.
We recently skipped off to The Botanical Gardens for one such outing.
One of the greatest things about working ‘en plein air,’ Katrina says, is the great opportunity to “capture the essence of the flower or the gesture of the leaves without getting too caught up in the detail.” We tend to work more quickly here as time is limited and, without the comfort and familiarity of the studio, our habits are immediately broken. It gives you ‘permission’ to free up your style and your approach to the work.
Top tips for inspiration-gathering excursion:
+ Make the most of having a three-dimensional reference and try to capture the same flower from a few different angles.
+ Take photos of different species of plants to add to your personal reference library. Take detail shots as well as wider shots. Really look at each plant. For instance, we were inspired by the pink underside of this tropical plant and the graphic nature of the leaves.
Notice how these three species have been planted together? They thrive in the same habitat and would likely be found in nature this way. It makes them perfect perfect partners for a print, which tends to look more ‘believable’ when it’s species of botanics are somewhat related. Despite all being tropical leaves though, this lot have very different shapes, which gives a textile more interest.
+ When sketching, always look more at the flower than the page. This will help stop you from “assuming” a part of the flower has a particular shape. In fact, try not to see it as a flower at all, if you can! Half close your eyes to make it an abstraction, and just draw the shapes that are there.
What to bring
Toss these things into your backpack.
To take reference photos for when you return to the studio. You can use your photos for drawing reference or you can put them directly into your photographic-style prints.
+ Sketch book with a hard back cover
This will give you something more solid to lean on than your lap!
+ Wide-brimmed hat, sunnies and sunscreen
Obviously. We’re Australian.
+ Tight edit of pens and markers or paints
A large collection might be too much to lug round with you, especially if you’ll be doing a lot of walking to get to your painting spot.
+ Rug or little fold up stool
Gives you more options for painting locations. Not all the best flowers are perfectly situated by a little patch of grass! You may have to sketch on a paved path or perch on a patch of dirt.
And until then…
“Take photos if you see a flower or interesting leaf on a walk around the block or in your own garden to use in your designs. I’m constantly doing this!” Katrina says. ” Treat yourself to some fresh flowers every once and a while to paint or draw from.”