Great Garden Sketchabout #15: Sketchbook, Pages 1/2

March 21, 2011

25 March, 2011. The Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney. Windsor & Newton watercolours and 5B graphite pencil.

Colour added today. Not the intense colour I might have gotten with Prismacolour watercolour pencils – that is for another day. Also I abandoned my idea of a ‘masked off’ pentagon focus around the buds and a similar ‘masked off’ rectangle around the palm tree branches. That technique of ‘masking off’ colour from pencil work can be done at another time, perhaps elsewhere in this sketchbook. For the moment, I’m learning about watercolour! A self-imposed ‘rule’ for this sketchbook was that every sketch include colour; only after I’d added the colour to the palm tree did I notice a synchronicity of palette between the two. I upped the intensity of the background Herbarium building which helpfully linked the pages together, as did the palm tree trunk, even though it was a mass of beautiful whites, greys and blacks in the original. However the attention to detail in this trunk has had good consequences for drawing the sandstone blocks of the Rathborne Lodge building, so it all links together! The blue leaves are provocative, but in the sunlight they were a pearly blue. All of a sudden I can’t go past a palm tree anywhere without giving it a second look; such is the power of sketching that I can live so in the moment, moving from one texture or colour scheme to the next!

20 March 2011, The Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney. Page 1: drawn from a photograph of a flower in the gardens – it’s botanical name to follow soon! Page 2: palm tree drawn on location. 12×18″ two-page spread. Graphite pencils.

This has come about because I want to hold a common idea for most of the two-page spreads: one of the two pages will be a closeup of a flower or similar (since that is what we all do in a Botanic Gardens) and the facing page will be a landscape or distance shot (since we are all impressed by vistas in Botanic Gardens). So my book reflects how most of us interact in terms of duality of depth-of-field and picture-plane. I have never done any Botanic Illustration and I’ve broken two fundamental rules first up: this is not drawn from a real-life specimen and this is not drawn to scale.

However, I’ve never before drawn anything remotely like this in terms of complexity. It borders on a medieval rose window for me; in fact colour within black penwork will accomplish this. I put the digital photo through some magnification on a large television screen, working up the detail from the centre with a x8 magnification, moving down to a x2 and x1 for the ‘corona’ of surrounding leaves.

What the drawing lacks is the strict pentagonal structure of the plant. It is pretty close to a pentagon, but not quite.

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