Great Garden Sketchabout #24: Hibiscus schizopetalus

April 4, 2011

3 April 2011, Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney. Hibiscus schizopetalus, behind the Tropical Centre. 5×8″, Prismacolor watercolour pencils, graphite pencil. My first go at Prismacolour watercolour pencils and they’re just like pastels without the dust and able to worked with quite a fine point!  I am reading Ian Simspon on working outdoors at the moment and he talks a lot about conveying the impression in a sketch which ‘grabs’ the artist. He encourages sketchers to work until the impression is conveyed, then stopping. The sketcher should then start a new sketch but push things just that bit further. I can see already what I’d like to achieve in a second sketch of this ‘hibiscus with unusual petals’ to quote from the Latin. My handling is way too rough for the likes of botanical illustrators, but my ‘impression’ was all about capturing the unusual form and the luxuriousness of the crimson/orange/fushcia blend of reds. I’ve noticed on repeat visits that the long stamen curls – something to capture in a future sketch. The scan here shows up unblended ‘single’ marks which definitely need modifying! I’ve checked out pictures of this species on the Internet and our Royal Botanic Gardens’ specimen seems particularly lyrical with its predominant shades of white.

This has been sketched straight into my Garden sketchbook and may be supplemented with a kirigami pop-up hibiscus made out of the same Como paper as the sketchbook, mainly as my concession to edginess – mine can’t simply remain a sequence of ‘straight’ sketches. Certainly the other page of this two-page spread will be in a similar red palette and devoted to what I call the ‘Anonymous Flower” (since the plant doesn’t have an identification sign near it). My ‘Anon Flower’ is being studied weekly and sketched as it goes from a full bloom to one slowly decaying. I wanted to portray transience and not just plants/flowers at the ‘top of their game’. Currently, given its very rapid state of decomposition, there may be nothing left by the time of my last scheduled visit next Saturday! The four sketches form a ‘diagonal’ across my sketchbook, from corner to corner, when the sketchbook is opened out as a full, single page. I was thinking of doing each sketch in a different medium (watercolour, gouache, acrylic washes, etc.)and am very buoyed up by the way the Prismacolour pencils are working. I would have liked a “man-made’ equivalent forming an opposing diagonal, but that may be for another book. Speaking of which, I’ve almost finished two other ox-plough books in landscape format.

Ian Simpson, ed. Practical Art School: Twelve Lessons in Painting, Drawing & Sketching. Surrey, Eng.: CLB, 1995.

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