Botanical Illustration: Step by Step Painting a Fly agaric fungus November 7th 2014

Story posted: Friday, 7. November 2014 by Lizzie Harper

Natural history illustrators are quick to paint specimens that turn up on their doorstep, so when Dave Prescott of Herefordshire New Leaf appeared with a beautiful fly agaric fungus (Amanita muscaria) I leapt at the chance to paint it.

Lizzie Harper botanical illustration of fly agaric fungus natural history illustration

First up, draw it.  I wanted to focus on the stem (stipe), so took reference from photos on how the ring (annulus) on the stem attaches.  Then I drew it up in pencil.  I favour pentel P205 automatic pancils with an 0.5mm HB lead; and work onto fabriano artistico 100% cotton hot press paper.

Lizzie Harper fly agaric botanical illustration

I looked at the stipe for a while before applying colour, and settled on a mix of yellow ochre, van dyke brown, and a touch of permenant violet.  I favour daler rowney or winsor and newton watercolours, and always use my trusty series 7 sable watercolour brush (no.1 size).

Lizzie Harper fly agaric botanical illustration

The stipe was being eaten by a slug, so I had to pin it back together with an insect pin, and prop it up on a pile of stuff so it held its shape.

Lizzie Harper fly agaric botanical illustration

The initial colour on the stipe is in, next I worked into the soil and grass attached to the tacky surface and the swollen base of the stipe.  The soil was hard, lots of tiny dark brown spots; but they're not regular sizes but vary.  Each area of earth had to be examined with a hand lens.

Fly agaric botanical illustration by Lizzie Harper

Next, I needed to start work on the cap.  I took the liberty of adding some extra white scales as there's loads of variation within different specimens, and they often are far "spottier" than this one.  Plotting the basic colour, and making sure to leave any paler areas where the light falls as white; I used a mix of cadmium orange light and camium orange dark; along with a touch of yellow.  As always, I build up the depth of colour with tiny repeated brush strokes, following the shape of the object (and the direction of growth).

Fly agaric botanical illustration by Lizzie Harper

Working into the lighter areas, I stuck to pure cadmium yellow light and made sure there were colour gradations by overlapping the orange areas with the yellow.

The white scales cast shadows as they're raised, and textrued.  I plotted these shadows and details in.

Lizzie Harper botanical illustration of fly agaric

Darks.  I mixed cadmium orange light and dark with some alizarin crimson and again, layered on more colour.  This time I only painted the very darkest areas of the cap; near the centre and the edges.

Lizzie Harper botanical illustration of fly agaric

Working more into the cap, I tried to make the areas of dark and white less stark by using cadmium orange and yellow, and doing lots of overlapping strokes.  I also put in the gills under the cap.  As I progressed it was necessary to keep looking at the tonal shodows on the stipe and darkening them too; with vandyke brown mixed with yellow ochre.

I also made the grass attached to the stipe far oranger than it was in reality; this is a trick which allows the viewer's gaze to travel across the whole painting rather than getting stuck on an area of vibrant colour.

Lizzie Harper botanical illustration fly agaric

I think perhaps my next step was an error.  I used a light wash of Doctor Martin watercolour inks (scarlet plus orange) to add a kick to the cap colour.  As always, the lightest region is left white.  However, I think it swallowed a little of the tonal detail of the painting, so I needed to go and work further into the cap shadows again.

I also introduced a pale drop shadow below the gills and the annulus.  This was violet, van dyke brown, and a touch of ultrmarine.

I also put a very light wash of the cap colour on the base of the stipe; again, to trick the eye into including it when you look at the painting.

Lizzie Harper botanical illustration fly agaric

And here's the final illustration.  The colours differ as this is a scan, not a photo.  You can see where I've worked into the darks again, and finished up the grass blade on the cap.  I tweaked the margin of the cap (which is a jazzy pale yellow sliced with scarlet) and darkened the darkest darks (middle of cap, junction with gills, bottom of stipe.)

Lizzie Harper botanical illustration fly agaric

It was a lovely specimen to paint, and went really fast; I managed to get it done in 5 hours, which is quite quick for me.  It's definitely given me a taste to paint more, specially as the flowers are dying in the autumn rains...

I'm afraid I've had to turn off the "comments" button on my blogs due to spamming.  If you would like to give any comments or feedback, please do so on my Facebook page or Twitter account.  Many many thanks; and apologies.

 

Category:  Botanical Illustration step by step   |   Comments:  0   |   Viewed:  6012

Go back to the list of news stories

Comments are off for this news article.