News Stories in category: Illustration techniques

Guest Blog: Seven drawing exercises by Nathan Hughes

Story posted: 21. July 2018 by Lizzie Harper



This week's blog is all about ways to hone your drawing skills, and is by guest blogger Nathan Hughes .  I've provided the illustrations, and my annotations on Nathan's blog are in italics.

7 Simple Drawing Exercises to Help Improve Your Illustrations



Are you looking to improve your drawing skills? The typical advice is "just practice."

However, that broad advice often doesn't help, and can leave you frustrated. So what can you do?

Below I outline seven drawing exercises you can take on that will help you deliberately improve your skills.

1.…

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Botanical Illustration: Cheating doesn't exist

Story posted: 10. May 2018 by Lizzie Harper

When I chat to people who are just beginning botanical illustration, I quite often get questions about whether or not certain things are “cheating”.  This annoys and upsets me; everyone should be encouraged to draw and paint, and to use whatever tools are available to them.

There seems to be a strange idea that various shortcuts , tools, and techniques which are incredibly helpful to a botanical illustrator are somehow “cheating”.  I want to try and dispel some of these ideas, and by so doing I hope to encourage beginners to draw and paint plants and flowers without any…

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Exhibitions: A step by step guide

Story posted: 2. February 2018 by Lizzie Harper

Every once in a while I get around to putting on an exhibition of my illustrations.  In many ways I'm incredibly fortunate, as all I need to do is to flick through the past year or two of botanical illustrations and natural history paintings and decide which ones might look good framed up, or might be appealing enough to sell.  It's a good opportunity to see what work I've done, and to get some of it out of the attic!

There are many things to sort out when arranging an exhibition, so I thought I'd put together a brief step by step guide.

Venue

First up, even…

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Botanical Illustration Comparing Hot Press Watercolour Papers part 3

Story posted: 20. October 2017 by Lizzie Harper

As a natural history illustrator and someone who does plenty of botanical illustration, it’s been easy to get embroiled in the quest for the perfect hot press watercolour paper to work on.

Like many other botanical illustrators, I used to work on Fabriano Artistico or Classico; sadly recent manufacturing changes mean this paper is no longer ideal.  The quest is on for an alternative, and this will be my third blog (also available as a youtube video with time-lapse footage and discussion on each paper's merits) trialling possible replacements (please see my first and…

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Botanical Illustration: Comparing Hot Press Watercolour Papers (part 2)

Story posted: 21. June 2017 by Lizzie Harper

As a botanical illustrator, having a good hot press watercolour paper to work on is really important.  Unfortunately, recently the paper I used to use, Fabriano Artistico , has had some changes to its manufacturing process and is no longer quite as wonderful as it was.

I, along with lots of other botanical illustrators, am busy testing alternatives to see what papers are out there, and how they work for us.

In a previous blog and youttube video I tested Arches HP,  Moulin du Roy hot press, Canson Heritage HP, Saunders Waterford HP,  and Botanical Ultra Smooth…

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Botanical Illustration: Comparing Hot Press Watercolour Papers

Story posted: 5. May 2017 by Lizzie Harper

As some of you may know, there’s been a bit of a panic in the Botanical illustration community recently.  This is because the firm favourite hot press watercolour paper of many illustrators, Fabriano Classico (and Fabriano Artistico) has altered its manufacturing process.  This has resulted in the surface of the paper being given a different sizing, which results in it being less smooth than before, and now when you paint on it the watercolour bleeds and pools a little, clearly not the effect a botanical artist is after!

It should be pointed out that the difference is not…

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Botanical Illustration: Leaf painting workshop

Story posted: 9. December 2016 by Lizzie Harper

I recently taught a day-long session on how to do botanical illustrations of leaves, focusing on colour and form, at The Walled Garden in Treberfydd .  We set ourselves up in an airy glass house, and had ready access to the enormous variety of beautiful plants Alison grows and sells at the nursery.



Glass house and students at work

After some initial work on form, we had a look at mixing greens.

When I'm illustrating, I'll choose a leaf and try to mix a colour that almost exactly matches it, even painting a little of the mixed colour onto the leaf itself to see…

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Botanical Illustration: Step by step painting of leaves

Story posted: 18. November 2016 by Lizzie Harper

I recently taught a workshop of botanical illustration of leaves , and broke down the process of painting a leaf into incremental steps shown on a demonstration painting of a blackberry leaf.



Demonstration illustration showing different steps involved in painting a blackberry leaf, and a breakdown of the colours used to mix the greens that I used for each step.

I thought it might be worth deconstructing and explaining the processes in a blog.  The illustrations below are magnified, and so are a little out of focus; my apologies.

It also needs to be pointed out…

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Category: Botanical Illustration step by step, Illustration techniques    Comments: 0    Viewed: 57653

Natural History Illustration: Drawing is Vital

Story posted: 4. March 2016 by Lizzie Harper

It might seem self-evident that being a natural history and botanical illustrator involves a lot of drawing, but I don’t think the importance of this can be stressed too much.

A lot of my work involves creating detailed illustrations of plants and animals, carefully done and accurately noted.  This is part of the job, but without basic drawing skills I wouldn’t be able to begin these botanical and anatomical illustrations.



Illustration of Lilac Syringa vulgaris from The Garden Forager by Adele Nozedar

One of the main drawing skills is being able to record…

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Natural History & Botanical Illustration: Sketchbooks

Story posted: 31. July 2015 by Lizzie Harper

As a natural history & botanical illustrator, sketchbooks are a vital part of both the drawing and the learning process for me.  Being asked to consider my relationship with them recently by Illustrator Magazine has made me pause; it’s not something I’ve thought about closely before, but has made me realise these tools are even more important to me than I previously realised.

Much of this blog formed the base of the article soon to appear in Illustrator magazine.



Pencil sketchbook notes on lichen species studied at a Radnorshire Wildlife Trust event

All…

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Botanical Illustration: Working from Photo reference

Story posted: 10. July 2015 by Lizzie Harper

As a natural history illustrator, you often get asked to complete botanical illustrations of plants which aren’t in season, or bloom.  This is where sketchbooks, filled with notes and annotated details prove invaluable.  But what if you’re asked to illustrate a botanical subject you’ve not got notes on, and which you can’t get hold of?

The first thing is to ensure you can’t get your hands on a specimen.  It is so much easier to draw plants from life than from photos; you can rotate them, dissect them out, magnify them.  You can beg, borrow and steal plants; often gardeners are…

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Natural History Illustration: Using Negative Space in Botanical Illustration

Story posted: 27. March 2015 by Lizzie Harper

Natural history illustration, Sciart, and botanical illustration require the illustrator to draw accurately and with confidence.

One of the many tools I use almost daily is the idea of negative space.

The easiest way to think of negative space is as the space between and around objects; the triangles between spokes of a bike wheel, the ovals in the handles of scissors, the shapes made by overlapping leaves.   Here’s a demo I did for a botanical illustration workshop recently.



Negative space demo

I first learned about negative space from my mother, a fine…

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Natural History Illustration: Illustrating a Nature Reserve map

Story posted: 26. February 2015 by Lizzie Harper

I am often lucky enough to work with the Wildlife Trusts UK , creating scientific illustrations and botanical illustrations for their interpretation boards and leaflets.  A while back, Staffordshire Wildlife trust and (separately) Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust started comissioning maps from me.

These are quite tricky to do as they have to be correct and clear; and all the information I include has to be checked by the Trusts' staff whilst still at the pencil stage.  This is a challenge for all of us: I have to make the map clear, they have to go over it with a…

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Natural History Illustration: Evolution of a lansdscape painting April 18th 2014

Story posted: 18. April 2014 by Lizzie Harper

Natural history illustration incorporates a wide range of sientific illustraion and general illustration techniques.  I realised about ten years ago that a desirable type of of natural science illustration was one that incorporated numerous species of plant and animal into a landscape, as in this wetland landscape done for Natural England.



Recently I've been commissioned by Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) to create a lanscape of one of their reserves, Hartslock.  Hartslock reserve has a glorious hill in it which is blousy with seven…

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Botanical Illustration: Composing a sketchbook study March 21st 2014

Story posted: 21. March 2014 by Lizzie Harper

Winter, and my natural history illustration work continues.  No problem painting a botanical illustration specimen in February if it's a conifer, like this Douglas fir.

Instead of examining the techniques involved in mixing colours etc., I thought perhaps it might be an idea to discuss composing the way a botanical subject sits on a page.

Here we are at the very start; lots of specimens, a blank sheet of paper, and a deadline.



I know what elements I need to include in this  sketchbook study. I need a decent sized "habit" drawing; a picture which shows how the…

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