I have been thinking about my journey into botanical illustration. Looking back now, like most artists I can say I have always made art in one form or another, and I can think of many particular online art classes that helped me begin to see art I really love and specific mediums I am drawn to, and it all began with portraits.
The first class was a course given through Jeanne Oliver’s Creative Network. As a matter of fact, I think it was actually one of her free videos that I had taken and if you have never checked her courses out, you may want to. She offers many free classes and lots of courses taught by her, as well as other artists that I have found worth every penny.
Well, this particular course with Jeanne as the teacher, showed me how to make portraits in white Gesso, black charcoal, and a black Stabilo pencil – simple and fun.
We were given an old classic painting of Clematis in 1899 and were to reproduce it with these mediums… First we laid down some mixed media and clear Gesso to prepare the page and give it some texture. I used a canvas art journal that was perfect for this kind of mixed media work.
I loved the process of creating this portrait. But the portrait itself was meaningless to me. Using this same method, I wanted to create a portrait that had real purpose and evoked emotion within me – So I did…
These portraits of my Sweet Lord Jesus meant so much to me that I cried while creating them. That didn’t happen for me with the other portrait. These two had such special meaning for me and they both brought out deep admiration and love from within my soul.
For the first time, I felt like my art had real meaning and a story that I wanted to tell every one…
And I loved working in these mediums!
Through Jeanne’s class I learned three things:
1) I learned that I love working with these three mediums in the beauty of the black and white finish, and
2) I learned that I love to keep it very simple, using just a few mediums. The effect is amazing and beautiful to me.
3) I also learned the importance of creating something that has worth and importance to me personally.
I then took a course with an artist I learned of from Jeanne's network. Ivy Newport had so much to teach me not just about drawing faces, but about different mediums and different styles of art. The first tutorial I ever did with her was free and taught me how to plaster the front of my canvas sketchbook - the one I showed above.
I loved the whole process of plastering, but it was the portraits she had shown from her journal that grabbed my attention once again. They were so simple and beautiful in black and white.
This led me to take her Shades of White course where I created another portrait, but this time in chalk and fluid acrylics - it was definitely "Yummy", as I can still hear Ivy say.
Later I took another class that my oldest daughter purchased for me at Christmas called “Let’s Face It 2016” with Kara Bullock.
This course was 52 weeks of creating portraits - Yes, ONE WHOLE YEAR! Although I still have not made it through all 52 weeks (but still trying), it has been so fun. I have met many lovely mixed media artists and I have learned lots of different art techniques and am still learning from it. It was a great Christmas gift for sure!
There are many artists who create amazing portraits that have such beauty and meaning behind them, but it was not something that I truly loved - I only liked it. However, I remained steadfast with the mediums I loved so far; i.e., black Charcoal, black Stabilo and white Gesso.
During the Let's Face It 2016, there was one lesson that stood out to me taught by Kara, and it revealed to me a truth I had not known up to this point. It was a lesson of learning to map a face.
We were provided a photograph of a girl and as we learned to map it, I quickly discovered that I love dissecting and measuring, as well as working in graphite, in the black and white tones - Little did I know I was getting closer to finding my niche!
So you may be asking, "How did faces lead you to flowers?"
Learning to create art using faces taught me some things about myself as an artist that I did not know. It taught me that I love black and white images specifically using graphite, and that I love dissecting and measuring in order to get the image the exact size. I also love re-creating what I see.
It wasn't long that a sweet friend from England mentioned to me that I should consider applying for the Society of Botanical Illustrators (SBI) Diploma in London. So I looked into it and this led me on a search for an online course that would prepare me to eventually take the SBI or the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) Diploma.
As I asked around on Facebook, I was led to Dianne Sutherland, a wonderful botanical illustrator who offered an online course in botanical illustration with the purpose of preparing artists for the SBI and RBGE. Of course I started her class right away!
It was in this online class that I learned that botanical illustration uses graphite for it’s foundation before watercolor is applied, and the dissecting and measuring of a plant is crucial for obtaining the scientifically correct version of the plant being illustrated.
I felt that I was finally home in the world of art. I had finally found my niche!
My first major peace of work for Dianne was a botanical illustration in graphite...
While I was taking Dianne's course, a free course came up through edX of which I could pay a small fee and get a certificate of completion. I decided to take it and ended up making my "Lumpy Pumpkin" for my final piece in that course...
I can see now how the courses I have been taking have led me to this place where I have discovered botanical illustration and graphite art to be perfect art forms for me.
I begin my botanical illustrations in graphite after carefully dissecting and measuring each piece of the plant. Each botanical illustration has deep meaning for me because it was initially created by the One I love with all my heart.
Finding my personal “niche” in art was important, but I had to be patient with myself as I discovered through different avenues and many wonderful artists just what art style was right for me.
We all have a journey and the process of that journey is worth enjoying every step of the way, as each step eventually reveals a special method of sharing a part of ourselves with others.
“The LORD make His face shine on you,
And be gracious to you;
The LORD lift up His countenance on you,
And give you peace.'”