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The Wonderful World of Botanical Art

The Wonderful World of Botanical Art

Flowers have always held a fascination with artists to paint. Whether because of their temporary nature being made immortal on canvas or simply for their beauty, they can be a real challenge to get right. They can also be fun to paint because of their delicate shapes as flowers offer details for beginning artists to draw and paint without the initial fear of having to get the proportions entirely correct. When you understand how your paints and materials work and have an idea of perspective and colour, you can start painting realistic flowers just as easily as abstract ones.

 Floral art has a wonderful history. Flowers and plants were recorded in painting form before the ability to photograph them became available. It also allowed for finer detail when they needed to document the numerous species of flowers and plants.

If you want to paint flowers its a good idea to begin with your favourite flower, no matter how complex it might seem. By choosing your favourite bloom, you will be motivated to try and paint it well. It doesn't matter if your attempts aren't perfect. Each time you try you will become more familiar with the flowers shape and it will seem easier to paint. 

Try using different materials to recreate the flower. Many artists use pastels rather than paint and either the soft powdery ones or the oily variety create stunning effects. Pastels come in a beautiful range of colours, from very pale to vibrant hues so they are ideal for botanical art. Water-colour is also popular for this as the soft washes of colour with the paint is ideal to portray delicate petals. This has long been a favourite of flower painters and botanical artists and for good reason, especially the way you can allow one colour to randomly bleed into another, just as it does in nature.

Here are some steps to begin to paint and draw flowers.

Start by drawing the outline of the flower lightly on to your painting surface. This is a good guide to help you when you start to paint.

Choose a medium colour for the base of your petals. For example, if the flowers are yellow, choose a mid tone creamy yellow that sits between the brightest shade in the flower and an almost white yellow that you will use for your highlights. Apply a light wash or glaze of that colour to your painting surface. This simply means that you apply colour lightly and evenly. If you are working with watercolour or acrylic paint, add a little flow medium or water to your paint before applying it, or with oil paints, you need to add the appropriate thinner or medium like liquin or a bit of oil to thin the paint.

Using a darker colour, which should be in the same shade as your base, you now paint in the shadows on your flowers. The darkest shadows are usually between petals and where the petals meet the stems.

Next step is to paint in the highlights of your flower with a lighter colour.  You can finish off with white or yellow (if you’re not already using it!) for a real highlighted effect on top of the lighter colour as this will give it a lot more definition, just don’t get carried away with it!

Posted: Sunday 11 April 2010


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