Japonica; watercolour 12×9 inches

I have been busy renewing my acquaintance with pencils and drawing in general. This has meant putting aside my usual tendency to hop about between pure experimenting and working on an actual image, in colour of some kind, either pastel or oils. This time of year is not good for live flowers unless you’ve got an intelligently-planted garden that provides specific winter blooms. I am hoping for a sighting of last year’s newly-planted hellebore (Christmas Rose), which was a nice purple-red colour; the leaves have appeared but no flowers yet. Garden centres do have winter pansies, however, and a few other species, so I may have to “buy in” for a little while.

After many years of observing plants and painting them either as big canvases or small studies, I can say that working directly from the plant is without doubt the best approach. I have and do use photos for direct work, but they don’t provide the same feeling of three-dimensions.

Today’s very simple spray is a twig from a skimmia japonica shrub…and I’ll own up here to say it was painted a few years ago, in an art class afternoon. I’ve never scanned it for display until now, but while sifting through old work last week I found it in a folder. It kind of emphasised what I have just said….drawing directly from the plant can’t really be improved on. I have always preferred the more artistic slant on floral images, rather than the precise scientific measure-each-bud approach…takes far too long and I don’t have huge amounts of time these days.

So this little spray was drawn first lightly with pencil, then watercolour added with a few fine-pointed brushes; the leaves worked with a broader brush. The surface is standard 140lb watercolour paper. It shows that you don’t need to draw an entire shrub to make a picture; and it has a feel of simplicity, which can be sometimes hard to acquire when faced with a tangled mass of stems and blooms.

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