Tuesday 1 August 2017

Creating botanical beauty

Sometimes projects require a mammoth amount of planning, research and reading. The series I'm currently working on certainly falls into this category. On the surface this is often not evident, but there is always hidden meaning and symbolism behind my work, you just need to look for it. My current big series 'Flora and Fauna' In many ways harks back to some of the work I was doing 5 years ago for my final project at university. I conducted extensive research on The Language of Flowers and the historical use of nature in art symbolism, designing my final collection around the theme of sin and virtue.

For a long time I have wanted to do more botanical illustration, as I am a great lover of nature and all things wild and weird. But for me it can't just be an attractive image I'm creating, there has to be some meat on the bones, and that means symbolism and depth.

After countless hours of pondering and research I decided on a number of themes and phrases to form the basis of the pieces themselves, and began researching flora and fauna which reflect these themes. I already had a shortlist of moths and insects I hoped to work into the series somewhere. So after many hours with my nose in books, looking back over old notes, doodling and utilising my old friend Google I finally began sketching out some compositions. Happy with my progress and the way my ideas were shaping up the next stage was to complete full size line drawings of the compositions, compare them, see how they flow and work together.

Once I was satisfied that the series had the potential to work as a collection of artworks not just a stand alone piece then the really intensive work could begin. Firstly, I transfer my linework to paper, some details and essential parts are noted in pencil, followed by a detailed pen later providing shading depth and the basis for the compositions and finally watercolour, to make the pieces come alive and look more than just a monochrome sketch. Because of the level of detail and accuracy required I decided to complete tests of my colour palette and technique to ensure it was going to successfully achieve what I needed it to. Any mistakes and changes of heart over colour would be visible, so everything has to be decided upon in advance, planning is the key for this series.

As time moves on and the pieces progress I am pleased with how they are shaping up. This type of time consuming layering is hard work but ultimately worth it. As ever, the watercolour layer makes everything come alive and gives a sense of vibrancy (not a word I often use to describe my work) and realism to the pieces. Only time will tell if the series will work together and achieve my dream of a decadent, richly symbolic set of botanical illustrations ...

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