I have decided to use the orchid for my final assessment because it is a subject not previously attempted and presents the challenge of drawing a white subject in an interesting way, using colour. Right now this feels like a possibly unrealistic challenge but pressing on…
For this exercise, I drew the orchid in different positions, initially at eye level as it sat on the desk. Here is the orchid. I hope that I shall be able to keep this plant alive for the duration of the assessment… I don’t have a great track record with house plants.
Here are the first sketches, in an A4 sketchbook (140 gsm), which focused on the flowers and buds at the end of the stem, rather than the plant as a whole. I like the contrast in shape, colour and size of the buds compared with the petals, and also the different petal shapes within a single flower. I was too absorbed in the petals at this stage and less in the overall structure of the plant – it took me a few drawings to realise that the part of the stem that I was drawing was actually the growing tip. The drawings below were made in pencil (HB to 4B), coloured pencil (second page below) and Derwent coloured graphite pencils, on the first page below left.
At this stage, I noted that certain positions offered greater tonal contrasts from overlap of petals, which could create greater complexity in a drawing, as well as making it easier to differentiate petals, one from another. White flowers overlaying other white flowers are difficult to portray without strong tonal contrasts. I became more aware of the need to lose edges while drawing. The third drawing (actually the single flower against the dark background on the first page above) is partially successful in this regard.
I have a tendency to stroke the paper when beginning with pencil, especially coloured pencil and I need to extend my range of mark-making and also the depth of colour. The drawings above are too delicate for large scale drawings – they lack impact but some of the petals are quite well modelled (for example, the left hand petal in the first drawing).
At this point, I decided to do an exercise in using stronger colour and less controlled marks. The drawing below used Cretacolor Chunky coloured charcoal. I initially pushed an olive green Chunky around an A3 sheet and then erased the flower shapes using a cotton bud. The chalk could not be entirely erased and this created an indistinct image. I added a wash to the background, in order to bring the flowers forward but it then was just messy and monotone. I added a yellow ochre and rusty charcoal to the background to make the overall shape of the flowers clearer and added some tone to the flowers, to better distinguish the structure. The plant needs more background structure – it is hanging in space without visible support! It is not a successful drawing but it has helped me break out of the “fragile flower” rut.
At this stage, the subject seemed limited at eye level. I needed a fresh vantage point and so investigated foreshortening possibilities by drawing the orchid from above. This first sketch was drawn in pencil with the plant on the floor. The outline is rather faint – it was intended primarily as an investigation into an alternative perspective. It is interesting that a long tall subject suddenly becomes suitable for a landscape format when viewed “head on”. The subject does not fit entirely on the page but, although it was unintentional, this is something that I would like to explore further. I would need to plan the image well – see reflection below.
I decided to try another foreshortened image from a slightly less vertical viewpoint. This time I used an aubergine coloured graphite pencil (Derwent). The wash was applied as an afterthought to help project the flowers. The individual flowers are clearest in this drawing and the leaves are visible for textural and tonal contrast. Could I incorporate foliage as well in the vertical perspective above? Will need to explore angles that might facilitate this.
Some questions to answer when planning the composition:
– What do I want to include and where do I want to “cut” the image? Will this work best in landscape or portrait? Or square?
– Connected with the first question: What would be the best way of exploiting negative space?
– How will I adjust perspective to include a balance of the various textures in the plant – petals, stalk, foliage, buds, interior detail – and also the textures offered by the soil and pot?
– How will marks differentiate the textures?
– What scale do I want? If I am going to draw an A3 or A2 drawing, I will need to scale up considerably but this will also give me the opportunity to develop the detail of the flower’s interior, which I have not yet done. There also needs to be enough interest in terms of shape, tonal contrast, texture and colour in the image.
– What sort of background would work best?