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The Botanical Room Part 27

Drawing

I like thinking about drawing as well as the action itself.

I like imagining the line before I actually put a pencil to paper.

I like choosing which pencil I will use and enjoy the simple feeling of it sitting in my hand.

Is it pointed enough or not? Is it dark enough, soft enough, too harsh or too sharp?

Everyone has a unique way of delivering a line to paper.

Even if you have never drawn before,

the moment you put the pencil to paper, your line will be unique to you.

How amazing is that?

A pencil line can be described in many ways; it can have a weight to it, which means when you put your pencil to the paper, you will either push hard, medium or light and the harder you push on the pencil, the heavier the line.

Your line might indicate a direction, or it may be noncommittal.

It might be a line where you used a ruler to guide your pencil, and there is no indication to which end you began. Your line could be short or long, thick or thin, soft, light or fuzzy, dreamy, barely there or solid and proud.

Your line could be a series of dashes, dots or just a single dot!

A line can carry emotion, portraying your energy or how you felt when you made it.

Draw quickly, and your line can portray speed; draw slowly, and the line will reflect your consideration.

So much to say and express through a simple pencil line.

In Botanical art, we often seek to make our lines as perfect as possible; with little room for emotional swipes of the pencil, it's easy to understand why many who see this art form find it too perfect and perhaps clinical.

But we don't all draw the same way, and we often start our investigation or adventure into a study with a lightning sketch. A sketch that captures the nature of the plant, its place within its environment, and its grace or spirit.

Those who love plants often refer to them as they would a friend, their beauty or busyness, stature or diminutive nature, well-being or fragility. With these attributes in mind, we set about trying to capture the plant's spirit and convey to others what has drawn us to draw it.

As artists, we give ourselves permission to arrange the plant aesthetically and place it elegantly within the space of the sheet, and usually, through this process, we refine our line, using less vigour and more consideration, to show the elements and attributes of the plant in the most descriptive and, yes, beautiful way.

Forgive my pun, but I am drawn to drawings, considered or dramatic; I find myself peering close to absorb the passion emanating from the artist's marks. I seek out drawings or etchings from long-forgotten piles of paper or framed work just languishing in junk shops, hunting for lines delivered by a perfect artist's hand and eye. They don't have to be known artists, many pieces are unsigned and tatty, but I feel a thrill when I recognise the signs of a true eye for drawing.

When I teach, I often tell someone their line is beautiful. It is usually something they have never been told before, but when I see it, I have to say it!

Years ago, I was teaching a class, and a group of autistic young people joined. I was taken aback at one young man's ability to draw with clarity and a true sense of design. I told him how fabulous his style was and how impressed I was; honestly, I wanted to buy his work right then and hang it on the wall, but I didn't want to embarrass him, so I let decorum reign. Instead, we both enjoyed a 'moment of great art', as I called it. He flourished in the knowledge that he was a natural illustrator; I like to think he still puts his pencils to work.

Some of the pieces I have on my walls are shown here.

Each is an inspiration to me.

Study in tone (unknown artist) is a wonderful print gifted to me by a friend, it's only a print but I love the smoothness of the mark making, it's a joy to study.

Above is a detail from a drawing by my Father in law, Walter Cook; it was accepted for the Royal Academy Summer show back in the 1980's, and I remember my husband taking his dad up to london on his little 125 motorbike to deliver it to the show.

I love the perfect tones across the piece.

Above is an A4 print that I was lucky enough get when I was a student badgering various Fashion stores for some kind of fashion souvenir. It was in a folder together with 3 other drawings, they were for a John Galliano show not long after he had graduated from the same course that I was on, such an inspiration at the time. Over the years the folder was lost, but the prints adorn my bedroom wall, a delight in confident line and movement.

Also hanging in my bedroom are a series of nude drawings that we found in a small gallery in Crystal Palace London. They were the first pictures that we bought for our first home, the artist is unknown, but the look of the work has a feel of the 1930's. The quality of observation is wonderful and the line sublime, confident but understated.

This portrait of a boy is a recent find from a junk shop, it's an original drawing by Gerald Leet 1948. I recognised the mark making of a talented scholar and was thrilled to pay just £5 for this gorgeous drawing. I love the simplicity of the line and the soft hint of colour.

Leet was a portrait painter in the neo-Romantic style, Gerald Mackenzie Leet was educated at Goldsmiths College, The Royal College of Art and the Courtauld Institute. He was given his first teaching appointment at Ealing School of Art. He spent the Second World War mainly in South Africa and Egypt, when Lord Wavell, Viceroy of India came across his work and organized his appointment in 1945 as an official war artist, based in New Delhi. After the war, Leet became assistant drawing master at Eton until, towards the end of the forties, he began teaching part-time at Brighton College of Art. (info University of Brighton).


My last image is a print an etching by C W Walton of James Watton, another of my junk shop finds. My photo does not do it justice, the elegant fine lines are exquisitely designed to create perfect tone and detail.

Although these are not botanical pictures, each lifts me to do better, try harder and continue to try and improve my art. Our inspiration can come from any source so long as it really does inspire.

Notes from the drawing board

If you love drawing you could invest in a set of pencils, the Derwent 9h to 9B set is my go to tin, I love it.

Below is one piece I have recently finished.

Cover the work with a clean sheet of tracing paper so that your hand doesn't rest on the drawing and smudge.

Your pencil awaits you, what will you draw?

Sunshine, soft rain, peace, happiness and flowers along your path.

Billy x


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8 Comments


Leonardo da Vinci. I absolutely love his drawings, but don't like his paintings at all!

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billyshowell
billyshowell
Jun 15, 2023
Replying to

I have similar feelings but fearful I don’t know enough about them 🙃

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I wish I knew where to find such “junk” shops! Such a wonderful collection of discarded talent.

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ylbird
ylbird
Jun 03, 2023

Thank you Billy you have made me look at my drawings a another way to do that first line on the paper 😱 but now I can look at it again at another way.

The portrait of a boy by Gerald Leet is wonderful once again thank you for sharing and giving us hope

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Carole Anne Watson
Carole Anne Watson
May 31, 2023

These posts are a joy. The portrait of a boy by Gerald Leet I love! Thank you for taking me on a lovely journey and showing us some of your own choices. I too love the sketches as much as I love the end results of a painting. The sketching stage has it's own simple charm and feeling.

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billyshowell
billyshowell
Jun 15, 2023
Replying to

Isn’t the boy lovely? I instantly recognised an expert hand so was thrilled it was such a bargain 🤗

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Love the "pencil" tulip....so perfect! 😘😘

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billyshowell
billyshowell
May 30, 2023
Replying to

Thank you 🙏🏻


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