2.4 A Rose by Another Name: Phlomis

TASK: A rose by any other name
Choose a house plant, a cutting from the garden or a bunch of flowers. Focus on a small area and draw what you see. Be as accurate in describing shape, form and details as you can. Aim to create a drawing from which somebody else could recognise your plant.
Now, draw the plant again, this time from a much more creative perspective. Describe the plant but in simpler and bolder terms. You might want to play down your use of colour, line and form, for example. Your drawing should try to summarise the essence of the plant, so it becomes more universally recognisable rather than a specific specimen.

Botanical illustration is an area of illustration I am very interested in. I enjoy the challenge and discipline of trying to get accurate representation of form, line and shape – though I am not so interested in very formal botanical work. The leap to abstraction and the artistic possibilities of this I find more interesting – eg development for printmaking as well as the digital possibilities explored below.

The final abstract image I produced here. The use of difference blend modes in Sketchclub has completely changed the colour, but retained the graceful shapes and curves of the petals in essence. It has also created some interesting contrasts between areas of flat colour and delicate texturing.

Seedheads 1

This first series of detailed studies of particular seedheads was done in ink – using a V7 pen and waterbrush. I was attracted by the honeycomb shape of the holes left by the flowers as they fell off – the deep blackness where the seed was lying.

I did a photo montage of these two line drawings in Procreate on my iPad and experimented with different backgrounds and blending techniques – particularly exclusion and difference. I really like the effect this produced – possibly for wrapping paper. Though this needs further development.

Finally I took some close-up photos for further reference if needed.

Seedheads 2

This second series of detailed studies of particular seedheads was done in pencil. I was attracted by the almost mosque/Kremlin-like shape of the heads as they tower up, and the rock-like folds the dried sepals make.

I did two series of photo montage in Procreate on my iPad using different blend modes again. The first layered the uprights sketches as a mass of spikes – as they are in the flower beds around the fountain in the garden. Here I really like the wet bleed watercolour-like textures created by the blending using different brushes for the background. I also did a quick sketch in bleach with a brush – a style I would like to look at more.

The second focused on individual flower heads, layering these using different opacities and blend modes to create contrasts and reversals.

I also took some further photos for future reference and further development. I would like to take these studies much further, using different media like pastel, crayon and print media like woodcut and linocut when things flower again in the Spring. Either just as additions to this project, or as one of the portfolios developed as part of Assignment 4.. Or maybe as part of a possible Artists Book on Abstracting Botanical Forms for Assignment 5.


I started this series on an oil painting course in the Botanic Gardens in August 2016. In this detailed oil study of one particular flower (as well as learning more about oil painting) I was aiming to record the colour and light in the flower. I find the orange under-painting quite interesting in its free abstraction.

I then took my study of the flowers further in another course on sketching and ink drawing in October 2016.

I also took some reference photos in the garden and of cut flowers in the class.

Later as part of my preparation for assessment and exploration of iPad software, I created a series of Art Nouveau-style images in Procreate and SketchClub exploring different line/flat styles and colour combinations. The final images take the flower to almost complete abstraction.

I also started later to look at Chinese and japanese flower painting in black sumi-e. This is stylisation and abstraction at an extreme – each painting needs to follow on the one hand specific steps and conventions, but on the other have a flowing spontaneity within those rules. This is a style of painting – with more calligraphy – that I would like to take forward in future.