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From Sketchbook to Finished Work: My Process

For a long time, I didn’t enjoy working on my sketchbook, but now, my little handmade sketchbooks have become a vital part of my art process. I use them to explore different styles, learn more about the subjects I am studying, and gather notes for future finished works.

In this month’s blog, I’ll share with you how I created the finished work below using the details I added in the sketchbook study page for this plant and some reference photos I took.

The plant I have illustrated here is Mazus pumilus or Japanese Mazus. It’s a pretty little wildflower that you can commonly see in spring. And by ‘little’, I mean LITTLE; the flower head is just about 9mm in size!

I had gathered this plant for my wildflower sketchbook project and was instantly smitten by the details of the flowers. I knew right away that I wanted to create a more detailed drawing for this plant but I also knew that by the time I could get around to starting that, the plant’s flowering season would have passed. So, I gathered detailed notes and took several photos in the hopes that by combining the two, I would have enough to draw the plant even in the absence of a live reference.

In the sketchbook, I added a quick life-size graphite study of the uprooted plant, along with the size of the flower in bloom. I wasn’t sure if the final drawing would be in colored pencil or graphite so I made color notes as well with the live specimen. I usually also add dissection notes but this flower was too tiny to do that easily so I passed up on that.

When I sat down weeks later to think about how I wanted to do the final artwork, I considered for a moment adding the flower in watercolors. For rather precise work or small-scaled art, I find colored pencil quite tiresome, so I wondered whether watercolors would be better in this case. Now, this is a medium I don’t work with often, so I tried to paint the flower on a rough page first. After a few frustrating attempts, I knew I needed more practice and for now, would have to go back to using colored pencils.

I didn’t have much trouble deciding the composition in this case because I was pretty sure I wanted to focus on the flowers, yet also show the plant’s habit. To show the tiny little parts of the flower clearly, I drew them at almost 4 times the actual size. I decided to draw one flower from the front view so the stamen and their position could be shown. The other flower I drew from a top inclined view so that the yellow spots on the lip of the flower could be depicted clearly.

I copied the life-size drawing of the complete plant from my sketchbook to the final drawing as is, apart from some small tweaks. For the enlarged plant behind it, I used a reference photo. While there is a lot of merit in working from live specimens, I will admit that I use reference photos quite often too.

I hope this has given you an idea about my process. It’s all still a work-in-progress as I learn something new with every passing day. But I promise to share it all with you here so we can all learn together!

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