Last week I had the pleasure of attending a 3 hour workshop on Botanical Illustration with the Yurt Academy.
Honestly I was a bit nervous before I went, partly because I’ve never attempted a formal illustration class, though I’ve done a fair amount of life drawing. Also, botanical illustration is no joke! If you can picture a traditional botanical illustration, you know it’s super detailed, highly realistic in most cases, and very delicate almost painstaking work.
Whilst I’ve always been a fan of detailed work, I’m not exactly the most patient when it comes to art – so never really got far with more detailed, delicate stuff.
So with my insecurities aside, I went along anyway.
Another thing that added to my nerves was our teacher, or Yurt Keeper – Cherry Denman, who is a proper real-life, full-time illustrator – who’s published books and worked on a book for one of my favourite TV shows, Q.I.
The idea of embarrassing myself in front of her wasn’t too appealing, but fortunately for me she was a lovely woman with a great sense of humour, super encouraging to all of us, and a damn good teacher in my opinion.
We started the class with some simple (in theory) drawing exercises. The idea here was to show us the importance of looking. Trying to draw a bicycle from memory will do that for you.
Then we practised our pencil control – drawing cones, spheres, tubes, practising pencil pressure and shading – the lot.
It reminded me that no matter how long we’ve been drawing for, there’s nothing like going back to the basics and getting warmed up again for taking your work to the next level.
OK so then we got onto our ‘work of art’…
I selected a nice leaf, the name of which I’ve of course forgotten… it looked a bit like a fig leaf (to me) – anyway, if you can identify it – please let me know!
We started by drawing, which was my favourite part. Actually painting it was another matter, but I was pleasantly surprised by the end result.
Cherry came around to each of us regularly to give us pointers and encouragement. The whole group seemed to be enjoying it, but I might have been projecting my own enjoyment onto the room – I had that much to go around.
I mean, when do we ever get a chance to sit down and really draw, or paint? Unless it’s your job, but even then – you’re making art on behalf of someone else. There’s a point to it.
This felt much more like art for art’s sake. Like what ladies of leisure would do in Victorian times. It was also nice to do it with others – to laugh about our mistakes and egg each other on.
If you can’t tell, I had a very nice time. I definitely wasn’t in my comfort zone to begin with, but by the end I had decided that I was going to take on Botanical Illustration as my next hobby… not that I need another one, but hey – it’s good to have back up plans.
The perfect balance of challenge, pleasure and reward. I would highly recommend going to a similar art class if you have any local options, or even checking out some of the workshops offered by the Yurt Academy if you’re in the UK.
Oh and if any of you are botanical illustrators, get in touch and send me a link to your work! I’d love to learn more about this beautiful art form.
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