Monday, 28 January 2013

To plan or not to plan - that is the question !

With all pieces of artwork that I complete, I am always planning what goes where and how I am going to portray the subject matter, but in some cases the planning is more formal than others.

I love the spontaneity of finding some inspiring subjects and just getting on and painting them.  This often happens when they are bits and pieces that I have found in a hedgerow, along the shore or from the garden.  I lay out the objects on the paper to help me with the composition but other times I draw and paint each object one by one and the painting just evolves - sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

When I was a student on the RBGE Certificate in Botanical Illustration course last year, there was a great deal of planning going on when it came to our final assessment piece.  Pieces of tracing paper flying here and there, using a lightbox to decide on the final composition and then the big tracing exercise !  I do find that when you use this method of creating your composition, you have to be careful that the clarity of your drawing does not suffer in the tracing process.
Never the less, many of the exercises I completed on the course, I still use when planning a picture, especially if it is a very large painting.

The most recent painting I have been working on is of a Sacred Lotus.  (I have given myself the deadline of the end of this week to finish the picture, so I had better get a move on !)  I decided with this one that I would trace the main flower onto the paper, but the rest I drew straight onto the watercolour paper.  I did do some initial colour tests to see that the mixes I had in mind were suitable for the subject.

The painting is coming along and the next stage is to put in the stems and finish the other elements of the painting.

Back to the spontaneity !  Whilst trudging through the snow the week before last, we stopped off at the greengrocers and they were selling three stems of Amaryllis with some Willow.  They just seemed to glow in the grey and white atmosphere outside.

Knowing full well that I had no time to start a painting of them, an inspirational urge made me buy them !!
So upon returning home I decided to draw one of the flower heads and do some colour tests on cartridge paper.  I also took plenty of photographs and measurements, so that if I do decide to do a painting of them, I have all of the information I need.  I expect that I won't create a composition until this time next year, when I can buy the flowers at their prime again !

Thank you for following my blog and thanks also to David Crompton, a fellow Society of Floral Painters member, who on Saturday gave me some lovely feedback at our AGM.  If you would like to see some of his delightful artwork go to:

Happy painting !


  1. Hi Sarah - I love the progress of your sacred lotus :)
    I am at the final stages of the Diploma course with the SBA and the last artwork is a mixed flower study - so many, many pieces of tracing paper in a flurry over here.
    To be honest I prefer to work more from my gut instinct but when you're being assessed and time is short it's a bit of a gamble, no time for mistakes. Although in saying that it would probably look a lot more interesting if I didn't plan it so much.
    I love the raspberry like colour of the Amaryllis - look forward to seeing the completed lotus and the next WIP :) Best to you x

  2. Hi Vicki, I hope the work for your final piece is going well ! I am going to have a go at exhibiting the Sacred Lotus with the SBA this year, not going for membership, just as an 'open exhibitor'. I know it will be tough getting through ! x

  3. Your posts are always interesting Sarah. I have a fine art background and struggle with trying to work spontaneously and intuitively plus maintain the level of control and refinement required ... I really do admire the planned approach. Your Sacred Lotus is looking vibrant and beautiful! :)

  4. This is really interesting. Your drawing is so beautiful. And explain wonderfuly. Thank you for everything.

  5. Hi Denise and Bristlecone Pines, many thanks for your lovely comments.


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