One of my endeavors during sabbatical was taking a mixed media art class at the Desert Botanical Gardens. They have a very serious botanical illustration program, with drawing, pen and ink, and watercolor classes. Mixed Media was a new class, to combine pen and ink with watercolor. The instructor was intending this as an advanced class, expecting the students to have taken the pen and ink and water color classes as prerequisites. She was a bit unprepared when most of us in the class had little if any experience. Fortunately, she quickly switched gears, and did a great job … in the end, everyone had some very nice pieces. Her background was doing medical illustration, and she patiently taught us how to dip our pens, draw a line, as well has how to use watercolors. However, She did not have any patience for non-artist quality materials, and started us with a pricey list of materials. I have now fallen for sable brushes, and today figured they how well they work well for doing a little oxide line work on my pots!
We started the class by copying some Beatrice Potter illustrations from “The Tale of Benjamin Bunny”, as she used a mix of ink and watercolor. We tried ink first, then watercolor, and then the other way. We also tried different inks, including one made from walnut shells. Either way, you start with a pencil drawing (which we traced) that is transferred to the watercolor paper. For the watercolors, she taught us how to mix colors, we started with 2 reds, 2 yellows, and 2 blues. A good reference book is “Blue and Yellow Don’t Make Green” (hint, hint Christmas is coming). The hardest color to mix was the grays. For the final project, I composed a picture of five different basils that I have in my herb garden (sweet basil, lemon basil, variegated basil, a purple basil, and Blue African basil). I did cheat a bit, I shot pictures of each, cut out the background (so I also learned a lot about Photoshop), then did some tracing to get the basic shapes and perspective. My biggest problem with getting big drops of ink on the paper, fortunately, the teacher had some watercolor whiteout (Creative Mark Aquacover) which did a good job of covering them up! Here are pictures of my pieces. I also did one of a yucca, hoping to get one without an ink blog (but not successful).
I’m really glad I took the class, I have a much better feeling for a few more more techniques, I might get to the point someday where my drawings have some level of accuracy(!), and have found that good watercolors are really pretty fun to use. I was really surprised how quick you can get the colors down, but found that just like pottery, there are times you just have to stop, to let things dry out properly… because it can go bad very, very quickly. Now to just get my studio arranged to support both pots and paints!
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