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Spruce Up Your Art With Plantsby Jenny Heidewald
Plant life is something that we don't really tend to notice, being in the background of things as it generally is, but is very noticeable if it isn't there. They are the reason why we can breathe. Without their ability to change carbon dioxide into oxygen, the earth would not have animal life as we know it. In addition, what would we do with the ubiquitous faeries if they didn't have their flowers to sit on? Also, while mushrooms are not plants, they are still interesting subjects to draw and use as backdrops, or as a traditional gnome chair. Although drawing plants may be boring to some, they are actually quite complex organisms. There is a whole field of artists that do botanical studies; they bring us superbly detailed illustrations. While you might not need so much detail for what you are working on, it can come in handy to know the bones of a thing.
Even if it is something really simple, like some of the bushes, trees, and grass that I do on my ACEOs, it can add that last bit of grounding, connecting your character to a world instead of stranding them in white.
Plants can also be a sneaky way to get out of drawing a part of a figure that you don't really want to draw -- for example, feet. If you have trouble with feet, like me, grass can be your good friend! Plants can add a decorative touch to a characters outfit, say flowers in their hair, and having them hold a flower is a good way to deal with the pesky dilemma of "What do I do with their hands?"
There are different techniques you can use to keep the background from being too busy; one is to keep in mind that you don't have to draw every single leaf, or blade of grass. The human eye tends to skip over some details, so, though you might know there is one leaf missing, your audience won't. In this case, less can equal more, not to mention preserving your sanity when facing the prospect of depicting so many leaves! Another thing is to desaturate the background and bump up the saturation in the subject and the foreground of your picture. If you use a computer program, adjusting this can be as easy as sliding the hue and saturation buttons. Basically, desaturating makes it greyer, which lends vibrancy to the foreground and subject matter.
Also, making the background with cooler colors will attract the eye to the subject.
Another thing you can do is the "out of focus camera" background.
When using pen -- I used Micron pens for the following illustration -- there are multiple ways you can use lines. Stippling is also a great way to add texture.
Plants are also great indicators of which season you intend your character to be in. In the following four pictures, each character has their own season. Seasons can also set the mood. Winter can be forbidding or sad; spring could be new life or energy; summer, those long and lazy days; and autumn, with its certain wistfulness.
Don't forget that there are all sorts of plants that grow underwater! Kelp is a favorite of mine to draw for underwater pictures; the long wavy fronds lend themselves well to artistic lines. Coral, while mostly immobile like a plant, is actually an animal. Coral reefs are composed of thousands of outer shell skeletons of animals that live inside. Some have tentacles, used for gathering food, that make them resemble flowers.
A Note on the Many Shades of Green
While some folks may think "Green is green!", artists know differently -- or at least they do when confronted by the bewildering array of premixed greens to choose from. While you can mix your own greens, and I encourage you to do so, a premixed green can be a lifesaver when you want to do a whole bunch of plants, or large swatches. When mixing your own greens keep in mind that to get clean vivid colors, mix warm colors with warm, and cool with cool. Examples of cools and warms are, Hansa Yellow Light (cool), Hansa Yellow Deep (warm), Ultramarine Blue (warm, though there is some debate online as to if this color is warm or cool), Pthalo Blue (cool), Quinacradone Red ( cool), Napthol Scarlet (warm). With green sometimes the muddier colors produced by mixing a warm and cool blue and yellow are what you are looking for. Making a color mix chart to refer to can be helpful.
From beautiful flowers, to crazy, insect-eating plants, there is a world of unique plant life out there. Parks and gardens are lovely places to visit for studying and sketching plant life. There are also many books on drawing plants, and be sure to check out my other EMG-Zine articles on plants.
Rose tutorial from EMG-zine
Tree tutorial from EMG-zine
Mushroom Article EMG-zine
Color theory: Handprint
Coral Reef Information
to do THAT!" In addition to writing for EMG-zine, Jenny is a prolific artist who has worked in many mediums. Her current favorite technique is working with colored micron pens, and coloring either with watercolor or Photoshop. Jenny lives in Maryland with her husband. Please check out her Sketchfest, Portrait Adoption, Deviant Art, and Elfwood pages.
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