An Introduction to Botanical Color: Painting South African Flowers

All skills were welcome on Saturday, March 19th as scientific illustrator Erin Hunter and 7 students gathered to learn about botanical painting. 

Learning how to mix colors is an important step in botanical illustration. Erin taught the basics of color theory, with an emphasis on matching colors in leaves, stems and flowers. South African flowers like Proteas, Leucodendrons and Leucospermum were provided as inspirations for the art. 

She began the class with an hour introduction about the plants themselves. "The more you know about what you're painting, the easier it will be to draw it," she said. The class spent time feeling and visually dissecting the beautiful flowers. Some felt like soft velvet, others furry and bearing an alien-like appearance. One would think these exotic and strange species of flowers were related to the pineapple, artichoke or even a mythical dragon-egg family. Their stems were thick, mighty and sturdy, allowing birds, beetles and rodents to pollinate them. 

The drawings began with the flower models, pencils and tracing paper, mimicking the flower in life-size.  Supplies were readily available and over five types of paper were used, including 100% cotton rag hot press paper for the watercolor designs. The meticulous visual calculations resulted in utilizing the colors most apparent in the flowers, which were mixes of green, red and yellow. 

 As mentioned before, watercolor was applied as the appropriate medium due to its smooth, quick and ample use. The paint is very affected by the weather; luckily it was a beautiful sunny day in Monterey. A technique used that was new to many of the students was wet-on-wet. Here water is applied as a base, followed by the color where water orchestrates the movement and blending of the paint. It is a visually-stimulating and therapeutic brush stroke. 

Thank you, participants, for attending this class! Everyone was very focused, attentive and lost in their beautiful art. And thank you Erin for being such an informative, talented and wonderful teacher!