Monday, October 3, 2011

American sycamore ~ how many ways to draw a leaf?

On the left, a leaf drawn with pen scribbles; on the right, the same leaf drawn with a mechanical pencil.
I like sycamore leaves because they're quite large, and as they dry they create interesting shapes that are a challenge to sketch or paint.  Sometimes I like to experiment with different ways of drawing the same subject, and a sycamore leaf is the perfect subject.  This practice helps my future sketching because it gives me ways to compare ease of media as well as the mood and texture they create.  You can see from the examples that each leaf has a different character, depending on the technique I used.

The leaf at the top left has a free and casual feeling; I used random, rather large scribbles to build up the planes and masses.  The leaf sketched in pencil (top right) has a much softer feeling - this particular pencil allows for fine lines and a gradation of grays.  Notice how the pencil lines follow the curve of the leaf between the veins, and how each line has continuity in direction, totally unlike the scribble texture.

The leaf in the bottom example (left) has an ink outline with stippled dots describing the shadows and masses.  This lends a more formal feeling to the drawing, and is often used for botanical illustrations because the dots reproduce well and can indicate a lot of detail.  This particular drawing doesn’t contain much detail, because of the size of the dots relative to the size of the subject.  Imagine if you were to make a large drawing with many dots, and how descriptive it could be!  Needless to say, this method is time-consuming and not a good choice for sketching in the field, although it can have its purposes. 

The next leaf is also in ink, but with hatching and cross-hatching to show form and value.  This technique can mimic old ink engravings if the lines are very parallel and evenly spaced, or be more free if the lines are more haphazard (like mine).  Each technique is unique, and can be combined to create even more interesting lines. 

Left, an inked outline with stippling in pen; right, the same pen but with cross-hatching.
I hope this exercise has been helpful, or spurred some new thoughts about alternate ways of making lines.  You might want to think about using them with unconventional media as well as the traditional standbys I used.  Next post: more about sycamore leaves!

You can click on the images to view larger.  Thanks for visiting!