Today, we’ll show you how to make a lifelike botanical drawing.. by looking closely at the work of Maria Sibylla Merian. Hi everyone and welcome to the Rijksmuseum’s very own creative channel: RijksCreative! This season we’ll show you everything you need to know about watercolors.. inks and even blueprints! So grab your brushes and let’s go! This is our teacher for today: Ingrid.
-Hello And our expert from the Rijksmuseum: Jane Turner.
-Hello Ingrid, that’s a beautiful plant you’ve got there, but what is it for? Well, this is a beautiful lily.
We’re going to use it today for our watercolors. We’re going to study it very closely and observe it very good. I understand why you chose the lily because it would have been quite hard.. to find this precize variety of the 17th century tullip. But what’s so important and interesting about the model that we chose for the episode.. is that it’s attributed to a late 17th century watercolorist called Maria Sibylla Merian or one of her daughters. She was a remarkable woman for her time.. in 1699, at the age of 52 she and her daughter sailed all the way to Dutch Suriname.. in order to record first hand all the exotic insects and creatures and flowers.. so she understood that you had to see it first hand. So, I wish you well with your watercolor of the lily.
-Okay, thank you! Okay, let’s do it! First I’m going to make some loose sketches.. I want to see how the composition can be on the paper. And what way I’m going to paint the flower. So first start with some reds.. And the greens. Look very closely to the silhouette, which is very imporant.. and all the accurate things will come later. Now it’s important what silhouette I’m going to choose.. for my accurate botanical one. Remember, this is just a sketch so it doesn’t have to be very precize. So maybe this is a possibility, I’ll try a few compositions and then I’ll make a choice. So now I’ve did a few sketches and have to choose which I’m going to take.. for this real botanical drawing. I think I’m going for this one. You can see here the flower, and the leaves beautiful on the page. I think I’m going for this one, so I put them away. And I’m going to start with my very accurate drawing. The drawing is really super imporatant. It’s really imporatant, you need to know the flower.. you need to know where everything is and where everything touches. What you’re going to do, is making something three-dimensional to two-dimensional.. this is very difficult, one thing what’s handy is you look at it only with one eye. I first look at the silhouette, try to find all the details. Here is a leaf which is making a curl, try to find it. Use your eraser a lot.
You really have to study this. If you have a good drawing, it’s easier. Well, it’s very important to have a good drawing.
You can’t do without. What I always like are those points where the stems come to each other. When you think this is okay, then you want to take the sketch a bit away. Try to make them as accurate as possible. I could use this and start painting on this one.. but the paper is already a bit ruined and the lines are much too dark.. so it’s better to make a copy. I’m going to make two copies, one copy to make a black and white drawing. And one for the watercolor later. You can copy this on a lightbox, it’s also easy to use this tracing paper. So you trace the whole, try to make thin lines. And that way you have a first copy of your flower. So now I’ve all the lines on this one. And I want to use this one to make copies on real paper. So I turn it around and make another drawing on the backside of my transparant paper, my tracing paper. Copy the lines on both sides of the paper. Now I’ve finished the painting on both sides of the tracing paper.. and now I’m going to start making the drawings on my watercolor paper. Look, if I gently draw this, you can see the lines on the other sides. On this way you can make your own tracing paper. So now I have my drawing on the paper and it’s a very good idea.. to make a black and white drawing. Imagine that you put a flower in white paint, that you only see the light and the dark. I have to look very carefuly where the dark spots are. The best thing is to imagine that the light is coming from the left side. And this will take some time, because you want to do this very good. Did you know a professional botanical artist works about 200 hours on a botanical drawing? Don’t think we’re going to do that today, but we’ll see. So now I’ve been making this drawing for some time. What’s handy is if you put a paper over it that you don’t make stains with your hand. And this is a very handy help.. so I can see where my blacks and whites are. And where the light part is, and the dark part. These things are all needed when I’m making my watercolor later. Most emphasis on the flower, and not all the leaves are being worked out. I think this is far enough to be a help. So the next step is painting. Now we take watercolor paper. And tracing paper and are going to put a flower on the watercolor paper. Look carefully that you’ve got it in a good composition. And when you’ve traced them all, then you’ll have the flower on your watercolor paper. If you want to make a watercolor now, best thing is to erase the lines a bit. Because when you put watercolor over pencil drawing, you’ll see the drawings. And it will be enclosed so you can’t take it away. Now we’re going to look at the colors, I’ve got two buckets of water.. one is to clean my brush.. and the other one.. is to take water into the paint. You can see that I’ve often make a mistake, but try and do your best. You are beginning with light colors.. and be carefull, always have some tests nearby. Make first a very light wash.. very light. Be careful that you leave the white spots, you leave them out. You don’t have white paint so you have to leave the white spots out. It’s a very light wash, and if – by accident – you make a mistakte it’s not a problem. You can always dab it with some tissue, and it’s a bit away. Green, try to find the right color. I put a little bit of ocre. That green is much too bright. A very little bit of blue. This is again a very light wash. And at some point in time you can change your brushes.. this is a bigger brush, now I have a smaller brush for the details. Be careful that a wet spots, don’t touch another wet spot. Because it will just bloom in each other. So from our overall drawing, we go more in the details. Imagine the light comes from the left, so the right part of the stems is going to be darker. Don’t use too much water, botanical drawings.. don’t use that much water because its not so accurate. Sometimes it’s even almost dry and it works like a pencil, a color pencil. Some light in the bottom of the flower. I made a bit too much red, so I try to take it out a little bit. Look very closely at the flower, at what you see. This is your first layer. So the details you can only, paint the details in the darkest spots. In the darker areas, where it’s very light you can’t make too many details.. because you need the light of the paper shining trough. Also take care of these.. cross each other. Be a little careful with the white lines of the lily. We want to keep them white of course. When you paint this background.. you really take care that you have a color here, that you have it all on the background.. so that you can see it’s the same line. It’s quite important. These lines are pretty thin. These are very light green. At the end I paint them a little bit darker. And we want to show this white line, this very fine line. On the outside. Should be careful where you paint if it’s already dried.. it’s easier. It is not very clear here. So I’ve been looking for the contrast in the painting.. it’s very important that some things are quite dark.. and other things are quite light. The black and white drawing is a help with that. The other thing is that you have to take care of, if things cross each other.. that these forms also.. are to be seen in this side. So that you have the feeling that it’s really behind each other. You have to take care of it. Another thing is that you don’t want to see all the lines of the paint. So you can work it out a little bit. The longer you’ll work it, the smoother all these colors will blend in each other. The nice thing is, is when you work a while.. on the flower you see much more details than in the beginning. So you really get to know the flower. And another important thing is that the details are in the dark parts.. so the light parts, there you can’t tell much about the flower.. so all the lines are in the darker part, where the shadows are. The light is imagenary from the left side. Also a way to blend the things more into each other.. so take a line and then take a little bit of water. And make this a little bigger. Don’t work too watery, you don’t want to see al those water stains. So you can see the dark spots, and I take some bit of paynes gray.. A little bit of my red.. and check my color if it’s okay. And then put it in the darkest corner. And I blend away. So I do this a few times It always dries up a little bit lighter than you’ve planned it. So that’s why you have to do it a lot of times. And if you want to make very fine lines, you only use the tip of your brush. So you need a very good brush that you can make very thin lines. For example here. So when you push the brush very low, it’s a broad line can also make a very thin line. You don’t want to to impressionistic, that isn’t the way you want it to be. Oh, that’s too much. As you can see I’ve been working on the details.. on the colors for a while now. And I just want to add some more.. In fact you can work for hours, or more on this flower. So always compare the colors with the real one. Wow, it looks almost like a photograph! Have you got any final tips? Well, you could work on this flower for a lot more hours and add more details.. the longer you work on it, the more you see. In fact, professional botanical artists work 100 or sometimes 200 hours on one drawing. But I think you can always leave it like this. It’s a choice you make yourself. I think it’s okay like this. Great, thank you very much and see you next time!