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Botanical for beginners

Achieve a high level of tonal variation, complex highlights and deep shadows with this larger-than-life botanical study of a purple bearded iris, by Jarnie Godwin



Become more confident with contrast and tonal variation

Push boundaries in use of highlight and shadow

Develop colour-mixing and layering techniques

Botanical painting is often seen as the point where art meets science in the highly accurate, detailed portrayal of plants. Originally produced during the great Age of Discovery, botanical illustrations were a tool for botanists to identify species, and to understand the anatomy of how plants form and grow. Many of the early drawings and paintings influence artists working in the genre today, with many pieces maintaining a contemporary feel. Botanical paintings have evolved greatly, with vibrant colours, enlarged subjects, and unique compositions creating impact, giving an elevated presence to the subject. Collections include the Shirley Sherwood Collection at Kew, Surrey.

Your subject

This iris was painted larger than actual size in watercolour on Saunders Waterford Hot-Pressed paper, allowing me to focus on the finer details that would otherwise be lost at actual size. Architectural, often imperfect subjects have always appealed to me due to an early training in technical drawing and graphic design. The proportions of structures not only influence my choice of subject, but also my compositions, which are simple and designed to make the most of a subject’s colour, shape and form.

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Find the complete article and many more in this issue of Leisure Painter - Summer 17
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About Leisure Painter

Welcome to the summer issue of Leisure Painter. We've packed this issue with a variety of painting tutorials and demonstrations for landscapes, portraits, birds, nocturnes, harbour scenes, flowers and gardens. If you love painting detail in watercolour, look no further than Paul Hopkinson's portrait of a barn owl and Jarnie Godwin's beginners' guide to botanical painting. If you want to simplify the detail, look out for Paul Alcock's painting project of a busy harbour scene and Hazel Soan's watercolour portraits. From tips on work outdoors to how to paint successfully from photographs, there's something for all busy amateur painters in this month's issue. You'll find practical advice on how to use watercolour pencils and other drawing media, watercolour, acrylics and oils along with where to go and what to do throughout the summer. Enjoy your month of painting!