Project – Drawing plants and flowers

Exercise – Negative space in a plant

A3 drawing in graphite of the negative space around a pot plant.

Negative Space

I thought of this as an exercise and, although interesting, didn’t really see the point. However, after completing the following exercise it showed that getting the background drawn in first, helped in drawing the subject.

Exercise – Plants and flowers in coloured pencil

I tried a few methods of blending colours, but maybe due to the coloured pencils I have, I couldn’t manage to blend them using rubbing or smudging, which left me only hatching and layering as options.

Blending colour pencils

For the drawing I bought some cut flowers and arranged in a vase. However, I didn’t choose the easiest flowers to draw and the whole drawing took me about a day to complete (over a number of sessions)!

Coloured Pencil

I think I have done much better with the background in this drawing, and despite the bendy shadow on the vase, am pleased with most of the drawing. I am not sure I have really captured the three-dimensional aspect of the flowers though, due to lack of much shading or colour differences.

Exercise – Drawing with other colour media

I tried a few experiments in mixed colour media in drawing three of the flowers drawn previously.


For the image on the left, the negative space was drawn in watercolour pencil and then gone over with a wet brush – I missed the negative space between the stems though. After that, the flowers and glass were drawn in fibre tip pens.

For the image on the right, watercolour pencils then wetted were used for the whole image. I did start trying to add acrylic ink over the top, but whilst this showed up on the flower stems, it didn’t show up on the yellow flowers. I also tried adding oil pastels, but again nothing really showed up on the light coloured flowers – maybe I should have picked some bolder coloured flowers to try this on.


For the image on the left, I drew this in ink, then used acrylic inks (painted) to add the colour. I think this was the most successful image of the four.

For the image on the right, I drew this in pencil, then used acrylic inks (painted) to add the colour, although I went way over the top on the glass colouring. I tried adding colour using a dip pen and inks also, but this didn’t work too well on this paper, maybe because it was rough, or because it already had ink on it?

Check and Log

How will your experiments with negative space help your observational drawing in the future?

  • It can be a good way to get the background in before starting on the subject and giving it context. I tried using this in one of the experiments in mixed colour media, although not that successfully.

What techniques did you use to ensure you drew your plants in proportion?

  • For all the drawings I started out measuring the height of the subject, working out what was halfway in the image, getting in some basic shapes and then working from there, relating new objects to the ones already drawn.

How did you achieve an effect of three-dimensional space in your drawings?

  • The negative space drawing was intentionally flat, the flowers in coloured pencil has some effects of three-dimensional space, but more in the background around the flowers than on the flowers themselves. I found this difficult as the coloured pencils didn’t layer very well and the limited palette of colours didn’t allow for enough variations in colour to represent this. The pencils didn’t keep their points for very long at all and when drawing on A2 paper this was quite a drawback! For the experiments in coloured media I didn’t add much shading so they are pretty flat images, mainly because I drew them without a direct light source and there weren’t many shadows to draw.
  • So overall in this section the answer is that I didn’t really!
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