Plant studies

I wanted to go out and do an outdoor plant drawing since the sun was so cooperative but when I got outside and situated myself to start drawing I was inundated with black flies and then deer flies. Black flies are a nuisance but deer flies really LOVE me. The feeling is NOT mutual! So, that’s the prelude…

I went inside and decided on a quick indoor plant study of a Peace Lily. My intention was to work rather quickly and loosely without getting too fussy with detail and to just hint at the “gesture” of the plant, how the leaves radiate out from the center. I did a very quick pencil rendering of the plant and a very rough placement of the bookcase next to it and then started to add watercolor. I started inking and then added final touches of watercolor, adding darker values to give some definition. There are a few things that made this something of an experiment for me. I haven’t done many plant still lifes so it was somewhat less familiar territory. I also used a new color that I just added to my palette, Quinacridone Violet. One other experiment was to use some spattering with a dark green and some violet. I’ve only used spatter (shaking drops of paint randomly off of a wet brush) a few times and since this drawing had a lot of empty space, I thought it would help to add some texture. One other experiment was to place a loose border around the drawing to try to unify it. When I finished the drawing, it occurred to me that I had done a rather similar OUTDOOR study of hostas and ferns in the garden several years ago. I thought it might be fun to compare the two. The Peace Lily was done rather loosely while the older “Garden Study” was more meticulously finished. I had used spatter in that one also. Here are the two side by side.

Author: Jeff Gold

I'm a retired musician (oboist) now living in Vermont and exploring various avenues of art, urban sketching, life drawing, block printing and digital abstractions.

10 thoughts on “Plant studies”

  1. These are absolutely stunning! I did a fern in watercolour yesterday. From an instruction book. I could learn a thing or two from you too! 😀


    1. Thank you for your enthusiastic comment! What I would suggest is to draw a fern from life rather than from a photo. Keep in mind that you learn so much more in looking at the real thing. Most of all you have to learn to make the translation from a three dimensional object to a two dimensional one onto the flat paper. This forces you to think about what you are seeing. It’s not always about making the subject look exactly as it first appears but rather what will be an interesting way to draw it; what will make an INTERESTING drawing. Try drawing from nature…let me know how it works out. And thanks again for following and for your kind comment.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I like the sketches a lot,but really enjoyed your thought process as to what is involved in one’s creative endeavor. It was educational -Quin… Violet Dan


        1. Thanks Dan. That’s one of the things I want to do with the blog…talk about art and making art. It helps me to clarify what I’m trying to do, like teaching. I’m sure you know what I mean with your teaching experience; the best way to learn about something is to try to teach it to someone else!


      2. I am learning through a series of videos, books, and imagination, and one thing I have learned is to see shapes, not objects. Shapes, shapes, shapes! Thank you so much for your very helpful words of advice, and inspiration! : )


  2. I really like these, Jeff. I especially like the Peace Lilly. It looks much more “relaxed” whereas the ferns look a little “stiffer”. I hope that makes sense to you. I really don’t have the vocabulary.


  3. You had the right idea. That is exactly what I meant when I said the Peace Lily was LOOSER. Sometimes it’s best not to be too correct and just try to get the feeling of the subject rather than try to reproduce it exactly. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to put them side by side…they feel different from each other even though the subjects are similar.


    1. Tuba, I started out using water brushes which are hollow plastic brushes that hold water. You squeeze them as you work and the water comes out of the brush to wet the paint. They are convenient for Urban Sketching which is mainly what I do. But at the suggestion of others more experienced than I, I’ve been switching to synthetic traditional types of brushes. I use a #12 round and a 3/4 inch flat American Journey travel brush from (see my blog post from June 1) for a link. My suggestion is to go with two or three synthetic brushes (animal hair brushes are very expensive!) and try to use the largest brush you are comfortable with. Otherwise you get too involved in detail. I hope this helps. You can also check online for info. Cathy Johnson on YouTube has some great demos. And look at Shari Blaukopf’s blog for ideas as well.


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