Withered Roses Study

The twenty minute video below shows my process for studying a natural subject - in this case, withered roses. This is from a beautiful David Austin rose that does not form large hips when finished flowering, but produces these delicious dried and decaying heads which give rise to beautiful organic shapes, so interesting to really intimately observe. Studies like these are a deep meditation and honouring of a subject for me, and during this process I ponder the life-cycle of what I am observing - I saw these flowers as tiny bud, swelling with anticipation, bursting into a large flower-head of amazing deep pink and smelling of the heavens, and finally, spent, drying in the sun, those pink petals darkening and retracting.

The video is slightly sped up, this whole process took about an hour. There is no talking during the video, just a little quiet music. I had no specific plan for the composition, I had intended on only observing and documenting the beautiful shapes of the roses themselves, but couldn’t help but include a little of the dark green almost leathery leaves as well. Finally, I included some light sketches of leaf outlines, almost ghost leaves, and couldn’t help but represent the wee spider that hitchhiked into my studio (and whom I am please to note I managed to rescue and return to the rose bush!!)

I have made some notes below, time stamped, which gives some insight into what I am doing. I hope you enjoy this video, and I would love to hear your thoughts or see your work if you would like to undertake the same study! In this video I am using a mechanical pencil, 0.3mm, with B lead, and working on A Good Company sketch paper (that is made from recycled stone!!)

The password for the video is: spider-rose

Timestamp: Description

00.00 - Holding my pencil far back on the barrel, I am lightly and loosely sketching the silhouette and basic shape of my subjects. While I do this, I am hardly taking my eyes off the rose, only glancing occasionally at what my pencil is putting down - this is a crucial part of the process, it allows me to capture the basic form without my brain trying to fill in the gaps of what it thinks the rose should look like, rather than what it actually does. This is necessarily a pretty quick process - I am not trying to add detail at this stage, just get a feel for the forms.

00.21 - Spider friend! You will see a tiny spider scurry up the left hand side of the paper to hurriedly hide in the foliage. She was a delightful surprise and will be a tiny part of the final composition.

01.20 - now I have the basic shape, I can come in a little darker, done only by pressing slightly harder, and define the form. You will see I start to add some of the details of the dry rose petals, the sepal, peduncle and bracts.

04.29 - I use a paper stump to push the graphite back - this softens the lines, flattens the tone, and lets me redefine some areas as necessary. I am adding more detail now, and starting to fill in some areas - adding shading to give depth and dimension. This means I am darkening the areas that are in shadow, or are in the background, and leaving those areas that the light touches or that are in the foreground lighter. Going backwards and forwards around the composition this way allows me to see what needs to be darkened, what needs more definition, and how the (at this point) three objects work together.

12:20 - the roses are pretty much done, but I am now intrigued by the leaves! I decide one need to go in the upper left corner, and begin really observing the leaflet’s midrib, veins and lamina, noting the way the small netted veins create tiny pillows

15:55 - a second leaflet is sketched in the lower right, complete with the little tear in my subject matter

20:32 - I again use the paper stump to lightly run over the leaves - this brings the subject together, softening the shading (removing any stark light or dark patches) and tying the form together as a whole

20:44 - adding in some very light ‘ghost leaves’

21:53 - the piece is complete, tiny spider friend included!