Last summer I picked and kept some of the rose leaves, including some which the leaf-cutter bees had used to make their nests. Over winter I’ve been drawing some of these dried leaves and learning about their structure, as well as working out a new technique of drawing in ink. The drawings have mainly been practices for me, as I begin to put together the illustrations for my bee book, but some of them will also be for sale later in the year. At the moment I’m working on illustrations of the bees themselves, so this is a somewhat overdue post on my efforts to know the leaves as intimately as the bees do!
The first few photos here show where the bees have cut their characteristic circles and oval shapes. Little cuts into the leaves show where a bee has sometimes begun a cut and then abandoned it for some reason. Read more about leaf-cutter bees on the Bee Pages.
Above: I worked on the leaf drawings under the magnifier, and for this study I used a strong light to illuminate the veins in the leaves, since I wanted to learn about their structure. As I was working in the middle of winter there was little in the way of natural light anyway. On the far right you can see I was trying to work out how the edges of the leaves curled in shape, and the nature of the teeth at the edge of the leaves. I explored this more in the following drawing:
Above: For these drawings I have been using ink and a brush. I draw out the outline and main details in pencil, then apply an ink wash over the whole of the leaf. After that I add washes of more or less the same dilution, building up the layers to show the detail of the veins and other features of the leaf. The drawings are done on Bristol Board, with my usual Winsor and Newton non-waterproof Liquid Indian Ink, and a size 00 watercolour brush.
Above: For the next series of drawings I did with the dried rose leaves, I used some which were untouched by the bees. In these drawings I was trying to be more subtle with the lighting, and using more washes, and less hard black. I left in more of the pencil lines, and found that I didn’t use the pen at all. This was the beginning of leaving my pen aside for the moment, and working solely with pencil sketch and ink in various dilutions.
See more of these leaf drawings in the new Gallery 3