Last summer I picked and kept some of the rose leaves from the garden, and I have dried these and kept them for making drawings from. Some of them include leaves which have lots of holes which have been cut by leafcutter bees, who use the leaf circles to construct their nests. You can read more about this process and how the bees use the leaves here. Over winter I have been studying these leaves in detail, learning about their structure, and drawing them in various media. The drawings have mainly been practices for me, but some will be sale later in the year.
Rose leaves cut by leafcutter bees, drawn in brush and ink
The first few photos here show where the bees have cut their characteristic circles and oval shapes. There are also some cuts into the leaves where a bee has begun to remove a leaf circle but then abandoned it for some reason (e.g. for example in image second from left). The image on the left also shows how I set up the drawing, with the leaves illuminated strongly from the left, and viewing the whole scene, including my drawing, through a magnifier. I prefer to work with subjects strongly lit, since this gives me the opportunity to study the surface texture and form in more detail. I do a lot of drawing in winter, when natural light is low, and I can more easily control the lighting in my studio.
A rose leaf tip in brush and ink
In this drawing above I was exploring the details of the veins of the leaves, and the nature of the teeth at the edge of the leaf. I have included a process drawing on the left, in which you can see how the layers of wash are being built up. The completed study is shown on the right. 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.
Rose leaves in pencil, and in ink wash
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. The images on the left are done with pencil, while those on the right are completed with ink wash. For this drawing in ink wash I did not use the dip pen at all, and created the image completely with the brush.
See more of these leaf drawings in the new Gallery – Bees and Leaves
You can read an interview with me in Bee Mentor which looks at my interest in leafcutter bees, but also covers my drawing techniques and practice, and my photography.