Showing posts from January, 2014

18. Following Bartram's Footstep-ASBA Travel Exhibition

Green Dragon, Arisaema dracontium, ©Heeyoung Kim
Green Dragon is a pretty rare native woodland plant and its shape is as peculiar as its name. This painting shows a fully matured plant in fall. It is traveling now with 44 other ASBA members' paintings in 5 venues throughout US from 2013 to 2015.
I focused on the shape and color of the fully grown leaves  in fall and the color of the berries, and where the flower stalk grows. More story is in my earlier post, "3. Fall is around the corner...".

17. Painting White Flowers - After the Workshop

Working hard with specimens in pots 
All were very happy with their beautiful paintings!
at Brushwood Center, Ryerson Woods
Everyone wondered how the white flowers would be painted without background.  However, all paintings turned out truly beautiful! 
Students started drawing with specimens of their choices before the actual workshop. By doing this, they could have enough time to observe their subjects, and of course create better drawings.  The key points were thin layers of pale shadow color and smart composition. We all agreed with "Less is More" in painting white flowers. 

16. Painting Pink Cyclamens- After the Workshop

Pencil drawing process - ©Heeyoung Kim
Light application of watercolor -©Heeyoung Kim
Layering intenser color- ©Heeyoung Kim
at Brushwood Center, Ryerson Woods
Pink flowers including Cyclamens look so pure and light. And that is the beauty of them. In this workshop, we all were very careful not to add too dark shadow. Another thing we found was the petals were so thin and translucent that they didn't cast shadow on other petals behind or under them, in beautiful natural lighting condition. This was one more good reason not to add too dark shadow!
We also focused on creating fine gradation which should be the most basic technique in botanical watercolor, but not easy to get achieved. We tried it both with wet washes and dry brush technique.  The result was beautiful!

15. Painting Yellow Flowers - After the Workshop

Workshop attendees working with potted Daffodils

                                                            Painting process, ©Heeyoung Kim
            at Brushwood Center, Ryerson Woods

Yellow flowers are often hated to be painted, maybe because they are too pure to add any shadows. Their brightness intimidated us in the beginning, but we could slowly build up the frilly petals. White paper was carefully saved by painting its negative spaces. Using lots of layering of Aureolin and just a bit of shadow color, we could keep the Daffodils very bright.

 We were all just amazed by the varieties of yellow hues created by just one kind of yellow tube. That is the beauty of transparent watercolor.

It was fun and informative to see buds open and show off the most gorgeous color and fragrance, and finally create even more intense color when they die. Is there any part of nature not beautiful?

Paintings & Stories: 14. Eleanor Wunderlich Award for Excellence - 16th International HSNY/ASBA 2013

Prairie Crabapple, Malus ioensis, watercolor, ©Heeyoung Kim

I am very happy and honored to receive this award from ASBA and the New York Hort. 
This painting is one of my favorites. It shows the beauty from every facet of nature; the new life, dying one, dead one .... all are beautiful! I tried to tell the story of death and rebirth, and that story is delivered through strong composition.   
More behind-the-painting-story can be found in the American Society of Botanical Artists website:
Giclee prints are available. 

Paintings & Stories: 13. Resurrection of Prairie Crabapple

Prairie Crabapple or Iowa Crabapple, Malus ioensis, Watercolor ©Heeyoung Kim

I have been working with this painting for long. I have observed it through the full cycle from winter naked branches, new sprouts and buds, blossoms, and apples. And I chose buds and full blooms to give strong contrast to the dead tree trunks. 
Why dead trunks? Well, the purpose of this painting is to show how this native Crabapple  has been neglected in most areas, maybe because people believe other colorful  hybrids are more attractive. This specific tree was almost dead overshadowed by nonnative, invasive trees. When my plant scout took care of its surroundings by cutting the invasive trees, and let more sun shine on this beauty, it has slowly revived. New branches started to grow from the almost dead looking trunk. 

This painting is my tribute to this beautiful tree and the beautiful person who has taken care of it for many years only from concerns on nature.

Paintings & Stories: 12. Simple Color Note

Horse Gentian or Wild Coffee, Triosteum perfoliatum,©Heeyoung Kim

I have been totally thrilled for a few weeks to draw this plant. The bright orange berries were beautiful enough to draw my eyes, but its common name appealed more to me, well, frankly, as I am a HEAVY coffee drinker! Midnight coffee was even tastier while I was drawing this.....
When I do pre sketches, I put heavy shadows almost always, unlike common advise. The shadows are the most critical guide for my next paintings or drawings. When I have this much drawing, I can convert it with any kind of medium later. However, color note on top of the heavy graphite is not ideal, of course. So I color only a small part of each segment. Sometimes I just put color right next to the drawing, not within the target space. It is perfectly fine when I have just this much exact colors ahead.  This will be good guide even when the plant color slightly changes or fades. I might finish this in watercolor.  

Paintings & Stories: 11. Inspired by Winter Wind

Indian Hemp in Winter, Apocynum cannabinum, Watercolor, ©Heeyoung Kim

Artists can find beauty from totally unexpected things. On a very windy winter day I was walking at a park in my neighborhood. All dry branches, twigs and empty seedpods were dancing to the wind, but all in one direction. Those lines that were set by wind caught my eyes. 
When I looked around carefully, I found some interesting twigs with seedpods in varied colors: some were more brown still with lots of yellow, but some others very gray, but with beautiful blue. I could see brown ones were from that year, and gray ones were from the previous year.  Of course I could not pass the bluish branch, as blue is my absolute favorite color. 
As soon as I came home, I started to draw the lines right on Strathmore Bristol board (plate finished), very spontaneously without pre-sketch. Basically, the whole painting was done with blue, gray, purple and yellow.  This 'simple' and spontaneous paint…

Paintings & Stories: 10. Hairy Plants in Pen-and-Ink

Compass Plant, Silphium laciniatum, Pen-and-Ink, ©Heeyoung Kim

I applied the same technique (shadowing, not drawing for hairy parts) in pen-and-ink drawing. Considering that ink is not forgiving at all, I had to be very, very careful from the beginning. Drawing guide lines very lightly with pencil was a huge help. It was more challenging in ink, however, the effect was much more dramatic with ink than with pencil.

Paintings & Stories: 9. Pencil, Pencil, Pencil..... Drawing Hairy Plants!

Acorn, cattail & hairy stem drawing - ©Heeyoung Kim
Drawing hairy subjects with pencil is quite challenging, because it gets darker and darker as the pencil strokes are repeated.  What is the solution?                                  Do not draw!                                   Just shadow!
I started with simple lines. Then, I had to think in a completely reversed way. I mean, I started shadowing the  first lines instead of drawing more lines. At first it didn't look right, but with erasing and shadowing repeated, I finally could have the hairy effect.  For the acorn, I had relatively big black negative space under each hair. Then I divided the space into a couple of more hairs, again by shadowing, not drawing.

8. Science of Watercolor Brushstrokes- watercolor demo at Morton Arboretum

Heeyoung showing watercolor technique, Oct.4 2012 at Morton Arboretum
Photo by Eileen Labarre

-Science of Watercolor Brush Strokes- Painting watercolor botanicals on hot-pressed watercolor paper is quite different from other types of watercolor paintings. It requires extreme control over the amount of water and brush strokes. It is all about the interacting process of water, paint, and paper, which can be explained scientifically, but in a very simple way.
Brushes – Why Sable or Synthetic? – Comparison of hair surface                 Why does that affect painting?                 Which brush works for you? Brushstrokes - Speed, time, size, angle….- All Matter, Critically! Capillary Action and Paint Lift-off               “Capillary Action Effect can be seen in the drawing up of liquids                           between the hairs of a paint-brush”

Paintings & Stories: 7. Best in Show Award, 15th International HSNY/ASBA 2012

Heeyoung and her Compass Plant.
                                                          Best in Show Award, 2012
                                      watercolor painting at Horticultural Society of New York

Compass Plant, Silphium laciniatum in watercolor and graphite pencil, ©Heeyoung Kim
Compass Plant is one of the iconic prairie plants. It shows off its tall and robust structure with abundant and complicated leaves, and beautiful yellow flowers along the stem. In early stage the young plant is very hairy and its complexity is just amazing. So I used the haunting graphite drawing as background of the color part. It took very long from detailed drawing to watercolor painting with all those leaves and hairy stems, bracts and "Yellow" flowers. You know, yellow color is another challenging topic......
However, all the efforts and time I put in this piece was well paid off with this very honorable award. 
For more story a…

Paintings & Stories: 6. Color Diversity

Compass Plant, Silphium laciniatum,© Heeyoung Kim Full image can be viewed at at Award section
We can easily say certain flower has certain color. And we try to judge if the artist matches the color successfully or not.

I am very often amazed at seeing  diverse colors in one specimen. Individual plants have different colors in their flowers, stems and leaves depending on their environment. Numerous factors affect their colors and shapes. 
In this painting I try to show different colors of disk flowers. Usually Compass Flowers in full bloom have yellow disks, and they turn into brown as they get withered. However, I found a group of them had intense purple from the beginning. They were at the spot where they had to endure harsher wind and stronger sunshine. I am sure the soil was different, even though I cannot explain it now. They had more texture, clearer veins and more saturated color on petals and leaves. Hairs on stem were even tou…

Paintings & Stories: 5. Pencil, pencil, pencil.....

Rattlesnake Master, Eryngium yuccifolium, Detail, Graphite Pencil, ©Heeyoung Kim
full image can be viewed

This Rattlesnake Master was at the top of my long list of plants that I wanted to paint in my first year of botanical art study. However, I was so overwhelmed by the complexity of the flower head. I actually started drawing it long ago, and kept looking at it every year, adding or correcting bit by bit. Finally this year, I have been courageous enough to finish it, after long practice. I juxtaposed a dissected part and the flower in full bloom in perfect symmetry. 
You will be surprised to see how beautiful job a simple pencil does.  In the beginning, I just considered this as a study for my watercolor painting. As it got its shape, though, I just loved it as it is. So I decided to finish up.

Paintings & Stories: 4. Showing Plant Life Cycle on One Piece of Art

Detail of Fringed Gentian, Gentianopsis crinita, Heeyoung Kim 2012
"How long did it take to paint this?" This is the most common question I hear. Painting whole life cycle of a plant means at least 1 year, when I am lucky. Very often longer than that.

Then another question comes. "Does it worth that much time?" Of course, yes! No good artworks have been created in a day. Many artists in history struggled for many years with one painting.

One last question still comes. "Why don't you just take a photo?" You cannot capture four seasons in one photo. You would say, yes you can with computer manipulation. But that is a totally different story.

A botanical artist can create an artwork that transcends time and space, and that combines art and science.
Plant resources are decreasing from many reasons. This one painting could be the only or one of a few visual materials that would prove its existence to our next generations. Don't you think it is worth …

Paintings & Stories: 3. Fall is around the corner.....

Green Dragon, Arisaema dracontium, Watercolor, ©Heeyoung Kim

Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Arisaema triphyllum and Green Dragon, Arisaema dracontium are quite eye-catching Midwest native plants. From early spring their unique flowers give us very pleasant story. Actually their flowers are almost not seen. The petal-like shape which we usually misunderstand as a flower, is spathe. I just call it 'hood'. Inside the spathe, there is spadix which I call 'tongue'. Flowers bloom around the spadix, and they develop berries in late summer when the plants are big and healthy enough. This may sound strange, but this unique plants are indecisive about their gender until they figure out if they are big enough to be female and bear berries. When they are not big enough, they just die out without fruiting.

At this time we can spot red, or orangish green berries on the ground in woodlands. They give sparkling color to the muted colored or yello…

Paintings & Stories: 2. Transition from Pencil to Watercolor

Pencil sketch of tree bark

                                            Thin watercolor added on top of pencil drawing

Should watercolor botanical always look clean, neat and flawless? 
Most of us believe so. That is why students have hard time to overcome their fear of adding color. I chose this loose tree bark painting as September theme of my open workshop at Brushwood Gallery, Ryerson Woods. 
After our intensive pencil drawing sessions in August, we will move towards watercolor gradually, but not separately. Our goal in September is having fun with watercolor, and enjoying watching how the two medium create interesting effects. 
Of course, the painting above doesn't look like a botanical! I will add some spring flowers later. Right now, I just want to feel free from fear, and play with watercolor.

Paintings & Stories: 1. You think you are done! Well, too early?

Study of Ohio Spiderwort - C Heeyoung Kim 2012
"Start From Finish" is my experimental watercolor botanical workshop at Chicago Botanic Garden. My idea started from the fact that students can hardly have a chance to see somebody doing final touch. The result: most students think they are done, too early.

Students brought in their 'finished painting'(?) to the workshop and tried to improve them. However, the hardest part was critique. We did open critique, but I could see some were not quite open to it. I could gradually convince everyone to see the room to be improved in their paintings. Every week all of us get happier and happier seeing the possibility that we actually can improve our works.

The image above is a sample painting of mine. I showed how I could make the middle part of the flower darker and make the details of pistil and stamens pop out. Compare the two front petals and the back one, please. Not finished yet, of course...........