Botanical Garden
International Artist|June - July 2021
Jen Urquhart depicts scientifically accurate florals and botanicals in colored pencil
By Jen Urquhart

Ficus Elastica, colored pencil, 13 x 10½ (34 x 27 cm) This is the largest drawing I have done. I really loved working with this blue-green palette, which contrasted well against the black background.

My artistic style is about realism, detail, color, contrast and texture. I like to think of myself as a contemporary botanical artist. I was trained in the traditional style of botanical art, at the Geelong School of Botanical Art. The subject is usually a flower, fruit or vegetable. It is drawn from real life, to scale, on a white background, and is scientifically accurate. It is here that I learned the basics of drawing, first in graphite and then colored pencil. Although I have developed my own style, much of what I learned can be seen in my work. Now my emphasis is more on artistic interpretation and I do like to push the boundaries.

I found that I preferred to use photographs as a reference, and I liked to add a background, sometimes a dark background. I prefer a less technical method and like to blend colors into a ‘painterly’ style.

The technique of colored pencil is about layering and blending colors. You cannot mix color pencils in a palette, they are mixed directly on the paper. Many layers of pencil are required to build up enough saturation of color so that the “tooth” of the paper is filled in is burnished. After I have done three to four layers of color, I like to use a Caran D’Ache Luminance white pencil to smooth out the pencil strokes. More layers of color are then added. It is very important that the pencil has a very sharp point and only light pressure is used. If heavy pressure is applied, the tooth will be flattened and it will not be possible to add more layers. I like to use small, circular strokes which gives a smooth coverage of the paper.

I like to experiment with different papers as pencils react differently on different surfaces. I have found that hot-pressed watercolor paper, which has a smooth surface, allows for many layers of colored pencil, and will keep sharp details. Recently I have tried Pastelmat and drafting film – both very different surfaces, but I have enjoyed working on both. It is an exciting time, as the use of colored pencil as a medium is relatively recent, but it is becoming increasingly popular and acknowledged as a fine art medium.

Quince, colored pencil, 8 x 8 (20 x 20 cm) The highlights of this drawing are the color of the leaf (so many blues and greens were used) and the texture of the quince.

Succulent, colored pencil, 8 x 8 (20 x 20 cm) The focal point of this drawing was the textured, pink, heart-shaped leaf, which contrasts with the soft blue-greens.

My Art in the Making Timeless

For this artwork I wanted to draw something unique and challenging, which would reflect the beauty and intricacy of nature. My inspiration came from some dried hydrangea flowers—not the classic hydrangea, but one called hydrangea macrophylla, “purple lace cap.”

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