Now that I make my living by creating Botanical Fine Art, image my surprise when I stumbled upon my first botanical drawings, dating from 1976. In an effort to document my classical art education I have gone to the attic to retrieve my early drawings and paintings along with the schoolwork I saved from the excellent Art Education curriculums I attended at York College and Queens College, (CUNY), City University of New York during the 1970’s.
Branch with details, an early horticultural drawing
Without any historical background regarding the long tradition of botanical drawing, I documented the branch structure, flower and leaf as well as the knothole of a branch, which I more than likely retrieved from my garden in Queens Village, NY. I was an avid, but highly amateur gardener, tending to a huge cherry tree, a multi-stemmed white birch and three peach bearing trees in my tiny garden.
Drawing of a dead branch
Drawing of a dead branch
The drawing of my houseplant has been badly damaged by mold but it describes nicely a succulent houseplant I nurtured for years without realizing that it would ever flower. When the plant finally graced me with a huge, star shaped hairy flower, the stench it emitted attracted an abundance of houseflies much to my dismay. The flower itself was stunning. Very large in proportion to the plant itself with reflexed petals and patterned markings. I, many years later, found that the common name of my trophy was, the Carrion Plant, and the Latin name is: Stapelia Gigantia, from the Family of Asclepiadaceae.
Considering the amount of flies that I remember finding their way into my home I am not surprised to have discovered that it was known to attract pollinators by emitting the horrendous odor of dead meat. I don’t remember exactly what happened to the plant but I think that it failed to flourish after blooming that year. That may either have been because the effort it took to produce that huge flower weakened the plant or it may be because I was so offended at the smell that I was not longer enamored enough with it to tend it with care.
Brown Kraft paper bags are a wonderful subject for learning to draw. They don’t move like people do. They don’t wiggle or whine. They don’t go rotten and deteriorate like fruits and vegetables. They’re cheap and easy to find. Not only can you pack lunch into the smaller bags you can bring home your food shopping in the larger ones and as an extra bonus, you can then use them to take out the garbage.
Brown Kraft bags – wash drawing
Need I mention that when I was in school, we cut down the large grocery bags and used them as book covers to protect the textbooks that the public school system in New York City provided to us on loan. So versatile, so useful, so filled with nooks and crannies they make for a great student model.
Brown lunch bag drawing
These 4 drawings of paper bags were done while I was in the second semester of my Freshman year in the Fine Arts Program at York College, CUNY in Queens NY. They were done during a two-week period from 3/21/1976 through 3/4/1976. All the dates of the drawings are noted at the bottom of each piece. I’m very glad that I was prescient enough to not only keep my student works but also to have dated them so that I could, 30 years later, look back on them and study the progression of my classes.
Brown bag wash drawing
At the time of these drawings I had been paying attention to art for only 2 years since I had spent my Junior and Senior High School years immersed in music. I came late to art but at the time of this writing in 2007, I’ve been an active artist for over 30 years.
The mediums I was experimenting with in these drawings are plain pencil, pencil and wash and Conte crayon. I seem to be able to create volume using contrast in these pieces but I haven’t set each of the still lives up with a particular light source that is consistent throughout each piece.
The composition of each work is fairly good in relation to the page and utilizes the scale properly except perhaps the last piece. I believe the drawing would have been better served had the paper been turned horizontally.
Too late to fix the original now but as I would say in this day and age: “I’ll fix it in Photoshop.”
The art of drawing boots and shoes is taught in all college curriculums since it is logical to select subjects readily available to even the most cash strapped students. In fact, the older and more beat up a shoe the more character it has and sometimes that goes for humans as well. These drawing studies were created in the second semester of my Freshman year of York College in Queens NY, 1976.
My son Chris’ denim boots
The first drawing of boots, with the heel cropped on the bottom of the paper, either indicates an advanced notion of composition or the inability to judge the size of the paper. These were denim boots I bought for my son Chris and they made him the coolest kid in elementary school. The drawing is dated 3/7/1976.
This drawing was one of my first attempts at using a stick of Conte crayon. I had moved beyond using just the weight of the stroke to indicate dimension and had begun to include shadows and light source.
My Earth Shoes in a conte crayon drawing (without shoe laces)
Earth shoes were my footgear for most of the ‘70’s since they were comfortable and easy on my back. This conte drawing is lacking the completion the assignment probably called for but I was amused at seeing my shoes again for the first time in 30 years. In fact these shoes might be having a renaissance as I’ve seen them advertised in one of the flood of catalogs that show up at my door. This drawing is dated 3/8/1976, which makes it the day after the denim boots shown above and is probably the reason for their lack of detail.
Frye Boots in a wash drawing
The pen and ink study of Frye boots dated 3/11/1976 was a very early attempt at controlling an ink wash. The composition, in my mind, is more successful than the first two drawings since they utilize the format and dimensions of the paper with a greater sensitivity.
I have no recollection of whether these drawings were done in the classroom or as homework assignments. Given the length of time it would have taken for me to complete each of these drawings I presume most of the work would have been done on my dining room table after my sons went to sleep for the night.