Today, featured artist Heeyoung Kim talks about her work in progress.
Heeyoung, since it is not always possible to document a plant’s life cycle in one season, I assume you must have paintings on hold. How many drawings or paintings do you have in-progress at any given time?
Right now, 58 drawings and paintings are in progress.
Early spring flowers are very difficult to finish up as a serious painting. They bloom very early when the weather is still too severe for me to sit hours in the woods. Quite often we have snow which damages the fragile spring flowers, or shorten their blooming time. And too many flowers bloom all together, which makes me feel just hurried, but not doing a lot. So I have a lot of drawings started, but never have enough time to color them.
Mid-summer plants are also challenges. I have to stop going to the woods when it is too hot and too buggy and ticks are all around. When you find 7 ticks from your hair, you say, “Oh My God! Let’s stop!”
I am thrilled, though, thinking of the day when I finish all of them.
Do you have field projects in progress? Tell us what you’re working on!
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Our conversation with Heeyoung Kim continues…
Question #4: I read the painting of Silene regia, the Royal Catchfly
(Image 6), took two years to create. What challenges did you encounter with this project?
Heeyoung: The biggest challenge was the weather and location. This beautiful red plant was in full bloom in August. The temperature at that time went up to 100 degrees in the prairie. The hot and humid prairie was heaven for the bugs and insects. They literally tried to eat me up alive. When we have hot and humid weather in Chicago land, usually sudden showers follow. You can imagine what happened to me with my big sketch pad. Another challenge was the plant itself. It had a very complicated structure with multiple flower stalks branched out at several nodes. And it’s hairy and sticky. That is how it got its common name; the sticky hair catches flies. When I tried to start drawing, the composition didn’t come to me. After several days’ trial, I still could not get it started. So I changed my strategy. Forget the composition! Study parts first, and then work with the whole image! For many days afterwards, I did detailed drawings of petals, flowers, and leaves to make myself familiar with the plant structure and shape. Finally when I felt I got to know the plant, I could compose the image on paper with confidence. It took 2 weeks to get the composition I liked. At the end of the year, I proudly showed my finished painting to my mentor. He gave me wonderful compliments, but very cautiously advised me to see some other photos, as he believed the red on the painting was not intense enough. I could not believe that, because I worked first-hand with the plant right in the habitat for so long and so hard. Without having my signature on that painting, I put it in my flat file and waited one year to see the color again with my bare eyes. The following spring, I made regular visits to check the whole life cycle of the plant. What I found out in the second year was very simple. My observation in the first year started too late. I missed the very early bud which had more orange and the brightest red in freshly bloomed flowers. That was the biggest lesson I keep in mind ever since. I feel like I learned everything about botanical drawing and watercolor, and the way I should approach my subjects, in this one project.
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NOTE: Heeyoung’s painting of the Royal Catchfly is the signature image for the upcoming meeting of the American Society of Botanical Artists. This year, botanical artists from all over the world will travel to Illinois to attend this annual meeting.
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Posted in botanical art, botanical illustration, Education, general botany, Learning Opportunities, Special Articles & Interviews, tagged drawing, field sketching, Heeyoung Kim, prairie plants on July 4, 2012 |
Featured guest, Heeyoung Kim, shares how she collects field data:
After you locate a plant in the field, how do you approach recording the plant’s information? Do you begin with a written description of its identifying characteristics or do you prefer to think visually and create a sketch first?
When I am introduced to a new plant either with help from my “plant scout” or through a book, I can usually see it from its blooming season. I do start sketching parts of the plant, but I prefer working with the whole composition after I see its full life cycle in the next year.
Both written and graphic records are essential for a proper description, I believe. I usually start measuring botanically distinctive features of the plant with the metric system first. I then draw them from different angles and in various stages with color notes or sample coloring with colored pencil or watercolor. I know we are used to inch and feet in America, but in most other countries they use the metric system and they require you to write scales in centimeters and millimeters when you do scientific illustration and write a plant legend. For color notes, sometimes I just write down the paint tube names I will probably use to paint the plant. I find this works very well for me, as I can directly envision the painting process while I am looking at the plant.
I record all of my notes on one large paper, which I always have with me whenever I go out for sketch.
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