Archive for Creative Course / Botanical Illustration

Creative Course / Botanical Illustration


Botanical Illustration 500From the 30th of April to the 7th of May Cortijada Los Gázquez is running a Creative Course, Botanical Illustration.

It’s timed to run parallel with the great explosion of wild flowers here which are so part of the Andalucían experience. There are a few spaces left on the course so if you would like to join us you are most welcome. Plant life is the theme of the course but no experience is necessary, just an enjoyment of wild orchids and other flowers.

I took these photos this morning to show the wealth of colour and form on it’s way…



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Creative Course / 30th April - 7th May / 2011

Botanical Illustration 500

An informal week of walking, field studies and studio work allowing the artist to explore new flora and new approaches to representing flora in their art work or photography.

Our explorations will be of endemic and regional plant species. By looking at each slope, hollow, knoll and valley individually, we will identify a mosaic of different habitats. Some open, some closed, south facing or north facing, damp or dry we can aim at discovering the structurally diverse habitats which can be found here. The field studies aspect can be adapted to cater for anyone with mobility issues as a diversity of flora can be found on our doorstep as well as further afield.

And Los Gázquez can entertain you in a purpose built artist’s studio replete with natural light and plenty of space. Materials can be ordered in advance of your arrival or brought by yourself. ‘Botanical Illustration’ is a course for all who share this common interest, professional or ‘pastime’. The atmosphere is intended to be warm and congenial, the subject, in the right season, spectacular.

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Notes From Spain Pod-Cast #77 ‘La Cortijada Los Gázquez’

Followers of our blog will know that Ben and Marina from Notes From Spain were here just last week for a visit. And whilst they were here, amongst other things, they interviewed yours truly for one of their famous pod-casts. This time it was about our art and ecology here at Cortijada Los Gázquez.

It was a genuine pleasure to have them here and if you would like to listen to Ben and Marinas pod-cast just click on the image above or listen by visiting their web-site by clicking on this link below.

Notes From Spain Pod-Cast #77

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Scaling ‘The Tree of Ben’ / Successfully Scaled (or at least well into the lower boughs)

ben 1

Remembering where Ben started, (click here) this is his first drawing at Los Gázquez, a view back to the cortijada. This is a stab at a more academic drawing, each element carefully measured and calculated, constantly cross referencing points. He found it a nightmare but I think he did pretty well.

However that afternoon…

ben 2

he found a medium he really enjoyed, charcoal. It gave him a freedom he had not previously considered. It’s malleability allows you to cover mistakes rapidly and move at speed. For the rest of the day we carried on with charcoal making different drawings around the building, getting into the medium.

The next day I thought it good to do specific exercises appropriate to charcoal. Now, it’s a seldom considered manifestation of the brain to conceive objects via their perimeters. This usually expresses itself with us drawing a series of lines. However, what defines an object is in reality not the perimeter edges our cognitive skills perceive, but the fall of light, creating shade. So the next morning we worked on two pieces of paper, set up parallel to each other, the view point slightly different, and worked one from dark to light and the other from light to dark. To do this, one of the pieces of paper was completely blacked out with charcoal requiring Ben to draw solely with the putty rubber, considering just the fall of light and working in areas rather than lines. On the second piece of paper I only allowed Ben to apply charcoal with his fingers and only put in the shade. I think the results speak for themselves…

ben 3

ben 4

I love this last drawing, it says so much about the light and the hot sun here. It also reminds me of a Morandi drawing and in my opinion is a great success.

Building on the rapid improvement in Ben’s work I thought the afternoon should see us giving him an even bigger challenge. I took him half way up the mountain at the back of Los Gázquez to draw the view below, La Hoya de Carrascal.

ben 5

This is a very different composition, full of detail and texture. More importantly it required gesture and rhythm to make it come alive, a mixture of consideration and energy applied simultaneously. I think he did terrifically well.

I would say, considering the speed in which Ben picked up on what I was telling him, that he immediately understood and employed my suggestions and how he was free of any baggage of resistance he will be and indeed is a good artist. All he needs is to loosen up and be free with his drawing and he will be away. It was a great pleasure in having Ben and his family here at Los Gázquez. I hope it can happen again soon.

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Scaling the ‘Tree of Ben’ / top tip #6 chiaroscuro


Chiaroscuro, otherwise known as light and dark, is a non linear means to describe three dimensional volume. In drawing, approach your subject as if it were made up of areas best described tonally. Establish where you source of light is coming from and consider how the side of the object away from light is dark and vice versa.

I’ve chosen Caravaggio here to demonstrate a rather extreme example of how light can be used to express volume. I have always loved this painting for it’s showmanship and it’s drama. But best of all, for those who don’t know already, it has a little secret. With the exception of Jesus (who is reading the menu and saying ‘I ordered duck not chicken’) none of the apostles’ line of sight is correct. Luke, on the right wearing the scallop shell of a pilgrim, looks into the middle distance left. Cleophas is looking beyond the right shoulder of Luke whilst the waiter looks beyond his left shoulder. Why? Probably because Caravaggio was using a camera obscura. Each of his subjects sat down independently and the painting was assembled much like a collage.

And on the subject of camera obscuras one of our current artists Cristina Sáez is building one in the studio at Los Gázquez as part of her installation. You can read more on her project here.

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Scaling the ‘Tree of Ben’ / top tip #5 drawing negative space

roger hilton

Now, I don’t literally mean negative space. I mean more the space around or behind an object.

I’ve taken this Roger Hilton painting as an example. If you are drawing a form, be it a figure or a building, whatever, to help make it proportionately correct consider the exterior space as much as the interior. The balance between the two volumes will make your drawing  more accurate. I’m talking about the space Roger Hilton in this painting has coloured blue, black and yellow.

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Scaling the ‘Tree of Ben’ / top tip #4 construction lines

construction lines

A drawing is a form of construction. Firstly, you require foundations before you build the walls and then add on the roof at the end. The best way to make your construction conform to the proportions you require is by having a plan.

Take a hard pencil or any other (but applied softly) and draw construction lines. Fill the paper with fine lines as you ‘tune in’ to the drawing you want to create. As the construction lines estimate the required form, proportion and composition you can ‘firm up’ your lines with more definitive marks. This allows your drawing to grow into existence as opposed to just ‘plonking’ down heavy pencil lines, guessing where they should go.

The Tree of Ben / Scaling ‘The Tree of Ben

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Scaling the ‘Tree of Ben’ / top tip #3 draw from your feet not your wrists

drawing hand

Too many people anchor their wrists to their paper and then commence to draw in a series of small semi-circles proportionately equal to the distance from the wrist to the end of their pencil. Whilst this may work on small drawings it doesn’t work on larger ones. The only thing you will achieve like this is the depiction of objects like the leaning tower of Pisa, caught in motion, falling to the ground.

Start  drawing by moving from your shoulder and then your hips. These are the points of articulation which will give you straight lines and imbue your drawing with dynamic energy. Feel your feet on the ground, one before the other, and use all the larger bodily joints to control your pencil.

Think of physics. Energy is not static. Motion produces energy. Feel the earth beneath your feet and use your body to stimulate change as expressed through your drawing.

The Tree of Ben / Scaling ‘The Tree of Ben’

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Scaling The ‘Tree of Ben’ / top tip #2 a pencil is a medium to make a mark not a tool to draw a line

pencil line

You may have heard people use the term ‘plastic arts’. What they are normally referring to is an art form that involves modelling or moulding, such as sculpture and ceramics, or art involving the representation of solid objects with three dimensional effects.

However, I think a more accurate definition of plastic should be employed. Plastic is a word that should describe any material that can be manipulated or moulded into a shape and then set into a slightly malleable or rigid form. My thesaurus says malleable, mold-able, pliable, ductile, flexible, soft, workable, bendable and (informal) bendy. In my sketch book these are all terms you could apply to the application of pencil on paper.

The lines I have drawn above indicate how the surface of paper is microscopically a web-like mass of long fibers. Depending upon the degree of coarseness of it’s finish and upon the hardness of the pencil, the fibers act as a file. They wear away the pigment particles and hold them within their interstices. This is your opportunity to consider the application of pencil to paper as the opportunity to manipulate your medium not solely in terms of where you apply pencil but, most importantly, how.

The Tree of Ben Scaling the Tree of Ben

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Scaling the ‘Tree of Ben’ / top tip #1 Measuring


It’s as synonymous as a French man with a stripy vest and a string of onions. The popular imagination sees artists, ‘en plein air’, arm stretched out, pencil in hand, measuring, by line of sight, an object or landscape before their easel. And for good reason, it works.

However, it doesn’t just work in relation to you, the artist, adapting what you see to fit nicely inside the perimeters of a sheet of A4. If done regularly, consistently, with every drawing you make, you begin to train your brain to see proportion correctly and eventually without the aid of a pencil to measure with.

Think of Sterling Moss racing around the streets of Monaco. The circuit is complex. So, the only competitive edge you will have against the other drivers will be the ability to shave off the extra fractions of a second as you drive around in circles. And the only way to do that is practice, practice, practice. By practice you can change the way your brain perceives things.

If you choose to adhere to my top tip #1 eventually you will look at your subject and then at a blank piece of paper and you will see your subject drawn out before you.

The Tree of Ben and Scaling ‘The Tree of Ben’

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