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Posted By bartsoutendijk

Adding color to a botanical drawing

If I’m making a botanical drawing on the computer, I transfer the line drawing I’ve made in Adobe Illustrator to Adobe Photoshop.  Next I add blotches of color using a paintbrush tool and spread out the color using the smudge tool.  I continue adding color and smudging and burning or dodging the image until it looks very close to a photograph.

If I go over the lines – no problem.  I replace the line drawing from Illustrator in the top layer and use the paint bucket to color outside the line drawing with a color not already used in the painting. I flatten the image to a single layer.  Next, all data outside the drawing is removed leaving the background blank.

Posted By bartsoutendijk
Bending wire for a wire wall mural

If a wire sculpture is my intention, the drawing is complete.

The drawing is transferred to a large piece of paper of plywood using projector or computer.  I use pliers to trace the drawing with the wire.  Once I’ve created all the parts of the illustration, I lay them out on a large steel surface and braze them together using a gas torch that burns Oxygen and Propane.

Sometimes, I make a model out of copper wire. It’s much smaller – usually fits on an 11 X 17 sheet of paper. The model is soldered with lead, painted and installed on a piece of cardboard.

Posted By bartsoutendijk
drawing of seated child

A line drawing is made using the pen tool in Photoshop to create a path that is exported to Illustrator for editing and sizing. It’s important to avoid tracing.  Just use the assembled photos as a guide.

If the final illustration will be a wire sculpture, the drawing is made with as few continuous lines as possible.  The drawing above was made with three continuous lines.  In illustrator I might reduce that down to two lines and when I make the final wire art, I might be able to do it with one continuous piece of wire.

If the plan is to make a botanical illustration or stained glass piece, the drawing is made out of many shapes placed together like building blocks.  Each shape will hold a different color when the illustration is complete.  All the shapes together will be used to create a mask that is used to remove background.

Posted By bartsoutendijk


Once photos are made, a few are selected and “cut out.”  These images are then scaled, skewed, rotated, and moved around until the assembled pieces together make a pleasing and accurate illustration.

The images above – a swamp sunflower – were assembled, but finally discarded because the final piece “just wasn’t right.”  My plan is to go out again next summer and make other photos that will fit better.

Posted By bartsoutendijk
lines and shapes

The drawings I make are either lines or shapes. The ones that will result in wire wall murals are started as simple lines.  The ones I make with the intention of creating a Botanicals illustration or stained glass piece start with an exploration of the shapes in a subject.

Both techniques start with a series of photographs that are assembled and drawn. Before computer illustration (pre 1980’s or so) the printed photographs were cut and glued to illustration board.  Line drawing was copied with drafting pen on a series of over-lays that were themselves cut and glued to illustration board – traced again a number of times until the image was what I wanted.  Shapes were  cut out of  frisked on multiple clear over-lays and air brushed.  Drawings sometimes took months of reworking before the illustration was finalized. Today, by using a computer to do essentially the same thing, I can complete a drawing in days.

Posted By bartsoutendijk

drawing of child running around

The first step in making a drawing template for a wire wall mural or making a botanical drawing is to take a number of photographs of the subject being considered.

In the case of botanical drawing, I consult a botanical text to find out what’s important to show.  Usually that is “the Flora of North Central Texas” a publication by the Botanical Research Institute of Texas ( Fort Worth, TX. I make 10 or 20 close-up photos with the intention of picking several to assemble on the computer.

The drawing of the little girl above was made after taking well over thirty photos of my granddaughter playing in the sand. I assembled some of the drawings on my computer to begin the drawing process.

In both cases I have a pretty good idea of how the final drawing or wire wall art will look. I make photos for wire art that will allow me to show the most characteristic detail with the least line. I make photos for botanical illustrations that emphasize color and contrast and will make interesting shapes.




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