Drawing Flowers Geometrically

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These are not just little tips and techniques, but a full course of learning how to see, think, and draw like an artist.

Drawing flowers geometrically is one of the main secrets to making your sketches have that 3D look.  In fact, everything around us can pretty much be broken down to one of the above geometrical forms:  the cube, the cylinder, the sphere or the cone.

Cubes are important for mostly manmade things, like furniture and buildings _ anything that will have right angles on it.

But flowers are not very "right-angle".  So what we care about here for drawing blooms are the three other shapes:  the cylinder, sphere (or half-sphere, in other words, the "hemisphere") and cone.

This struck me forcefully this evening as I was sitting in my study at my desk wondering about how to teach this here.  I suddenly heard our cat meowing downstairs in the garden and leaned out the window to see what was up.

That was when I caught sight of our buddleja in full bloom.  "Good grief", I thought, "it's really a wonderful illustration of cone shapes!" (The cat, in case you were wondering, was just experiencing an existential moment and just wanted company, as cats sometimes do).

To help you see the cone shapes, I drew them in here for you over the photo of our bush.  The top three or four cones are really pretty easy to understand as they appear in profile.

There are two, however, that are harder to make out because they are not precisely in profile - I have marked them with two red arrows below.  They would be harder for you to do, if you were sitting down right now for drawing flowers in my garden.  Why? 

Because they are "foreshortened", in other words, their shapes are shortened as compared with those of the top four cones on the bush.

This is because of the position of the cone, which had the point of the cone close to pointing directly at you. As an optical effect, it means that you don't have a cone shape to look at, but something much stranger.

Let's look at it another way.  If I draw the cone in the photo to the left, it seems pretty easy - I just draw the outline, which looks pretty close to a perfect triangle.  So far, so good.

If I step to one side and look at the same cone, and try to draw its outline, it's a little more difficult:  I see a bit of its base now, so the outline is sort of like a triangle, but the right-hand side of the triangle is slightly curved and the corners on the right-hand side are really curved.

It might take me a couple of tries to draw the outline right, but it's still a shape I can understand.

Now...if I sit the cone upright on my desk (just ignore the coffee cup damage) and hover over it, looking down on it, things get wierd. 

If I were to draw the outline of the shape I see, it would be a strange sort of circle with a somewhat pointy mass coming out of the lower left side of it. Squint your eyes a bit to see it even more clearly.

Which is in fact precisely the shape - and positioning - of this spray of buddleja.  So you see how you would go about drawing flowers in this position to make them look real?

That was when the cat and I took a walk around at my neighbor's flowers to see what could be good examples for drawing flowers geometrically that I could show you here. 


Take a look at this one.  Can you see that lavender is nothing more than long thing cones at the end of very long and thin cylinders?

I don't know what these rolled-up tubes of yellow flowers these are (no offense to the serious gardeners out there), but I know that to draw them I would think of cylinders sitting atop the long thin cylinders of their stems (by the way, the following morning I found them fully open to welcome the sun).

The cat and I continued our inventory.  These hydrangeas are another example.  In fact, their shapes are just upside-down hemispheres - If you want to get their shape with that strong structured look that artist drawings have, than imagine drawing this bush with a bunch of upside-down cereal bowl shapes and you'll have it.

Got the idea?  So in fact, even something as complicated-looking as this fuschia, when broken down into its components...

...proves to consist of merely narrow cylinders and both wide and narrow cones.  The horizontal stem at the top of the photo is a series of thin cylinders put end to end to describe the curve.

The white lines I have drawn on the image here are exactly the same lines that I would lightly trace onto my paper as I sit down to draw the fuschia.  They will be my guidelines, so that I will be sure to lay in my flower as I draw with the same strong sense of geometry that Mother Nature gave the plant.  It helps me know where I'm going in the drawing, and it makes my flower look...real.

Below you will find downloadable pages of cylinders, hemispheres and cones at different angles for you to practice copying, so that you can have that in your mind's database to draw on for drawing flowers!  Here are the pages for cylinders and cones and hemispheres.  Note that the circle shape on the cones page that has a little dot, has that dot to show you where the top of the cone is.

Cones

Cylinders

Hemispheres

Go from "Drawing Flowers Geometrically" to "How to Draw Flowers"

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