Color the Emotion

Pick a few colors and create without stiffness.

Wild Botanical Art – Create with Colored Pencils and Watercolors

This week, I created wild botanical art. I drew plants with delicate details like in botanical illustrations, but with a few differences. My plants are not any real species, and the jungle where they grow is more like my inner world at its best, not a real location on the planet.

Wild Botanical Art by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. Colored pencils and watercolors.

Watercolors First!

Before putting colored pencils into work, I made some backgrounds with watercolors. I had very smooth watercolor paper – hot press quality. My friend Eeva Nikunen recommended Arches Hot Press paper that she has used for detailed graphite drawings. It’s a bit pricey but so smooth and lovely for colored pencils too. However, any smooth watercolor paper would work with this technique.

Painting watercolor backgrounds for wild botanical art.

I used a lot of water for the first layer and made random splotches with a spraying bottle. This kind of wild watercolor painting is fun, but when I tried to pick one of the four experiments for colored pencils, I found the results uninspiring. So I asked myself what kinds of nature’s shapes or colors would I want to see more, and answered: “All kinds of hays inspire me a lot!”

Love for Sharp-Shaped Botanicals

We have lots of house plants that have sharp leaves.

Sharp-leafed houseplants. Inspiration for botanical art.

And when I walk in nature, I always look for hays and how light hits them.

Hays. Inspiration for botanical art.

So, then after some drying time, I made thin lines that went wildly here and there.

Painting lines that are like hays on watercolor backgrounds.

After the lines, I found the green one on the bottom left very inviting, so I chose that for coloring.

Coloring Freely and Wildly

Colored pencils work well on the watercolor background and smooth paper. It was enjoyable to color freely. I didn’t follow the shapes or lines painted in watercolor but created new layers.

Coloring with colored pencils on a watercolor background.

I have started to store my colored pencils in shallow plastic boxes grouped in color families. This way, every pencil gets seen, and the differences between tones are easy to identify.

Should Plant People Draw Plants?

My husband and I are plant people. Our home is filled with house plants and we have all kinds of plants in our garden. It has been quite a job to save the plants from our new puppy Saima!

Beagles enjoy the sun. A house plant as a palm tree.

Plants have also always been present in my paintings. But recently, I have thought that maybe I could focus more on them with colored pencils too. It often feels that I come home when I am inspired by plants and travel abroad when I am creating something else. I want to challenge myself out of my comfort zone, but if there’s a strong resonation, like a secret companionship, should I listen to it?

Wild botanical art with colored pencils on a watercolor background.

More Wild Botanical Art – Playing Mode On!

It was so much fun to work on this project that I wanted to do more. So, I colored these small scraps – a fruit and a leaf!

Hand-drawn scraps for collage art.

And then it was playing time. How wild can this go?

Playing with hand-drawn scraps. Botanical theme.

Create Wild Botanical Art – Five Tips!

  • Start by creating a wilderness that calls you.
  • Color layers of random shapes and lines. When you see something that could be a plant, turn it into one!
  • Don’t worry about identifying the plants – treat them as rarities that only you can find!
  • Make detailed a little more detailed – botanical art goes crazy with details!
  • Revamp – Add some plants from your box of joy!
  • Bonus tip: Nature is full of curves, so make sure you also have some.
Curvy leaves of a house plant. Inspiration for botanical art.

Botanical Art by Ernst Haeckel

Many years ago, a blog reader mentioned Ernst Haeckel’s botanical art. Since then, I have admired his work. Here’s a part of his illustration from 1904. Lots of greens spiced with warm colors and so many details!

Ernst Haeckel's botanical art, a detail of his bigger work.

Mine is not nearly as sharp and detailed as Haeckel’s, but I approve it anyway. Plants have different personalities, and so do their interpretations!

Wild Botanical Art by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet. Colored pencils, watercolors, some hand-drawn collage.

Tell me, do you like drawing plants? What kinds of plants especially?

18 thoughts on “Wild Botanical Art – Create with Colored Pencils and Watercolors

  1. Päivi, this blog post really inspired me! I have always adored all the different shapes and colours of plants – leaves and flowers. One summer a few years back, when staying at my summer cottage, I decide to draw one flower every day, from a live model. That was really an inspiring journey to the endless variety of nature. So now your example has made me to decide to start drawing again. And because now there are zero green plants outside, only snow, it’s a very good idea to start drawing from my imagination. So thank you, Päivi, for this inspiring idea!

    1. I am glad you liked it, Eila! What a great idea to pick each plant each day too. That could also be combined by picking one real plant and then making a fantasy plant inspired by it.

  2. Paivi I am intrigued by the back grounds you painted as a foundation for the plants. They are pieces of art in themselves. Thank you for your thoughtful posts, they make me think outside of my own thoughts.

    1. I have many classes of painting and drawing flowers like Cathy so kindly suggests! But I am also working on a new class that is botanical-related … Don’t have the exact schedule yet, but hopefully before summer!

  3. Thankyou Paivi I found this post very inspiring. I grew up in the Australian bush surrounded by wildflowers and have always thought of them as separate entities but in your post it shows how to integrate with the forest and grasses. Thankyou so much. Xx

  4. Love your work. I paint with acrylics but feel very inspired after watching your videos. I particularly like the video inspired by the quilt. I seem to be drawn to circles and flowers

  5. The collage pieces you added really make this piece come alive! I feel that the breeze is blowing the green leaf up toward me. Beautiful! Your play sessions are delightful. I’m going to try the idea of wild, grassy lines.

  6. Green is one of my favorite colors. I love your completed piece and the contrasts in shapes and colors. The smooth paper is nice to keep colors clear. Thank you for this delightful post.

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