The final project for my Fundamentals of Scientific Illustration I class could be one of several options. We could do a still life of onions, garlic, vegetables, or fruit. We could do easier flowers such as tulips, iris, or daffodils. We had to choose two or three objects, arrange them in a pleasing composition, and use the whole value scale.
I thought about doing fruit or vegetables, but spring had captured my heart and all I could think of were the flower choices. I also know how I operate, and since I wanted this drawing to turn out well, I knew I had to choose a subject that would keep my interest long enough for me to finish it before I became too frustrated by it.
Jan’s other stipulation was that we had to work from life, not photographs. What better excuse could I have to buy myself flowers? The hidden bonus was that the flowers only lasted a few days before they started to age, which changed the drawing. To solve the problem, I focused on one flower with the first bunch of flowers and bought a fresh bunch of flowers in order to complete the second flower.
I chose daffodils, because I wanted to do something new, and I love daffodils. Every year I look forward to the time when they are in bloom. For the past several weeks I deliberately took the routes around the neighborhood which would maximize the number of daffodils I would see.
I’ll admit I had several moments in the process of completing the project where I found myself hating daffodils and questioning my judgement in choosing them over tulips. Why didn’t I play it safe and do tulips again? With all those little ripples and curved edges on the center of the daffodil, what was I thinking?! Tulips became my back-up plan in case the daffodil drawing turned out to be a disaster. I started early so that I would have time to redo the drawing if necessary.
At the beginning of my drawing, my teacher asked me if I was doing the final project and what I had chosen. I said yes and that I had chosen to do daffodils. Now I was committed. Jan asked if I was doing two or three flowers. I said I thought I’d do three at first, but found that was too ambitious, I’d better only do two, since I was struggling with the drawing already. She nodded thoughtfully and said it’s good to know your limitations.
After two weeks of free time spent working on the drawing, I reached the point where I was sick of it and ready to throw it away. I knew there was something I couldn’t see to make it better that Jan would. By that time, any changes I was making didn’t seem to improve the drawing much more. The time had come to let it go and submit if for the critique.
The extra time I put in paid off. Jan reassured me that drawing will get faster for me as I get further along. She liked my drawing. The shadow on the stem needs to be corrected, but she said that was all she could think of that really needed to be changed. I know in the future I will look back on this drawing and see other flaws, but for now it is good enough and it’s where I am right now. She asked if she could post it on the Connecticut Natural Science Illustrators Facebook page. She also showed it to someone who is key in creating the new scientific illustration certificate program and he was excited that I was interested in the program.
I know I will be able to learn a lot from Jan. I am in love with daffodils again. Life is good. “And then my heart with pleasure fills, and dances with the daffodils.” *
*from the poem “Daffodils” by William Wordsworth