Saturday, July 7, 2007

How to Draw Roses

The most common search term that leads people to my blog is “How to Draw Roses”. Whenever I get traffic from that search I feel bad, because I’ve never written instructions for drawing roses. I can imagine their disappointment when they get here. So this post is for them.

Of course my knee-jerk answer to, “How do you draw roses?” is, “The same way I draw anything else.” I know that’s not what these people are looking for, but it’s true. The approach to drawing any subject is basically same.

I think the most important skill required for good drawing is learning how to see. And the second most important skill is drawing what you actually see, and not a picture that is a symbol for what you see. Everyone has seen a child’s drawing of a tree. It looks something like this…

And we all know it is meant to be a tree. It has all the important tree parts - a trunk, branches, the leaf canopy. It’s a tree! Except I’ve never seen a tree that looks exactly like this. In fact I’ve noticed that every tree looks different, even trees of the same species. As a child I learned to draw roses like this...

I thought I was pretty clever. But this is what a rose actually looks like…

copyright 2007 Stacy L. Rowan

So how do you get from a drawing a symbol of a rose to drawing an actual rose? Start by looking closely at a rose. Really look at it. Look at the shapes of the individual petals, how the petals relate to each other, how the petals sometimes fold over, all the details that make a rose a rose. Don’t try to draw anything until you have spent time really looking at it. And when you draw a subject, for heavens sake, make it easy on yourself and have the subject in front of you. Or at least have a reference photo of a subject. (Make sure it is your own photo, or one you have permission to use, so you are not in danger of breaking any copyright laws!) Most artists don’t draw without references.

So how would I draw a rose? I’d start out by drawing a simple shape that the rose can fit inside. By simple shape I mean square, rectangle, oval – you know, those shapes you learned in kindergarten.

copyright 2007 Stacy L. Rowan

Then I start drawing the outside petals because they are easiest to relate to the shape. After the outside petals are drawn I start thinking about simplifying. I don’t try to draw every single petal. I just draw enough petals to get the essence of the rose. There are artists who draw every petal, I am sure. But I tend to lose my place in the complex center portions of the rose. So I fudge it. And I have yet to have anyone say, “Hey, you missed a few petals there.”

copyright 2007 Stacy L. Rowan

Of course, for anyone starting out with drawing, there are tools you can use until you are comfortable drawing freehand. Some people start out tracing their reference. Or you can use a grid to help you transfer the drawing to your paper. Sighting or using a pencil to measure lines might also help. Ultimately, drawing is like any other skill. It takes lots of practice. If you are interested in seeing more in depth information about learning how to draw, I recommend you check out Katherine Tyrrell's Squidoo lens "Drawing and Sketching - Resources for Artists".

So that is my lesson in “How to Draw Roses”. I hope people searching for that information find this post useful. At least now I can stop feeling like I am letting these searchers down.


Katherine said...

Thanks for the link Stacy.

I've got a project running all this month on my blog "Making A Mark" which is about looking at how different artists have tackled drawing and painting flowers. Drop by and take a look if you have time.

Stacy said...

Hi Katherine! Nice to "see" you. Thanks for the reminder about your monthly project. I had forgotten about it since I was away at the beginning of the month.

Your blog and lenses are some of the most imformative out there so I was happy to pass on the link.

Africantapestry said...

Thanks for this lesson. I'm one of those crakcleheads that just jump in head firts and then try and figure out how to this is really meant for me. I have nice roses in the garden now, so I will just have to give this a go!

Stacy said...

Ronell, I am glad you found this post helpful. I was afraid I had oversimplified, but I'm just not a very good teacher. Good luck with your rose drawing. I hope I get to see it!