Archive | November 2017

Toronto Botanical Garden Workshop — October 2017

It’s October at the Toronto Botanical Garden and the roses are still in full bloom. Although we have reached the end of summer they continue to produce magnificent pink flowers that compliment the mixed palette of shifting fall colours.

I was back at the Toronto Botanical Garden (October 14 & 15) for my second two-day botanical drawing workshop this year — Brilliant Botanical Portraits in Coloured Pencils. During the two days we focused on developing two botanical portraits, one an Alstromeria (Peruvian Lily) and the other, a glorious Cattleia orchid. My intention for the workshop was to convey to students the magnificent and versatile qualities of coloured pencils in botanical art.

About the Toronto Botanical Garden

The Toronto Botanical Garden is located in Toronto’s Edwards Gardens and is a gardening education and information centre. Termed “The little garden with big ideas,” the TBG opened in 1958 and features a superb collection of themed “city-sized gardens.”

Above: At this time of year hundreds of monarch butterflies can be seen at the garden. To help prepare them for their long journey south to Mexico, the TBG has come up with a program called “Monarchs on the Move,” a conservation initiative for visitors to learn about the life cycle of monarch butterflies.

Edwards Gardens is a public park, owned and administered by the City of Toronto, whereas The Toronto Botanical Garden is a volunteer-driven charity dedicated to disseminating horticultural and gardening information to the public. Alexander Milne, a Scottish miller, settled his family and built his business on the site that we now know as Edwards Gardens in 1817. The land stayed in the Milne family for over a hundred years. Subsequent owners made some improvements to the property, but the area eventually became over-grown and weed-ridden. In 1944, a Toronto businessman, Rupert Edwards, bought the property to fulfill his dream of creating a magnificent country garden with wide open spaces and plenty of room to move and breath.

Edwards transformed the property into a glorious garden, boasting one of the largest rockeries in Canada, a private 9-hole golf course and a safe haven for wildlife. Ten years later, when the city began to encroach upon the property, Edwards decided to sell. Wanting to preserve the estate as a public park, he sold it to the then Metro (Toronto) Council.

Above: As the seasons change from summer to fall, deep vermillion dahlias provide a striking contrast to the autumn foliage.

In 1956, Edwards Gardens was opened to the public and the Garden Club of Toronto shared Milne House facilities with The Federation of Ontario Naturalists. The Garden Club wanted to establish a facility which would provide horticultural information to the public and to that end, the Toronto Botanical Garden was established.

The Toronto Botanical Garden is located at 777 Lawrence Avenue East at Leslie Street, in Toronto, Ontario.
Phone: 416-397-1340

The gardens are open year-round from dawn until dusk and admission is free of charge. Check out their website to see what is happening!

The Workshop

Brilliant Floral Portraits in Coloured Pencils

Coloured pencils are easy to use and convenient to store and replace. They can be used alone or combined with graphite.

Below: My completed Alstromeria in coloured pencil on hot-pressed watercolour paper.

Alstromeria or Peruvian Lily
Alstromeria, also known as the Peruvian Lily or Lily of the Incas, produces beautiful blooms ranging in colour from white, pink and salmon to bright orange, red and purple. Although the plant is poisonous and also a skin irritant, it is commonly grown for the cut flower market. Alstromeria is a genus of flowering plants in the family Alstroemeriaceae. They are native to South America although some have become naturalized in the United States, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Madeira and the Canary Islands.

We spent the first day of the workshop developing the drawing and working from step-by-step instructional pages. Students produced a graphite drawing of the plant followed by a grey monochromatic (one colour) tonal base. The base undertone was rendered with grey coloured pencils prior to adding colour layers. I used Faber Castell Polychromos coloured pencils throughout the project, although some of the students came with Prismacolor Premier coloured  pencils which were cross-indexed to match the right colours.

The workshop covered techniques such as burnishing, blending and layering, along with accurate colour matching, tonal rendering and composition. I used detailed step-by-step instructional handouts, demonstrations and one-on-one interaction with students to complete the botanical portraits.

Below: Base tone and first colour layers.

Detailed instructional handouts make it easy to follow through to the completion of the project.

Below: Monochromatic undertone.

Work in progress.

Below: First layer completed with the second layer started on the lower leaves.

Almost completed.

Below: On the second day of the workshop we started the Cattleia orchid project.

First the monochromatic undertone drawing was produced before adding the first layers of colour.

Below: Developing project next to my finished orchid in coloured pencil.

My next workshop titled The Art of Botanical Drawing is on October 28 & 29 at the Elora Centre for the Arts.

75 Melville St. Elora

To register contact Michael Spillane at 905-891-8422


Or: contact the Elora Centre for the Arts at (519) 846-9698

Hope to see you all soon!

Michael Spillane