Aurora Cultural Centre — Botanical Art Workshop — May 2019

I was back at the Aurora Cultural Centre in May, 2019, to teach a one day workshop titled Magnificent Florals in Coloured Pencils.  It was a mild spring day, the trees were bursting with new growth although the sky was a little overcast.

The Town of Aurora

The town of Aurora is located approximately 40 minutes north of Toronto and is consistently ranked as one of the top places to live in Canada. With its picturesque rolling hills and heavily treed woodlots, Aurora has managed to blend its small-town charm and historic downtown core with a thriving urban and suburban centre. Aurora is the childhood home of Lester B. Pearson, Prime Minister of Canada from 1963 to 1968. In 1851 the population of Aurora, then known as Machell’s Corners (after a local merchant), was 100 residents. In 1854 the name of the settlement was changed by postmaster Charles Doan to Aurora – meaning goddess of the dawn in Roman mythology. The settlement was incorporated as a village in 1863 with a growing business community, several factories and mills, five churches and a school house. By 1869 the population had grown to 1200 and in 1888 Aurora became a town. On April 8, 2010, the town re-opened the historic and fully renovated Church Street School as the Aurora Cultural Centre.

Below: Horse Chestnut bursting with new spring foliage.

Aurora Cultural Centre

It is the vision of the Aurora Cultural Centre to provide a facility that enhances cultural life in the area through the fostering of art practice and presentation, production and reception. Since 2010, the centre has welcomed the community to participate in diverse creative experiences for all ages. Located in a beautifully-restored 1886 schoolhouse, the Aurora Cultural Centre is a charming historical treasure featuring four gallery exhibition spaces, a range of instructional classes for children, teens and adults, an eclectic live music series, special family events, summer arts camps, and stunning rental spaces for community activities and partnership participation. The centre is a registered charity, funded in part by the town of Aurora. The professional staff is supported by a dedicated volunteer board of directors and enthusiastic team of volunteers. The facility is wheelchair accessible, air-conditioned with parking surrounding the building.

The Aurora Cultural Centre is located at 22 Church Street, Aurora, Ontario.

Phone: (905) 713-1818
Check out the website to see what is happening!

The Workshop

Magnificent Florals with 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 (Peruvian Lily) botanical drawing 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.

Below: Actual Alstromeria flower.

We spent the first day of the workshop developing the drawing and working from step-by-step instructional pages. Students produced a sketch of the plant followed by a grey monochromatic (one colour) tonal drawing. 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.

Above: Line drawing.

Below: Grey monochromatic tonal drawing.

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 Alstromeria project.

Below: Work in progress.

Below: Developing colour layers over the grey tonal base.

Faber Castell Polychromos coloured pencils were used throughout the project.

Above and below: Burnished colours are vibrant!

Coming along!

Below: Burnishing with coloured pencils produces deep colour tones, giving an almost painterly effect.

Below: Completed project.

A well as the Alstromeria, some of the students worked on my step-by-step ornamental gourd project (see below).

Below: Grey tone is established before developing the layers of colour.

Below: Andrea shows off her gourd project. The colours are developed in layers.

Below: Ann even found time to practice some equestrian drawing!

My next workshop, titled Fundamentals of Botanical Drawing will be on June 15 & 16, at the Toronto Botanical Garden (777 Lawrence Ave. E. North York, Toronto).

To register contact Michael Spillane at 905-891-8422


Or: contact the Toronto Botanical Garden at 416-397-1340

Hope to see you all soon!

Michael Spillane

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