Tag Archive | Arches hot-pressed paper

Toronto Botanical Garden Workshop — June 2019

I was back at the Toronto Botanical Garden on June 15 & 16 for another two-day botanical drawing workshop titled The Fundamentals of Botanical Drawing. The workshop featured graphite as a drawing medium in botanical art. Students were given step-by-step instructions along with exercises on gesture, contour drawing and blending techniques to produce realistic botanical drawings. The projects for the workshop included a Fuchsia and Daffodils .

Above: The classrooms and lecture rooms at the Toronto Botanical Garden.

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: Krinkled White Peony (Paeonia lactiflora) features large slightly fragrant blossoms with white paper-like, crinkled petals and and a central burst of golden stamens.

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.

Above: Perhaps the tallest of the ornamental onions, Allium giganteum has a striking globe of tiny star-shaped lilac-purple flowers. 

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.

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!


Allium giganteum

Above: Golden yellow Flag Iris (Iris pseudacorus)

The Workshop

The Fundamentals of Botanical Drawing

The drawing process  starts with a series of gesture sketches and exercises to establish a good composition. Once the basic composition of the subject has been decided, the next step is to produce a simple geometric framework of the plant as a base for developing the drawing. When the sketch is completed over the geometric lines, a final contour drawing completes the process prior to applying graphite tonal values.

Many layers in graphite create a high contrast drawing.

Light H (hard) graphite pencils form the initial tonal base.

Below: First the basic geometry of the subject is established, then the contour or line drawing, followed by tonal rendering in graphite.

With step-by-step instructional pages, demonstrations and individual attention given to each student, developing drawing skills necessary for botanical art becomes relatively easy.

Student project shown next to a copy of my completed fuchsia drawing.

Below: Completed student drawing.

Below: Blending stumps and/or tortillons and a kneaded eraser work hand in hand with the H and B graphite pencils.

Below: Completed fuchsia drawing.

The next project on the second day of the workshop featured Daffodils, completed using a hatching technique in graphite.

Hatching is a technique often used in graphite or pen and ink drawings to produce tone and texture in a range of values by applying small hatch lines or strokes sloping in the same direction. Darker values are built up by closing the gaps between the hatch lines to produce more density in the hatching. Cross-hatching is also used where the lines are crisscrossed over each other to create a different range of darker values.

The sketch is transferred onto illustration board and the first layers of hatched lines are established.

Below: Shows the development of the drawing.

Step-by-step project pages help to create an accurate drawing.

Below: Daffodils and Fuchsia on a 20 x 15 inch #79 Peterboro Illustration board.

Working on detail.

Below: The layers of hatch lines are starting to show contrasting values and three-dimensional form.

Below: Daffodils and fuchsia drawings.

Below: Starting my Kordana Rose drawing.

Detail of the rose flower in graphite.

My completed rose project in graphite.

My next workshop, Flowers & Landscapes in Watercolour is on July 22 & 23 at Southampton Art School & Gallery.

201 High Street, Southampton, Ontario

Telephone: (519) 797-5068
Toll Free: 1-800-806-8838

Hope to see you there!

Michael Spillane


Hardy’s Hobbies & Crafts Workshop — September 2014

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Madoc, Ontario

After returning from a recent three-day botanical drawing and painting workshop in Madoc, Ontario, I discovered that the town is named after a small Welsh village, Llanmadoc, on the Gower Peninsula, not far from where I grew up in Swansea, South Wales. Madoc was originally known as MacKenzie’s Mills after Donald MacKenzie, who established a sawmilll and gristmill (corn or flour mill) in the town. Another interesting and alternative explanation for the origin of the name of the town — again with a Welsh connection — is that it was renamed Madoc after the legendary Welsh prince Madoc (or Madog), credited by some with discovering North America in 1170, some 322 years before the arrival of Christopher Columbus. Although it is generally believed that Columbus was the first European to discover America in 1492, it is now well known that Viking explorers had reached parts of the east coast of Canada around 1100 and that Icelandic Leif Erikson’s Vinland may have visited part of the United States as well. What is less well known is that a Welshman may have followed in Erikson’s footsteps,  bringing settlers with him to Mobile Bay in modern day Alabama and, according to Welsh legend, that man was Prince Madog of Wales. A Welsh poem of the 15th century tells how Prince Madog sailed away in 10 ships and discovered America. Being Welsh myself, I am certainly not going to argue the point in favour of Christopher Columbus or Leif Erikson’s Vinland for that matter.

Hardy’s Hobbies & Crafts

Hardy’s Hobbies & Crafts is owned and operated by Catherine Hardy and located in Madoc, a community in the municipality of Hastings County, halfway between Toronto and Ottawa. When people traveled by horse and carriage during the 19th century from Toronto to Ottawa, Madoc was the halfway stop over point. The art store and educational facility provides a truly inspirational environment for artists to stock up on supplies and materials and attend on-going art classes, seminars and workshops. Check out Cathy’s website for more information on upcoming events and further information at www.hardyshobbies.com

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During my visit to Madoc I stayed at the Blue Maples natural forest and wildlife habitat bed and breakfast facility, home to writer and naturalist, Norma Hunt, a warm and interesting lady with a wealth of knowledge about the local habitats and flora and fauna around Hastings County. Blue Maples is an idyllic and peaceful setting for visitors wishing to retreat into the heart of nature. Set in 85 acres of protected forest preserve, it is an oasis for writers, artists and naturalists. As Norma says: “Our forest is blessed with a plethora of plants, animals, caves, streams and rock cliffs. Many pathways exist throughout the woodlands, some easy to traverse, others more difficult.” Every morning Norma wakes to greet the wildlife that visit her home. During my stay, I watched as blue jays and chipmunks gathered at the feeding stations and Norma’s precious turkey family troupe marched in a military fashion up and down the driveway. Despite their size and weight, wild turkeys in Ontario, unlike their domestic counterparts, are agile flyers. They can often be seen flying beneath the canopy of surrounding trees on the property or foraging on the ground for acorns, nuts, seeds, berries, insects, roots and, of course, whatever Norma puts out for the “gobbling” flock. Turkey groups are usually made up of primarily hens and chicks, with a few males (or toms) and one dominant male.

The house at Blue Maples was custom built by John and Phyllis Weddel, and is a replica of his Victorian childhood home. John was not only a master carpenter, but an artist whose creativity is beautifully reflected in the reclaimed Victorian fixtures, fireplace mantel and other wood features that grace the home. As Norma puts it: “On a clear summer night come view the stars, the Milky Way and the golden moon; listen to the frogs and marvel at the hundreds of fireflies that light up the night.”


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Norma Hunt’s beloved turkeys.
The first day of the workshop I introduced botanical drawing exercises and worked on both line and tonal drawings in graphite — using a combination of both H and B pencils to achieve depth and realism. The graphite tonal study can also be used as a foundation for learning how to create dynamic monochromatic underpaintings in watercolour. We started out with a few basic exercises in gesture drawing and developing sketch drawings from the underlying geometry of a given floral subject, in this case the “dancing ballerina” fuchsia flower. The sketch was then developed into a line (contour) drawing and finally into a tonal rendering.
Below: Graphite drawings: Fuchsia project; Pat Heath showing her tonal drawing;  Gisela Downey with her apple project and a finished student apple drawing.
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The second day of the workshop featured my Zinnia floral painting as a step-by-step project to learn watercolour botanical painting techniques (shown below). We had a wonderful day with a lot of fun, stimulating conversation and a great lunch provided by Cathy. What more could you ask for?
Zinnia in watercolour By Michael Spillane
Zinnia Watercolour
Below: Student Zinnia paintings in progress.
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The third day continued with another step-by-step watercolour botanical project — Cyclamen (See below).
Cyclamen in watercolour By Michael Spillane
oCyclamen in Watercolour
Below: Cyclamen leaf and petal exercise: Learning to mix and match colours and using the right technique to master the art of botanical painting.
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Gisela working on her botanical project.
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Thanks to everyone involved for making this workshop such a wonderful experience. I look forward to returning to Madoc in the near future. Don’t forget to check out Hardy’s Hobbies & Crafts for art supplies and upcoming workshops!
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Southampton Art School & Gallery Summer Workshop — July 2014

I was invited to put on a two-day, coloured pencil botanical drawing workshop at Southampton Art School, in Bruce County, Ontario. It was a warm, idyllic July morning and the sun shone bright in a deep blue sky. I was taking a break outside the art school building with a group of students when the bird appeared.

With a wingspan of just over six feet, a conspicuous white head, neck and tail, dark brown body and a large, bright yellow beak, there is no mistaking a bald eagle when you see one. The majestic bird of prey dipped and dived frantically trying to escape the onslaught of a mob of angry seagulls eager to see the predator off. Two bald eagles have been regularly seen around Chantry Island which overlooks Southampton, so they are becoming a big draw for local tourists and birdwatchers. What a treat to get to see one of these rare birds of prey up so close.

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Southampton Art school

Southampton is located at the mouth of the Saugeen River on the shores of Lake Huron, in Bruce County, Ontario. It is a popular tourist and retirement destination and  known for its magnificent sunsets. The original community was known as Saugeen by the early settlers but was later named Southampton after the English seaport when the town was incorporated as a village in 1858. It was later incorporated as a town in 1904. Southampton was also  one of the last communities in Ontario to use the Gaelic language in everyday speech; the language could still be heard by local fishermen as late as the 1930s. Just off the Southampton shore, the Chantry Island Lighthouse is a popular visiting spot for tourists. Boat tours to the island run throughout the summer months. As well as Chantry island, the town is close to Sauble Beach, Port Elgin and Saugeen First Nation.

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Sunset over Lake Huron.

Southampton Art School and Gallery is located in the heart of downtown Southampton and provides a wonderful teaching environment and a gallery showcasing regional and local talent. The facility has been around since 1957 and is an integral part of the art community of Bruce County.

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Comfortable sitting area in the apartment above the school for visiting instructors.

Students  from Ottawa, Elmira, Kincardine, Guelph and locally around Southampton attended the workshop. The first day students completed a floral work in coloured pencil. Demonstrations, step-by-step page instructions and individual interaction helped students finish the project in one session. It was an enjoyable experience and a great way to spend a hot summer’s day.

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Vanessa Phillips, a talented young artist working on the Fuchsia floral project.

The second day of the workshop students worked on an apple in coloured pencil and, again, everyone finished the project before the end of the day. Prismacolor coloured pencils were used for both projects (floral and fruit) on Arches hot pressed watercolour paper. After the workshop ended, I took a short drive to nearby Port Elgin for dinner and then back to Southampton to watch the local piper play the bagpipes on the beach as the sun set over Lake Huron (a popular tradition for tourists during the months of July and August). A hot, relaxing mineral bath before bed provided a fitting end to a productive day.

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Barbara Moss working on her apple.

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Student apple project in coloured pencil.

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Emily Pedrosa showing off her finished apple project.

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Bagpipes on the beach at sunset.

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For more information on the Southampton Art School and Gallery, visit www.southamptonart.com or call 519-97-5068; toll free: 1-800-806-8838.


I am also teaching the following workshops in Botanical Drawing & Painting:

September 19, 20 & 21 at Hardy’s Hobbies & Crafts in Madoc, Ontario.

November 19 at St. Aiden’s Church in London, Ontario.

November 30 & December 7 at Guelph School of Art in Guelph, Ontario. Check out my website under workshops for further details: www.spillane-arts.com.