Shadow art funky botanicals
52-Week Art Journal

Week 35: Capturing Shadows

Did you know you can make fun botanical art even if you think you can’t draw? This week we’re creating and capturing quirky bits of nature, drawing and painting fun plants… without drawing at all…

Welcome to Week 35 of the 52-Week Art Journal Journey. I’m Melinda, and I’m here to encourage you to reclaim your creativity, and establish a healthy habit of creative self-care through my simple form of art journaling.

If you’re new and would like to know more about what the 52-Week Art Journal Journey is, check out this introductory video, or the 52-Week Art Journal Journey tab above. Our first step was to make our journals, and this journey, our own. You can find the first prompt by clicking here.

Sunny day art

It’s STILL summer, and I will cling to it as long as I can. This week’s small art isn’t just perfect for a warm sunny day, it’s designed for it.

If you’d like to watch this week’s video before reading, scroll on down…

To get started, find some interesting plants, weeds can be ideal, or something else casting interesting shadows small enough to fit on your journal page.

Line things up. And simply trace. 

I started with some Queen Anne’s Lace. We can call the element the breeze added… interesting.

I’d just grabbed a gel pen on my way out the door, and it turned out to be one of my not-so-waterproof ones. But I actually like the way it softened the lines and bled a little gray tone into my colors when I went back inside to color and paint with watercolor pencils.

Filming indoors with a flashlight in the evening, to try to capture the actual tracing part for this week’s video didn’t work so great, especially with the ceiling lights.

But I decided to play more with the watercolor-pencil color combo I had with my first shadow tracing.

I expected to enjoy watercolor pencils more than I have this year. When I first tried them years ago, I enjoyed them. But I’ve never been able to improve much with my ability to use them as I’d like. And when I spent a little more for my new set, I thought I wouldn’t have to deal with the colors that just seem to be harder and more brittle than others. But I’m still having the same struggles as before. Everything will be going great, then I hit a harder part of lead which leaves a harsher line… But it was a fun color blend. 

Taking it back outdoors

I learned an important but fortunately not too costly lesson with my next attempt to get a good shadow video outdoors. 

But first, the first simpler lesson: some shadows that seem simple aren’t as simple as they seem. I was getting frustrated by the berries I hadn’t noticed at first on the plant with leaf shapes I really liked. I just couldn’t figure out what to do with the clumps in the shadows, so I decided to move on to the pretty ferny frondy plant. 

If I’d had more time, I would have played with it longer. I’m sure it would have been fun to paint.

Since the next plant was so delicate, and there wouldn’t be a significant outline to paint, I decided to trace my shadows with watercolor paint. 

I used a concept from last week’s video, using less saturated color to show depth. Which you could actually even notice in the shadows. As with last week’s furthest mountains, I used a lighter color to give perspective. As the shadows of the of the fronds further away from the paper are paler than the ones closer up. The fronds further back in my picture had more water in their color. Then I added more green and blue as I moved forward, so to speak.

I’d have to say the only drawback of tracing with paint was the difficulty I had evaluating how dark the color was going on as I painted. That was some bright sun, and I was, of course, working predominantly in the shadows. 

And here we come to my other lesson learned…

It turns out that if I set up my stand on my picnic table, the iPad will overheat and stop filming whether or not I notice. Regardless of how long it takes me to notice…

Despite not being able to see all of what I was painting, I really like how my watercolor-tracing turned out.

Beauty from shadows

One benefit of tracing shadows is it forces us to look beyond what we think we know is there, to the actual shape of things. It frees us to represent a plant more organically. It allows us to better capture the perfect imperfection of nature.

For this week’s journaling, let’s write about that: the perfection of imperfection. More specifically, something you may have had to look at a little differently because you wanted it to be one way, but it wasn’t that way. But you found the beauty by looking at it a little differently. By changing your perspective.

Make the art

I’ll be back next week with another small-art and journaling prompt. In the meantime, have fun tracing shadows. You can also click here to check out or revisit past prompts. If you decide to share any of your art on social media, tag me melindavanry on Instagram; I’m melindavanrydesign on Facebook. I’d love to see what you’re creating! You can also use the hashtag #artjournalwithmelinda. If you’d like a smaller safer space to share, be encouraged, and encourage others on this journey, click here to sign up for my email encouragement and updates, and you’ll receive an invite to the private Art Journal Journey Facebook group.

Thank you for the opportunity to encourage you to reclaim your creativity and establish a healthy habit of creative self-care. 

If you’d like to make more art celebrating the perfect imperfection of nature, click the titles below:
Week 17: Taking a Closer Look from a Step Back 
Week 22: Sketching Perfect Imperfection

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