I recently began working on sketches for a couple new design projects, and it got me thinking that maybe I should include a few posts about my creative process. As you know, most of my ideas are taken from plants and animals that I encounter. I can usually find a nice place to sit while I sketch the vegetation, but drawing moving animals is not an easy thing to do. My camera serves as a way to record those fast moving critters or to remind me of specific details that I want to record. Often I will pull from several different photos to put together a full composition, but I usually just start by sketching one subject in many different positions and poses. About half of the time, my first sketch turns out well enough to use in a project, but other times it is the process of drawing a particular form over and over that allows me to figure out the best way to present my subject. If need be, I will turn to images on the internet to find an animal in a particular position, but only if I can’t get a good photograph myself or, if part of my photograph is blurry, I will supplement to fill in an important detail.
When I was serving in AmeriCorps *NCCC in Washington, D.C., I used to take the metro over to the Botanical Gardens with my sketchbook. This was back when I first started drawing, and it was a great place to practice. I loved sitting among diverse varieties of lush flowering plants. The air was fresh and moist with the smell of the damp soil; I easily spent hours in there. More recently though, I had the great opportunity to take my sketchbook with me around a beautiful island in the Bahamas (easily the best place I’ve done art research!). While in Georgetown, Brian and I made friends with the owner of the Kevalli House and his girlfriend (who happened to have grown up in Savannah and then lived in Charleston while we were living there!), and they graciously allowed me to explore the area around the house and up at their gazebo, which overlooked the beach on the east side of the island. It was a two-day scouting mission to see what sort of plants and animals I could find for future painting subjects.
I am always drawn to interesting organic shapes, so some of the vegetation really drew me in. I drew the big green leaves of the sea grapes, the thin curling leaves of the seven-year apple, and the tropical red flowers that were in full bloom. The environment was composed of mostly shrub bushes, the tallest trees being of the palm variety, but the place was alive with the sounds of scurrying lizards and buzzing bees. Small birds flew from tree to tree over head, and as I sat sketching a red flower, a bananaquit flew over to sip nectar across from me. Later, I captured a tiny green hummingbird doing the same. I don’t know beforehand what I will be inspired to draw, often for me it is the experience that informs the decision or a connection that is made during the initial observation. In the final stages, the drawing itself will inform the design aesthetic.