Years ago I illustrated the book, Wild Edible Plants of Western North America (Naturegraph: 1970),* written by my husband, D. R. Kirk. The project grew out of Boy Scout lessons on survival in the outdoors. As an adult Scouter, Don collected wild edible plant information to share with the troop. When a tipping point of material was reached, he had enough plants for a book. That’s when he asked me if I could draw plant sketches to go with each entry. At that time my drawing experience was limited to one year of drawing classes at the old Boise Junior College (Idaho), now Boise State U. I wasn’t sure I had the skills for botanical sketches, but I was determined that no one else should do the job.
Don chose 10 plants for me, and we found specimens to draw from. I drew the 10 botanical sketches about 6 inches high on good paper and inked each one. I made an appointment with Art Department Instructor, Bert Oldham, at Shasta Community College, Redding, CA, (http://www.shastacollege.edu) where we lived at the time. Bert was expert at this sort of drawing; he knew what I needed to know. He carefully looked over each of the drawings and then said, “Sit down. I want to give you a drawing lesson.” That was the beginning.
When I returned a week later to show Bert the same plants drawn a second time, he said, “Yes. You can do this.” He gave me pointers on drawing size, paper choice, and pens; I went home in a certain state of euphoria, anxiety, and excitement. That was the start of a yearlong drawing crusade that resulted in over 300 botanical sketches suitable for the book.*
What did I draw from? The answer is, everything I could get my hands on. I examined dried herbarium specimens from Shasta College; as well, the herbarium at U. C. Berkeley generously loaned us many specimens; on our travels several National Parks let us use their herbarium specimens of local plants; Don’s excellent 35mm color photos; other botanical books for comparison and double checking for specific species; and of course, plants in the field when we were hiking or camping. Naturegraph Publishers (https://www.naturegraph.com) published the first edition in 1970. After all these years, the book is still in print; still selling moderately well; people continue to have an interest in the topic. You might find a use for the book yourself as many of the plants are found across the country.
As you may have guessed, the plant drawing lessons I plan to share with you started with Bert’s instruction. Plants still grow the same way; his lessons are still relevant. Know that I speak about flowering plants (botanic term: angiosperms) in general, and as you grow skilled in observation, it’s a given that you will find exceptions to every rule. However, I stand by the basics and what Bert said.
On my next Blog I will publish my first observation check list. Get ready to draw an angiosperm, one of those plant neighbors in your backyard or the local park or maybe you are lucky enough to be camping. More later . . .
* * Wild Edible Plants of Western North America by D. R. Kirk, illustrated by J. E. Kirk, color photos by Don (Naturegraph Pub.: 1970).
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