All Draw Botanical lessons are intended to be done more than once. Expand each lesson with new and different subjects!
We know that masters aren’t made overnight, and that consistent practice is the key to success.
Think of my books as a template. I show you one lesson with one subject, and you can go back to that lesson and do it so many different ways! Let nature guide you and tell you what to do next.
IMPORTANT: The intention of this post is to inspire you to come up with your own ideas of what you would like to draw, so you can try the challenges that excite you first, and feel free to ignore the rest! You are welcome to run down the list and try each and every exercise in order, but know that you don’t have to spend time doing something that doesn’t interest you. I encourage you to play around and HAVE FUN!
Whether you’re just getting started with botanical drawing or you’re a seasoned illustrator, make sure you are set for success, select an interesting subject (see suggestions below!) and ask yourself these 10 questions to produce realistic botanical illustrations.
1. Start with one simple branch.
2. Then, try to draw a group of overlapping simple branches. This will help you learn how to create depth within your drawing.
Then what do you do next?
3. Try a more complex branch, like a branch with thorns, peeling bark, and/or lichen…
4. Draw a group of complex branches overlapping.
5. Drawing just a piece of curving bark can be such a fun exercise! (For FREE tips on drawing twists, rolls, and folds, see this post.)
Patterns: Acorns, & Pinecones
Lessons 2 & 14
1. Draw one simple acorn or one simple pinecone.
2. Try one complex or unusual pinecone.
3. Combine what you learned in lesson 1, and draw an acorn or pinecone attached to a branch! For more, check out this deep dive on patterns.
Find FREE tips on drawing leaves here. For more details on how to create shiny and fuzzy leaves, check out this Joy of Botanical Drawing Video Companion!
1. Draw one simple leaf.
2. Draw one leaf that curves or curls. (This is a great opportunity to use what you learned with the peeling bark!) For 4 FREE tips on drawing twists, rolls, and folds, click here.
3. Create depth with multiple overlapping leaves.
4. Combine subjects! Arrange more complex compositions with leaves attached to their fruits and flowers. Click here to learn how to arrange your composition.
5. For a fun challenge, try to draw leaves in different stages of their life cycle like colorful autumn leaves and dried winter leaves!
1. Draw one whole citrus fruit like an orange, lemon, or lime.
2. Cut open a citrus fruit, and draw a cross-section of the inside! Play around with cutting the fruit in half vertically, in half horizontally, and wedges.
3. Try drawing just the peel (after you’ve eaten the deliciousness inside). (Bonus points if your peel is one long spiral!)
4. You can create some beautiful compositions by combining different citrus fruits.
5. Also try combining different parts of the same citrus fruits into a single composition.
Find our Peels & Pulp: A Focus on Texture Zoom Drawing Workshop (RECORDED January 2023) here.
Lessons 5 & 6
Flowers are a never-ending fountain of inspiration! Practice, practice, practice. I learn something new each time I draw a flower (regardless of how many times I’ve drawn the same kind of flower before!). It’s always fun to capture each natural subject’s own uniqueness. Find FREE tips on understanding flowers here.
1. Start with a single petal. (Check out this video on drawing a single petal here.)
2. Then try a simple flower. Tulips are great flowers to start with! Here’s a FREE step-by-step tutorial on how to draw a tulip.
3. Draw the same kind of flower multiple times (ex. hydrangea) and from multiple angles. (Find FREE tips on perspective here.) Either individually OR together in a larger composition, see how you can communicate each individual flower’s personality.
4. Create compositions of multiple different flowers (ex. zinnias, peonies), or try drawing a bouquet. For a deep dive on flowers like daisies and coneflowers, check out the recording from our Composite Flowers Zoom Workshop.
5. You can also add flowers to other compositions to show how a plant looks in each stage of its life cycle.
7. Bonus challenge: white flowers on white paper!
(Really want to draw a rose? Here’s a FREE step-by-step guide.)
Once you learn the basics, roots are so much fun to draw!
1. Draw a single root vegetable like garlic, kohlrabi, taro, or radishes.
2. Draw different root vegetables together in one composition. (Learn about identifying plant families in lesson 8!)
3. Experiment with adding roots to other flower and plant compositions for an interesting twist.
4. You can also play with drawing the soil around/behind the roots for an added challenge.
There are so many delicious kinds of apples, and they are all lovely to draw!
1. Draw your favorite apple from the farmer’s market, grocery store, or orchard tree.
2. Find and paint apples with their leaves and stems still attached. Bonus points if they are still attached to their branch, too!
3. Add an apple blossom or other life-cycle stages to a larger composition.
4. Arrange a complex composition including a cross-section and seeds! Play around and create some awesome compositions.
Other Botanical Subjects
Once you learn the basic foundations of realistic 3D drawing, you can apply them to ANY SUBJECT! These are just some suggestions, but I encourage you to draw anything that interests YOU. Try drawing
1. Pears – here is a video about drawing pears
3. Ornamental Gourds – check out this video about painting festive fall gourds
4. And so many more! Nature’s possibilities are literally endless. There is always something fresh to capture; you just have to step outside and find it.
Hope these examples encourage you to have fun and inspire you to practice all of the skills you learned from the lessons in different ways!
For you enthusiastic over-achievers, there are a few additional Advanced Challenges included at the end of The Practice of Botanical Drawing course that build upon the basic skills:
+ Decorative Design Elements
+ Near and Far: Scale Variation in Botanical Illustration, and
+ Year-Long Challenge: A Sketchbook of the Seasons
Want to learn more?
If you enjoy botanical drawing and want to improve the quality of your realistic illustrations, be sure to check out our course, The Practice of Botanical Drawing.
With The Practice of Botanical Drawing Online Course Subscription, you gain access to all of our course content including short Botanical Basics videos, longer and more in-depth video lessons, downloadable PDFs of the lessons, AND access to all facets of our Community (Art Feed, Monthly Webinars, & Online Portfolio). Read more about the advantages of taking a botanical illustration course online.
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“With the support of the Draw Botanical community via the Art Feed and the monthly Zoom webinars, I have found the confidence to share my art with others and have even sold one of my artworks in a gallery exhibition. This is a dream come true for me! But most importantly, I just get so much enjoyment from botanical drawing, and I can’t imagine life without this daily practice now.” – Jill, Draw Botanical Community Member