I absolutely love sketching and painting flowers. With the possible exception of birds, I have a desire to study and sketch flowers and trees more than anything else in nature. Maybe I am greatly attracted to these plants because both give such joy yet ask so little in return.
"The earth laughs in flowers." Ralph Waldo Emerson
Sketching should help one better understand the world, and having a better understanding of the world will help one to be a better sketcher. That being said, it helps to know a bit about plant morphology when sketching flowers. Flowers follow a few typical leaf, stem, and bud patterns, so once learned, it makes it easy to quickly identify the plant’s basic shape and capture it when sketching.
Field notes are also extremely helpful— and something I desperately need to get better at taking. Asking questions is a great way to observe and take notes. If you don't know the answer, it's absolutely fine! Sketching and nature study is all about the wondering. You can always jot down the question so you can look up the answer later.
Besides noting the stem, bud, and leaf pattern and the basic leaf shape, some good things to note or ask are:
- How does the flower smell?
- Is the stem and/or leaf hairy or smooth?
- Are the veins of the leaf darker or lighter than the leaf? What about the underside of the leaf?
- Any pollinators (bees, hummingbirds, wasps, ants, etc) around the flower?
- Type of soil the plant is growing in?
- What season is it and the stage of the bud or flower? (It is also good to note the time of day and weather conditions. Some flowers only open their buds in the morning or evening!)
- Date along with location: city, state, region, coastal plain, prairie, etc etc
- I often journal a quote or poem that comes to mind, a Bible verse, or any memories attached to the flower, location, etc.
I will be the gladdest thing under the sun! I will touch a hundred flowers and not pick one. ~Edna St. Vincent Millay
I have a handful of books I use for flower and plant identification. [Affiliate links, so thanks!] One of my favorites is actually a foraging book by Samuel Thayer called Nature's Garden. Though this book doesn't focus on flowers, Thayer shares in-depth explanations on identification that are useful when observing all plants.
As always, the best field and identification guides are the ones that focus on your region. Since we currently reside on the southeastern Atlantic coast, the two best books I have found for my area are Coastal Plants by Irene Stuckey and Lisa Gould, and Living Beaches by Blair and Dawn Witherington. These two books are full of detailed photos and descriptions and are my go-to resources for the southeastern coastal plains.
An app I am currently using for flower identification is Like that Garden. I haven't explored this app fully, but so far it has been extremely accurate, helpful, and very user friendly. You may want to give it a try.
Free Plant Study Guide Printable
To help you identify some of the basic leaf and bud patterns when field sketching, I put together a simple printable that you can cut out and carry with you. Just click on the photo to download!
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Note: The PDF will open in a new window & you may download or print from there.