The Leaves of Autumn: Botanical Watercolor Workshop

Kathleen McKeehen is a science illustrator and botanical artist whose training includes the post-grad natural science illustration program at UC Santa Cruz, followed by an internship at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, UK. She has freelanced for a variety of clients and projects, including magazines, guide books, museum displays, text books, and children’s educational products and books. Her work has appeared in botanical art shows in the U.S. and Canada. She currently teaches botanical drawing and painting at Gage Academy of Art, at the University of Washington’s Center for Urban Horticulture, and at workshops around the state.
Saturday, Sunday
9:30 A.M.-4:30 P.M.
All Levels Welcome
Gage Capitol Hill
You can purchase the following from me: Gummed kraft tape (6 yds for 1.00)Small paint palette of basic colors—(about 5.00)* in lieu of buying separate tubes of paints below Arches 140 lb Hot Press watercolor paper—price varies depending on where I can get it; $4 to $8 for a full sheet, $2-$4 for a half (add these items to the list below if you prefer to get the entire rolls of tape, etc. yourself).

The following can be found at area art stores:

  • A burnisher for transferring drawings; bone folders can work, as can spoons Pencils: HB, 2HGood pencil sharpener
  • Drafting tape: (I prefer Scotch #230) or any masking/painter’s tape
  • Erasers–Rubber gum “kneaded” eraser and “Clic” pencil eraser with soft white eraser (Tombo makes a great tiny one, a nice luxury—D.Smith carries them)
  • 12-inch or longer ruler (or use simple sticks handed out in class) and/or set of dividers
  • Paint pallets with wells (several of the small round or rectangular ones will work)
  • ‘Gator board or watercolor board (3/16” 18 x 24 is a good size—about 13.00) unless you use the Arches watercolor blocks so don’t need to stretch paper. THIS IS
    NOT THE SAME AS FOAM CORE BOARD, WHICH IS NOT STRONG ENOUGH!!Tracing paper –11 x 14; 25 lb Canson works well for transfers, most others do too
  • Jars/containers for water
  • Paper towels
  • Soft brush for removing erasings etc. from paintingBrushes: THERE IS CURRENTLY A
    SITUATION on the international front making getting a Kolinksky sable brush in this country difficult. I’m looking for other options and will keep you posted. I have some loaners for a limited number of people in class. I’ll give more info in class about this. That being said, here’s my usual advice in the brush sector: Good quality Kolinksy sable brushes are recommended; there are many sable brushes out there right now but not all, even if listed as “kolinksky”, are of good enough quality. Winsor Newton Series 7 or Da Vinci Maestro for the 3 (currently hard to get), DaVinci Cosmotop Spin 0 (synthetic) round for the little one are the ones I use; Isobey or Raphael are also good brands and
    appear to be more easily available right now; the 0 could also be a synthetic Cotman or Sceptre Gold, although you will be replacing these more often as the tips eventually curl. You want a high-quality brush with a sharp point and a full belly; ask to test the brush when you buy it in a store (dip in
    water and try it on the special board they usually have—you should be able to get a very fine line. And dip and then tap it against your wrist to see if it comes to a single point, not a split one). A good sable brush should have a fine point & rounded shape—the round “belly” enables the brush to hold enough paint to lay down a smooth wash. Another handy brush for lifting and fixing is the Cosmotop Spin #2 flat

Paints: Wait on these! Bring what you already have, and we’ll figure out what you need. If you have none, you can buy the little palette from me, which will give you more than enough of any color you need to get through the class. You’ll probably want to make sure you enjoy this method of painting before investing heavily in paints.

Palettes: If you buy the paint from me, you’ll get these. The little rectangular ones with round wells work for mixing up washes—get 2. Or the round palettes with 8-10 wells. Just be sure you get one with a sufficient number of wells for at least 8 colors. You also want a flat space for mixing and spreading darker washes to form “skins”; a white plate, or some of the larger, flat plastic palettes or enamel “butcher pans” with lots of interior open space will work.

Leaves are always a challenge for the botanical artist, but the colors and forms of autumn leaves make them an enjoyable opportunity to play with a variety of methods. Beginners to botanical illustration will learn observation and measurement skills necessary for an accurate botanical rendering, as well as the use of watercolor washes and dry-brush techniques to create three-dimensional, aesthetically pleasing, and scientifically correct images. Intermediate students will gain experience in mixing colors on the palette and in layering, and find plenty of opportunity to even loosen up a bit with the wet-on-wet washes so effective in capturing the colors of autumn.