View Full Version : How do I draw/paint grass?

09-23-2007, 07:34 AM
I like wild flowers, but when I try to sketch or paint the grass around the flowers I ruin the drawing/painting.
I just can't find a way to get it down on paper.
I looked through my art books to find some help, but only one of my landscape books had a page on the subject, and it was just an idea of painting grass wet in wet and then paint in a few negative shapes, but I would like to be able to make a more detailed painting of the grass around the flowers.
In one of my art books there is a water colour by Albrecht Durer I admire.
Link to water color by Albrecht Durer (http://www.malaspina.com/jpg/durer.jpg)
Can any of you please help me, how do I start a painting with a lot of confusing grasses?
Did any one ever do a WIP on grass here on WC?
I have a photo I love, and I would like to capture the buttercups as well as the wilderness of the grasses and other weeds around them.

You are most welcome to use this photo, and if you do, please make it a WIP :lol:

If any of you can give me some much appreciated help I will give it a try my self!

Charlie's Mum
09-23-2007, 08:51 AM
Marianne, it depends on the medium you choose to a large extent!
If you want real detail, crop part of this ref, enlarge it and really study the shapes and forms ....... the whole is too overpowering to try it, so a small section will help.
Try drawing first, then add the tones. By then you should understand it quite well and have an idea about sketching it to paint.
You'll need to study the negative shapes as well as the positive ones because the negatives are going to give you the darker tones (by and large) and reveal the positives.
As for the final painting, I'd be inclined to crop to a portrait format using the left hand side! Nice ref! :D

09-23-2007, 09:38 AM
I like to paint in water colour or Colour pencils, but I think I will go for water colour.

You are right it would be an good idea to crop the photo.

I grey scaled the photo, and used Paint shop pro to make a negative of the photo this way you see all the contrast reversed and it helps you to see where the largest contrast are.

I think I will try to do a pencil study first to find the values in the photo.




09-23-2007, 11:57 AM
Ok I did a line drawing based on the cropped photo.
Now I am going to make a value study in pencil to see if I can make any sense of this. Perhaps I am going to end up realising that I never ever am going to be able to do this:confused: .


09-23-2007, 12:24 PM
i haven't tried this with watercolor but i've found the best way is to concentrate on the negative space. Mike Sibley did a class on negative drawing on the D&S forum. you also might check out Nick Simmon's latest watercolor painting in the wc gallery. it's kind of a bug's eye view of a small patch of grass.

here's a piece i did in Mike's class. without doing the background first i'd never have considered attempting this.

a link to Nick's Summer Sonata: http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showpost.php?p=5974774&postcount=1

Lady Carol
09-23-2007, 01:22 PM
The way I would approach it is to draw the outlines in as much as possible and then edit it out as you work.

I did this recently with my heron drawing
reference image

I had infinitely more reeds but reduced the number to what you see here due to composition and also desire to finish the piece. I am not sure if this is a good example for you but it certainly worked in this situation.

09-23-2007, 06:27 PM
The class about negative drawing by Mike Sibley is very help full!
I will try grasses the way Mike showed it.

Lovely drawings both of you did!
Carol, I like the way you simplified the background and the grasses.
Fozbot, I like you water colour it is very expressive!

I got a long way to go so I am of to practice :lol:

09-23-2007, 08:16 PM
This is how fare I got to day, my eyes are about to fall out, I have been so concentrated.

I am not going to take this sketch any further.
I will make a new drawing and simplify it. I also want to rearrange the flowers a bit to make the composition better.
I made some mistakes, so I would rather start all over again.


09-23-2007, 08:41 PM
i think you've got a heck of a great start on this! i wouldn't abandon it just yet if i were you. just put it down and take a rest. i know how much concentration it takes to do something this complicated and it won't happen in one day.

09-23-2007, 08:56 PM
such a close view of grass is very complicated, and you've done wonderfully. It's already been said, but I think focusing on negative spaces is one of the most effective ways to draw or paint for that matter such details.

09-24-2007, 05:52 AM
This advice may be a little late coming, but now that i see your drawing, i actually think that youll have some really good results if you just imagine that you are still colouring in with your pencil, but this time with wc & a brush.

Begin with some light washes first just to develop some sense of form & direction, then give the 'sketching with wc' a try to extend & refine the forms & depth even further. My thoughts are that this could work very well for you.

Have you ever heard that phrase 'if you can paint one leaf, you can paint the world'? It is a very helpful thought to come back to when faced with complex subjects like this is. Clearly you are very capable so i wouldnt worry too much. Just muddle along until you get a feel for it! Happy painting

09-24-2007, 02:25 PM
I am going to bring the drawing with me to my summer cottaged and finish it, I will then draw a new line drawing and define some of the forgroud grasses and weeds better. The phot is a bit blured in the forground so it is hard to tell what acturly is going on there.

When I get back, properly on Saturday, I will upload the finished drawing.

09-30-2007, 09:16 AM
Just wanted to tell that I am still working on this drawing. I will upload it when I have finished it.

09-30-2007, 03:40 PM
I'll be waiting patiently Marianne. I am working on a door mural that requires some grasses and weeds, so I am looking for ideas.


10-03-2007, 11:12 AM
To day I finished this drawing.
I think I will try it as an water colour later, but I need to put this drawing to rest for some days to see how I can improve it and make a new line drawing.


Charlie's Mum
10-03-2007, 03:35 PM
I'm not surprised you are bog-eyed with this Marianne - but your work so far is a really good base for further development. Well done!

10-04-2007, 03:32 PM
It's great - but I think you need to push some of the darks a little, especially around key areas like the dandelion clock and buttercup in the centre, and it will be even better.

10-06-2007, 07:26 AM
Vivien, thanks for pushing me one step further:thumbsup:
I darkened the area around the dandelion and the large butter cup.

This drawing has been very hard to do.I had to sort out the most importuned areas in the photo, and then try to give an illusion of all the background grasses and weeds.

If I am going to make this into a water colour I think I will cut the butter cup away that is infront of the dandelion. Not the large one but the smaller bud.
All comments on improvement are very much appreciated!


10-06-2007, 05:10 PM
it looks great :)

You could always move the buttercup flower down and across to the right so it breaks up the stem of the dandelion clock a little? I think that would look good.

10-06-2007, 05:58 PM
I went even darker LOL
I X postet it in the Drawing forum, and they wanted me to go darker.

10-06-2007, 08:15 PM
lookin' really good! using the negative drawing technique you can push things back and pull things forward with value and i know...D&Sers love to 'push those darks'.:lol:

10-07-2007, 08:27 AM
oooooh and it's even better!

just move that buttercup in the watercolour version to improve the compostion and it'll be great :)

It's a real challenge but I love the tangle of undergrowth to paint/sketch

Lady Carol
10-07-2007, 10:08 AM
Dark is good. It really pops the lights. Well done.

10-08-2007, 05:15 AM
This is a link to my x-post in the drawing forum. Perhaps some of you would like to read the commentes I got over there.
X-post in The Drawing forum (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?p=6109563&posted=1#post6109563)

I darkened my scan in PS.I did not do any changes in the drawing this was only done in PS to match the real drawing! The problem is that it depends on the monitor I watch it on. On my Xerox monitor it looks darker than on my son's HP monitor, so this is the best I can do. This is as close to the real drawing as I can get it!


10-08-2007, 09:25 AM
I decided to go over the hole drawing one more time with hb and 4H.
This is a hole new experience for me and I feel like I am taking giant step in my drawing right now, and I also start to see things in the photo I didn't see in the start of this project.

Charlie's Mum
10-08-2007, 04:35 PM
This has really developed so well Marrianne - have you looked at the first and last stages together? It's worth comparing them side by side to see how far you've pushed this.
Very well accomplished :D
:clap: :clap:

10-08-2007, 05:30 PM
i checked the cross post and see Mike Sibley replied to you. he's the absolute best at negative drawing. this will not only help your drawing skills but you also translate this knowledge to your paintings as well. while i'm working on a painting i occasionally take a photo and greyscale it in my photo editor to check my values. colors can be so deceiving at times.

10-14-2007, 04:50 AM
occasionally take a photo and greyscale it in my photo editor to check my values
I also do that.

I have darkend the butter cup stem and the big leaf behinf the Dandelion.

10-14-2007, 11:08 AM
this would make a fantastic etching with aquatint :)

10-27-2007, 06:38 PM
I was reading a book on wildlife art and the author showed how she painted background vegetation. She works mainly in acrylics. Her approach to larger blades of grass and reeds in foregrounds is to do an underpainting (as a fairly thin wash) of the blades in either unbleached white or white with a touch of ochre, then overpaint with her final colors in at least one and usually a few very thin washes. It really does make for an amazingly deep effect, but you have to be extremely patient if you're going to do the washes and not end up with sharp gradations of color. It's of course dependent on the opacity of the color you're using, but most greens tend to be translucent (my opinion).

If you're doing broad areas of grass or hay, you might consider using a Funny Brush. These things are remarkable for laying in large areas of grass and ground cover. You can stroke in grass, jab in texture, scumble in ground cover..... combined with underpaintings and washes, there's no limit to what you can do with them.

They're made by a company called Lesnick. You can get them from the company's web site or from Blick (actually cheaper through Blick). You might find them extremely useful and you might wonder how you got by without them in the past. I have no idea if they're workable with watercolors, but I know they are great with oils and acrylics. You watercolor folks are a mystery to me! (And I'm thalo green with envy...)

10-31-2007, 12:08 AM
Wow! What perserverence! I couldn't do it. But as my husband says, "If it were easy, everybody woud be doing it! Hang in there, you will turn a patch of weeds into a work of art!

10-31-2007, 11:33 PM
Personally, I don't think you should do a watercolor with this subject. It is just so beautiful in black and white. The negative spaces have received much improvement in the progression of the painting. I love to see negative spaces. Why is it that we can spot those so very well? I've always wondered about that. Sometimes when viewing someones painting, I see the negative spaces only, then blink my eyes and see the positive spaces. Strange..................................


11-02-2007, 08:51 PM
Thanks for all you comments, and support for this drawing.
I might try to do this as a watercolour some day, but I think I have to let it rest for a while.

I have 3 buyers fighting over this drawing, so I better swing that pencil LOL.