I have been painting a lot of Ginkgo biloba leaves, some from my own tree in the garden, others from the beautiful pair of trees outside the orangery in West Dean Gardens. There is something fascinating about a prehistoric tree. You can just imagine it surrounded by Diplodocus and Stegosaurus in the fading Jurassic light, or being munched on by a hungry Megatherium in the ever colder Pleistocene.
This is the first in a series of 3 tutorials: part 1 is the drawing, part 2 the inking and part 3 the watercolour wash. The tutorial also comes as 3 videos on my YouTube channel.
Because it is mainly flat, a Ginkgo leaf is not a difficult subject. The overall shape is a triangle, with the longer side being slightly domed, creating a fan shape. The starting point of the veins is at the base of the fan, where it joins the stem.
The veins follow the overall fan shape, but they also curve a little to echo the edge. Start by drawing the central vein, which goes from the stem to the split between the two lobes. Then split each half in two to create quarters, then each quarter in two again to create eighths. Continue the process of splitting each segment with more veins. Some of the veins go the whole length of the leaf, but some come out of the longer veins to reach the edge. Once the veins are done, redraw the edge, adding the undulations and splits characteristic to the subject. Keep a close eye on the subject at all times, making sure your observations are accurate.
I do like a good blemish on my paintings so I tend to choose subjects that have lived a little and show the signs of their tribulations. Adding the blemishes, stains, insect damage and bruises, gives your leaf a personality that makes it into a portrait of this particular leaf rather than any generic Ginkgo leaf. All that is missing now is a toothmark from a Triceratops…
Here is a link to the video on my YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/M9R-3ugH_3E
Coming next: inking the drawing.