Drawing with Pointillism to Render Nice Leaves

My friend Lauren was admiring a leaf I drew and saying she’d like to try one like it. I prepared this little cheat sheet to help her in her efforts.

Lauren’s leaf

Read on to learn how I draw a leaf like that.

Ok, this is done entirely in micron pens with a little pencil to help in drafting. You could certainly produce this drawing with just a 005 & a 05 Sakura (or similar) micron technical pen.

Stars of the show

First, get a good looking leaf. One with character and features that just speak to you. You’ll probably know when you find a good one. Choose wisely.

Then study it. I’m going to use a maple leaf, but others sorts will work well with the same or a similar process. As you look your leaf over, make sure you learn how the ribs radiate from the center and how they relate to the outer contour of the leaf. You have to understand the ribs, which are like the skeleton of the leaf. Everybody knows what a leaf looks like, but not really. Learn.

Between step 1 & step 2

Using a pencil, I use the main ribs to help me create the basic shape. For a maple, there are five such ribs. I draw those ribs, then draw the outer contour of the leaf. I then draw the secondary ribs (you can see many above), mating them with the outer edges in a way that both respects the natural original and supports your vision for the drawing. That’s all the pencil drawing I do. At this point I trace it in 005 micron pen and erase the pencil marks.

Then I use the 005 pen to make zillions of little dots to convey the play of light on the surface of the leaf. I choose a light direction and render each cell or segment of the leaf individually, as if it were an independent volume. This is not strictly faithful to nature, but I find it allows a more lively and interesting result when using nothing but a pen. Keep repeating the lighting pattern in each segment, but vary the value range from one segment to the next according to the same light scheme. That is, individual segments show a transition from dark to light, but the entire leaf does, too. You can see in the photo above that the difference in value range of the upper & lower segments reflects the light’s direction. Again, this is not strictly accurate, but my eye likes it.

Dot matrix

That’s the main technique. Just make lots of dots. Call it pointillism to earn the respect of others. As you approach completion, put dots where the illustration requires them. Smooth things out, or create a sharper contrast, balance the overall lighting, whatever. Just make it look as good as you can. On this drawing I also added a bit of hidden hatching radiating from the original drawn ribs, which makes the leaf look more gnarly. I was drawing a leaf that had dried on my classroom door (Fall decorations), so it was pretty gnarly.

More cheats

I very briefly use a larger micron pen (05, but 08 would work great, too) just to underscore the bottom edges of the leaf & the ribs. Again, it’s a look I’m after, as light doesn’t actually do this. I’ve indicated above where the heavier pen is used.

All done!

And that’s it. Find someone you like and give it to him or her. Or just hang onto it. You could also take this approach as the basis for further development of your piece.

Now with color

I’ve employed the same technique here, only I added color using Copic markers. It can be fun to let the pens & the markers take distinct roles, the former providing shading while the other is restricted to color.

I hope this little tutorial was helpful. Of course, it’s just one approach, and there are lots of ways you could draw a leaf. If you’d like further explanation of anything I’ve set out, let me know in the Comments section below and I’ll try to address it. Thanks for stopping by.

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