My month of drawing orchids every day is over already! I drew 26 of the 28 days. I learned a lot from this challenge, but here are the five biggest lessons from Daily Orchids.

Orchid and buds, study. Sketch by Kit Dunsmore

My drawings aren’t always as bad as I think they are at the time I make them. When I wrote about this project before, I didn’t even consider putting my drawings in the post. I was twelve days into the month but I hadn’t felt good about much of anything I’d done yet. When I went back through my drawings to find images for this post, I saw that as early as day 5 and even on day 1, I had made a decent sketch of an orchid.

Orchid study, day 5. Sketch by Kit Dunsmore

Blind contour is the bomb. While it doesn’t look like much to the viewer, blind contour is a great muscle building exercise for the artist. I did blind contour whenever I was feeling tired enough to hesitate to draw. It’s much easier to draw if there isn’t any pressure to produce something that looks good. While I didn’t wind up with pretty pictures, blind contour drawing enabled me to really study the orchids and I know later drawings were better because of this practice.

Orchid blind contour by Kit Dunsmore

Orchid flowers are beautiful, but their leaves are cool, too. When my inner critic was getting bored with flowers, I switched to drawing leaves. The apparently simple shapes were a great challenge and a nice change of pace.

Orchid leaves, study. Sketch by Kit Dunsmore

Orchids have elephant ears and dragon mouths. (OK, snake tongues. Anyone who’s actually seen a dragon mouth hasn’t lived to tell us what they look like, but I kept thinking of dragons.) I would like to do more nature journaling and realized that my daily orchid studies are actually a good first step. So I followed John Muir Laws’ advice and wrote down what orchids remind me of.

Orchid and bud study with “Reminds me of” notes. Sketch by Kit Dunsmore.

Sticking with one subject makes things easier and harder all at once. While I never had to wonder what I was going to draw, there were definitely days when I thought, “Orchids, again?” Any reluctance I felt was quickly overcome by finding new things to try (drawing negative spaces, drawing leaves). It also inspired me to switch to different plants and as a result, I noticed subtle differences between the varieties we own.

Orchid sketch by Kit Dunsmore

I got so much out of this project that I want to keep drawing orchids in March. I think it may be time to start working in color, even though the deep red-violet orchids are going to be a challenge.

What have you learned from your daily drawing or working in a series?

Technical note: All these drawings are done with a ball point pen, except for the Day 1 Orchid and Buds sketch, which used some kind of fine liner. I chose to go B&W this month so I could focus on shape.

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