Last week we had a crit for the first time in a while, which was really interesting and helpful for me. There was definitely an element of hearing the same thing again (as in previous crits), which I suppose is to be expected, as the style of my drawings hasn’t changed. However, I was slightly disappointed that no one picked up on the larger number of drawings (this time I showed six individual drawings, rather than one or two of the same).

The image above shows the works that I presented for the Crit: the six drawings that I had completed at the time, displayed in a grid format. This wasn’t entirely the display layout that I had envisaged, not only in terms of it being presented in the ‘grid’ format (which feels boring as it is the standard display method, and I had originally planned to subvert the grid), but also because I had planned to have the plant labels which I had designed, but due to technical issues (the IPCC website was unfortunately down on the day that I needed to create the QR codes for the labels and access the information to create the codes for the labels), I was unable to display them. This was sadly picked up in the crit – with people saying that they wanted to know the names of the plants. However there was nothing I could do about that, and it was just an effective reminder to collate the information ahead of time, rather than leaving things to the last minute and being caught short.

The following screenshots are my full notes from the crit, but these are the main points that I will take away from it:

  • The mark making is a success, as the detail on it draws you closer to the work.
  • The mistakes on the earlier works seem to be something that people connect with and want to see more of, as they show a vulnerability – possibly in the plant itself, reinforcing its identity as endangered. They also keep the drawings feeling more hand-produced rather than scanned or photographed.
  • Clarity and accuracy are different from what is possibly expected from scientific illustrations – subverting them, as they aren’t botanical illustrations, but resemble them.
  • What is their function?
  • The grid encourages the audience to compare and contrast the images. I may want to reassess this.
  • The inconsistencies in the drawings, such as the mistakes and the difference in paper types are something that people really connect with, and maybe I should make them a deliberate part of the drawing process?
  • Does it matter that they are reproductions of reproductions (drawings of photographs) and not representations of a living subject? What effect does this have on the work?

The fact that people really liked and connected with the inconsistencies and mistakes in the drawings is definitely something I need to explore more, as I myself am unhappy when mistakes and inconsistencies are present. Before the crit, I had decided that I wanted to redraw the Catacol Whitebeam drawing, as it was on a different paper and seemed at complete odds with the rest of the collection. However, when shown it, everyone liked the difference in paper, saying that it made the archival nature of the series more apparent, and that maybe it should be a planned and introduced feature of the work – using a different paper on a few of the drawings to create a false sense of age and multifarious origin (as is the case in real archives). This is definitely something that I need to think about more, and work out how it may or may-not work in my practice. The other ‘thing’ that came up in the crit was the idea of the reproduction of a reproduction and the effect this might have on the meaning of the work. Largely, I feel that to the general public, this won’t matter so much, but I do think it matters in terms of the herbarium specimens, as I am drawing pressed and dried plants. Therefore, they are not being shown off at their living stage, which possibly alters the way they look and their identification. However, there is little I can do about this, as I do not have access to the physical specimens (or living versions), nor the skill in the ‘revival’ of the plants for me to draw them in their original state.

Overall, it was a successful crit. I didn’t necessarily glean as much as I have done previously from other crits, but it was helpful and rewarding none-the-less.


Update: 08/06/22: These are some of my favourite pen and ink drawings that I completed, and I am especially pleased with the clarity that the scan reproduced them with. These drawings also show-case the new skill I found with using the Rotring technical drawing pens, which gave me a much greater level of control and accuracy over the drawing, without compromising the methods I wanted to use in order to create the works in the first place (using the same methods used by Botanical Illustrators).


As I have previously explained the process of drawing, I will not explain it again, but I will instead show images of the completed drawings:

Knock, E. (2022) Gonystylus bancanus [Pen and Ink]

Knock, E. (2022) Dalbergia retusa [Pen and Ink]

Knock, E. (2022) Hopea micrantha [Pen and Ink]

Overall, I am extremely pleased with the drawings that I have created here – I feel that they are not only very representative of the plants themselves, they also maintain strong links with the traditional style of Botanical Illustration (whilst also deviating from it slightly), which is something that I still want to achieve in my work. I also feel that you can see a clear style emerging in the drawings, as I become much more confident with my mark making. I now know which elements I want to be a certain mark making technique (be it pointillism, hatching or lines), and I am confident in placing them in order to create the desired level of shape, structure and shading.

I am also really pleased with how the drawings look on the paper. Using tracedown has allowed me to get a much better composition of the pieces on the paper – they are much more central, and there is a good balance of negative and positive space – much more so than on previous drawings (such as the Catacol Whitebeam). The off-white colour of the paper also creates a really lovely contrast with the black, allowing the plant to really stand out against the paper, in addition to further helping to create an archival feel to the pieces (which is what I want to achieve, as the work is a form of archive).


Reference Image Sources:

Gonystylus bancanus: POWO. (2019) Plants of the World Online. Facilitated by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Available at: https://powo.science.kew.org/taxon/urn:lsid:ipni.org:names:77118655-1 (accessed: 29 May 2022)

Dalbergia retusa: POWO. (2019) Plants of the World Online. Facilitated by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Available at: https://powo.science.kew.org/taxon/urn:lsid:ipni.org:names:490428-1 (accessed: 29 May 2022)

Hopea micrantha: POWO. (2019) Plants of the World Online. Facilitated by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Available at: https://powo.science.kew.org/taxon/urn:lsid:ipni.org:names:320945-1 (accessed: 29 May 2022)



In a previous tutorial with Anne-Marie, I was told about Tracedown – which is a form of carbon paper for artists. I have to admit that I was sceptical about it – partly from my own sense of internal ‘snobbery’, I suppose. But I laid that to one side and tried it, and it has hugely sped up the drawing process for me.

There is a definite process to drawing using Tracedown, starting with the printing of the image I want to draw. As I want the drawings to be life-sized, I have had to first edit them in photoshop, so that they print such. Because the plants I am currently focussing on are Herbarium specimens, they (very usefully) all have a ruler photographed next to them, which provides me with an accurate measurement I can then use to scale the image up. So far, I have only drawn plants which I am able to print out at 100% scale on A4 paper (as this is the size of the printer I have at home, and I haven’t had a chance to print the A3 versions yet), however, the process works exactly the same on A4 as it does on A3. The image below shows the first stage of the actual tracing – I use masking tape to lightly attach the paper to the board, then place the Tracedown on top of that, and lightly secure that with masking tape also. Finally, I lay the image I want to trace on top of that, and secure that to the Tracedown, so that it wouldn’t move whilst I was tracing it.

In order to trace the image, I used a biro, as this was hard enough to provide clean lines, while also allowing me to see where I have traced and where I haven’t. The good thing about using Tracedown, is that it is “wax free”, which means that you are able to erase any places where you have made a mistake, or you have leant on the paper and smudge marks have appeared, just as you would with normal graphite. This also means that, should it still be visible after the drawing is complete, the tracing can be erased, leaving only the inked lines. Below is an image of what the final result of using Tracedown is:

Overall, I am extremely pleased with how the Tracedown works for me and the series – it has sped up my drawing exponentially, and has vastly increased my chances of completing around forty drawings by the time hand in comes around in June. The level of accuracy isn’t perhaps quite what it was when I was drawing by hand, as the lines can be fainter, as well as slightly ‘fatter’. The paper can still move whilst drawing, which leads to some slightly misplaced elements. However, even when I was drawing by hand, I made many mistakes and the drawing wasn’t 100% true to the actual image of the plant. When using Tracedown, I am able to achieve accurate scale and generally accurate placement as well, which means that generally, I think the drawings look more true to the image than before.


Towards the end of March, I was lucky enough to have a tutorial with a visiting Royal Academy MA Student, Anna. As the most recent body of work that Anna is producing is based around the climate crisis, I felt that having a tutorial with Anna would be most beneficial for me; she would be able to provide me with particularly relevant and targeted feedback and artist references.

During the tutorial, the feedback and thoughts they gave me gave me plenty to reflect on, especially the question:

“what is the artistic role of my drawings? What do they do, that botanical illustration doesn’t do?”

I have to admit that initially, I found this question difficult to grapple with, as my project has always been very clear in my head and had a very clear goal. However, when posed to me this way, I was forced to reassess the role of my project. Was it just repeating things that were already out there?

The answer I have come up with is this: by creating the Endangered Plant Index, I am collating information into one, accessible place, that can be accessed by a large number of people, without the requirement for them to have to be botanists or highly interested in botany to discover it. By creating the illustrations, I am collating the plants on the list in one style, which makes the information that I am collating and sharing even more accessible, as, due to the nature of herbarium specimens, they aren’t always the easiest to engage with. My aim through drawing these plants, is to engage the audience and create public interest, which I hope will go on to spark public engagement and interest in the plight of plants in the climate crisis.

In addition to this, Anna also gave me several references – some of which I had heard of, others which I hadn’t:

  • Albrecht Dürer
  • Timothy Morton
  • Donna Harroway
  • Nathaniel Dorsky
  • Derek Jarman

Over the next few weeks, I will continue to explore these artists and their works, and the ways in which they relate to my practice and project – especially (in light of planning the Degree Show) in terms of the ways they hang and display their works.