What comes to mind when you hear the word ‘leaf’?
Likely, it’s something like an oak or maple, or an example from a plant that grows in your yard. But leaves come in a dizzying array of sizes, shapes, colors and most importantly, functions. We learn in grade school that leaves are for capturing the sun’s energy, but that’s not all they do. Leaves have evolved to serve a wide variety of functions in different types of plants.
My favorite example comes from the subject of my master’s thesis in college – carnivorous plants. They have adapted myriad ways to use their leaves to attract, capture, and then digest their insect prey (read this blog post for more fun facts about cp’s).
Other groups of plants have modified their leaves for water capture (cups of bromeliads), protection from herbivores (spines of cacti and toxic sap of poison oak), storing water (succulents),climbing (tendrils of peas), following the sun (sunflowers), attracting pollinators (the petal-like leaves of poinsettias) and even reproduction (the leaf edges of Kalanchoe can drop and become a new plant.)
This wide variety of leaf forms and functions makes them a fun and challenging subject to sketch. Watch this quick video on the basic steps I use when sketching a leaf. Then, I challenge you to go collect as many different types of leaves as you can and sketch them (including a young friend in the game makes it all the more fun!)
Watch this video tutorial and follow along by downloading this handout: Sketching a Leaf Tutorial
Advanced leaf drawing tutorial
Once you’ve had some practice with the video above, I encourage you to try this more in-depth tutorial, that will give you some more advanced techniques that are useful for drawing not only leaves but anything you see in nature with more accuracy.
Bonus Video: Tips on Observing Leaves