Drawing for Wedding Floral Design: Intro to sketches

Thank you to everyone who tuned in for some of my first live drawing and painting sessions earlier this month on Instagram Live. I am going to try to make a habit of sharing more of those behind the scenes moments! And- if you didn't tune in, be sure to follow me on Instagram soon so that you'll be alerted when I'm sharing a live lesson. As I mentioned during the first session, incorporating sketching into my proposals has been very helpful in communicating our vision to clients and working through the planning stage with greater clarity. Below, you'll find a short explanation of my reasoning for taking this extra step, shopping links, a written explanation of the drawing steps with photos, and finally - a link to the full video. As a former high school art teacher, I do believe that this is something anyone can learn to do, and I'm very happy to help you figure it out. 

Here we go!

How I started: I saw some of the estimates that my clients were receiving from other florists and, to me, they just looked like bills. It just didn't seem right to use something "unpretty" to sell work that I knew would be so beautiful. But I also felt good- because I knew that the documents I was providing were already leaps and bounds above the invoices and spreadsheets out there. --But I still thought that I could probably make things a little more personal. 

After finding a way to pull together my standard wedding proposal elements faster (a lovely custom cover design, summary of the event and order, images the clients have sent of arrangements they like, images of flower varieties, an invoice sheet, and a contract page) I started adding quick, gestural drawings to each packet.

The drawings do several things. They add a very personal touch and help build rapport with clients who are thinking about putting a lot of trust in me. They provide an alternative to "mock-ups" that I simply can't do before our farm is bursting with flowers in the spring, they help me think about the construction of each arrangement thoughtfully, and they provide a nice visual reference for me when it is time to actually build the pieces for weddings and events. 

To start, I use a heavyweight watercolor paper that is in a hardbound book. (Strathmore 400 series). Any nice heavy watercolor paper will do-- you just don't want the cheap kind that will ripple up on you if you are planning to add paint to your design. 

My favorite pen for drawing is a Prismacolor felt-tip black pen, number 005. (I try to draw with the thicker 05 pen for videos so that you can see them better.) But I'll also use your everyday black ballpoint pen from time to time. The key for me is that they don't run or bleed when I add paint later. *Update: new favorite pens: Micron 05 and 005 (and they are available locally at the Bookstore Plus in Lake Placid!)

Before I get started, I make sure that I have a list of the flowers that I plan to use in the design, on hand, and visual references (photographs) for them. I often assemble that part of the proposal first and then have it open on my laptop as a reference while I'm drawing. 

Flower list

Then I make a "menu" of sorts for the flowers on the list. When I'm making the menu, I'm building confidence for my drawing later, because I am figuring out how to show each flower and foliage type ahead of time. In a way, I'm coming up with symbols to stand for the flowers. Those symbols can't take too much time to draw. Think of the "menu" as your practice space. It should be right there on the same paper as your drawing, but just off to the side or down below where you can see it easily and quickly. (This is all just my opinion. Make sure you do what feels right for you.)


To start an arrangement or bouquet design, I mark out the rough shape with a perimeter of roughly 5 or 6 dots (in pen). I don't bother using pencil because I find that it slows me down and can make the little sketches messy if I'm going back over the lines with pen later. Instead, I train myself to work quickly, and I just start over if something doesn't go the way I want it to go. 

I'm not trying to provide a beautiful art piece with these-- I'm thinking about providing a sense for what I'm dreaming up. So, I explain to clients that they are quick sketches to help me get my ideas down on paper. 

Then I start to fill in the "outlined-with-dots-space" with the flower and foliage "symbols" from my menu. This is the really fun part for me, because I get to put on my farmer-florist "hat" and think back to those warm sunny days. Because I grow all those flowers myself I know how long their stems are, how they curve (or don't), and how they compare in size to each other. I start the drawing with the largest "feature" flowers first - like a big dahlia, or lilies, or peonies, then I work in the smaller flowers, then the foliage, and lastly- the little twinkly bits. (That is the opposite of how I'll build the arrangements in real life when I start with foliage to build a structure for the flowers.


I try to place the elements like I would when I'm making the 'real thing'. My work is inspired by nature, so you'll see similar flowers clustered together and arranged with room to breathe, so that people can really take in their beauty. 

Add stems and a couple of simple lines for ribbon tails and you're all set! 

I hope this was helpful. The following blog post will explain what I do for the "painting in process". Please let me know if you have any lingering questions. And- if you have any ideas for future sessions, please let me know in the comments below, too! For Part 2, (Painting in this design with gouache, click here.)