Melissa Toberer's Story Behind the Art

Hibiscus moschuetos
How did you go about selecting a subject for the Bartram exhibition?
I selected my subject for the Bartram exhibition by first looking over the plant list provided by ASBA. I wanted something that was readily available in my area and ideally a plant growing in my own front yard; Hibiscus moschuetos was exactly that. Although there were many subjects that appealed to me, I find it easiest when the plant is conveniently located outside my studio. 
Why did you choose this specific subject to portray?
I never know exactly why certain plants appeal to me more than others, but I have always had a desire to illustrate the Hibiscus. I tend to be drawn to larger, more sculptural plants, and really enjoyed the linear details in the Hibiscus flower. I was also interested in working in graphite and felt this particular subject would lend itself to this medium. 
How would you describe the artwork?
Hibiscus moschuetos is a very delicate, black and white pencil drawing. It shows a dying Hibiscus flower that has begun to droop to the left as it ends its life cycle. The flower is attached to a stem and two very detailed leaves are also illustrated. The composition has a strong vertical movement that puts emphasis on the downward pull of the drooping flower.
To create this illustration I used mainly 0.3mm mechanical pencils, working almost entirely in 2B lead, on hot press watercolor paper. I developed a method of layering pencil in a crosshatch fashion and then dabbing it off with a kneadable eraser. I would repeat this several times until the desired tone was achieved, always going back with the kneadable eraser to soften the lines. I felt this gradual build up of tone created the softness and detail I was after. I am pleased with the overall composition and feel it was successful in emphasizing those sculptural qualities that attracted me to the Hibiscus.
What would you hope people would notice or appreciate when they view this work?
I would like people to appreciate the amount of detail I sought in this particular work. I tried to illustrate as many subtleties as possible and doing so took tremendous patience, technique, and time. This plant also evoked a very strong mood for me, and my aim was to portray that mood on paper. 
Did you face any unique challenges as you worked on this piece? 
My biggest challenge was more of a mental one, mainly because of the amount of time this illustration took to complete. I would often work an eight hour day and only complete an inch or two of drawing. On a technical level, I would say the most challenging part was getting the highlights of the flower right. Being a very dark flower, it was challenging to show these highlights without loosing the overall dark tone of the flower. 
  • (C) Melissa Toberer