20th Annual International American Society of Botanical Artists & The Horticultural Society of New York

Shenot Crown of Thorns Gourd

Cucurbita pepo

I chose this subject through pure serendipity. In the summer of 2015, I found a vine growing in my garden that I had not planted; the local fauna is often gifting me in this way, good or bad. I left it alone and was eventually overwhelmed with a crop of gremlins gourds. I was smitten and, as someone who is a planner, I decided I wanted gourds to be the subject of my final project for the certificate program at the New York Botanical Garden. In the spring of 2016, I planted several varieties of gourds and waited. The Shenot, Crown of Thorns gourd proved to thrive over the others and became my focus, somewhat of an obsession. I documented every stage of growth by photographing, measuring, sketching, making color studies and preserving samples. As my friends and family will gladly attest to, I profess to know more about this gourd than is probably normal and can and do talk at length about it, much to everyone’s chagrin.


I have always considered myself to be a watercolorist, yet through the botanical art and illustration program at NYBG, I have found colored pencil and graphite to be both a challenge and a delight; I felt my final project should challenge me. I have used both mediums individually on the same paper before but never combining or layering the two. To me, blending colored pencil and graphite seemed like a natural thing. I wanted to pursue the possibilities and this gourd rendering was the way for me to do it.


For this piece, I chose to render the various elements that can be found on a single vine of a multi-vined plant. I felt it was important to show a mature leaf in its actual size, I selected one that was of average length and width, 16” long by 14” wide. The topside of the leaf is fairly smooth and the color more intense than the underside, so I chose to use strictly colored pencil for the top. Since most of the leaves are somewhat symmetrical, I decided to split the leaf at the midrib to show the underside.  The underside is a sea of veins and prickles, so I rendered it in graphite to reinforce the difference in the two sides. The male and female flowers differ quite a bit, so I wanted to draw them separately. Yet the petals are similar, so I did the male using graphite and colored pencil, the female is solely colored pencil. When it came to the interior of the gourd, I felt the graphite lent itself to the local color of the seeds, with layers of white and cream colored pencil over it to achieve the correct color. Using the graphite as a grisaille worked well and the harder lead was easy to layer. The dark shadowed areas were perfect for 2B graphite since a black colored pencil would have been too dark. The two different mediums proved to work well together for me.


This piece is one of a series of five completed for my final project. I graduated this past June, with honors.

Read more about this artist’s work: 19th Annual International
  • © 2017 Tammy McEntee
    Shenot Crown of Thorns Gourd
    Cucurbita pepo
    Colored pencil and graphite on paper
    22" x 29"