Different Ways to Draw Star Anise

By The Arty Teacher - November 27, 2023

The title above might be a bit ambitious. Can I think of 40 ways to draw star anise? I’m not sure, but perhaps with some help from my arty friends, I might get there. I hope to add to this post each week, either myself or a guest artist. Do you have a way of drawing that you’d like to share? The idea is that an art teacher or student could look at the different ways to draw and apply them to their own work. This would be especially useful to inspire a student at the start of an independent project, just to see where it leads.

1. Blind Contour Drawing

I chose to start with a blind contour drawing. This makes a great starting point with students as a warm-up.


  • Place the paper/sketchpad inside a large plastic bag. (I use bin liners with students at school)
  • Put your drawing hand with your chosen media in the plastic bag.
  • Look at the object and draw. The temptation is to oversimplify. Really look and notice the detail.

Consider layering different media like the example below. You do this by repeating the process above. I started with a 6B pencil, then used a red pencil, then a green ballpoint pen, then a purple ball point pen. There is a short video of me creating this blind contour drawing.

How to draw

I went on to paint around the drawing with instant coffee. I left a small gap between the drawing and the coffee so I didn’t suffocate it! I don’t know which one I prefer. Comment below if you have an opinion!

2. Pencil

A detailed pencil drawing done really well, like the example below by talented student Marie Poon, is always worth spending time on. A high-quality drawing is going to make it easy for a teacher or moderator to award marks. The drawing below has detail, texture and a broad range of tones. I always admire a drawing where the student has been brave enough to add really dark tones.

3. Coloured Pencil

Marie was fantastic at achieveing detailed, accurate work and moved on to creating a coloured pencil drawing.

4. Dip Pen and Sepia Ink

I love the gestural nature of the dip pen drawings below created by artist Emilie Fielding when she was a student. Choosing sepia ink made a refreshing change from choosing black which we so often reach for. Dip pens are expensive but a good investment for your department. Once you have the handles the nibs are more economical to replace. You can buy some handles on Amazon and also nibs. #Ad

Star Anise Drawn with Dip Pen

5. Digital Drawing

Ex-student and artist Serena Arya has digitally drawn the image below. It’s great to watch the drawing evolve. She started by using a large pastel-like tool to lightly sketch the outline of the star anise. She then blocked in the darkest area, and then started putting down main areas of colour using the colour-picker to help. She made sure to layer and blend all of the colours. She then started to add the detail, then highlights and finally the shadows.

6. Pen on Wrapping Paper

Contempory British painter Peter Davis has drawn with pen on wrapping. In the video below you can see him working with confident, fluid lines directly onto the wrapping paper. Such a great idea at this time of year. He told me:

“This is a fun drawing idea to do leading up to, or during, the festive holidays. It uses spare or left-over wrapping paper too, so it’s a nice, arty way to upcycle.”

Davis shared the following instructions.


  • Find some gift wrap paper that you think will be great to draw on. You may
    want to pick a light color and a pattern that isn’t too busy.
  • Print off some star anise images for reference.
  • Choose some felt tips or marker pens. Make sure the color you’re going to
    draw with can be seen on your chosen wrapping paper.
  • Start drawing. Begin with the outline and then work into the shadow areas.
  • Fill your paper with drawings.

“As you begin to draw, you may notice that some of the prongs are open more than others and that you can see the seeds inside. Once you have drawn the outline, then work into the shadow areas. Fill your paper with drawings.” said Davis.

Peter Davis offers portrait painting workshops to secondary schools in London, UK. Find him on the Artists in Schools database.

7. Graphite with Turps

Artist Rob Le Grice has provided the tonal, gestural drawing below, created with graphite and turps. I haven’t worked with graphite and turps, so I was keen to know more about this method. He describe the process to me:

  • Apply a light grey ground to A2 white cartridge with rubbed graphite dust.
  • Draw with a 4/6B pencil, studying-moving-studying-erasing the star anise learning about its shape, texture and form.
  • Use turps (and an eraser) to smear/smudge/remove sharpness into blurred, grey layers.
  • Continued the process above until a compositional structure starts to appear.  Use a graphite stick to develop some substantial forms. In other areas, fragile remnants exist because of the erasing process.

Rob went on to tell me that it’s the processes that interest him the most in relation to teaching. The building, removing, building or tearing something up. He believes by designing a series of processes he can grow learners’ confidence. He enjoys ‘challenging the mind’ and asking the question ‘How can we make something look like it’s growing/dying?’

Different Ways to Draw

“It’s difficult to know whether it will erase or smear the graphite. I want that unpredictability – just when you think you’ve got it under control, it slips out of your hands.” said Rob Le Grice.

Different Ways to Draw with charcoal

Rob Le Grice offers workshops in schools in London and you can find him on the Artists in Schools database.

Different Ways to Draw Rob le Grice

8. Drawing with Wire

Drawing with wire is a wonderfully experimental way of drawing. There are lots of different sorts of wire to work with that can give you a different end result. To make the star anise drawing below, first, a steel wire outline was created, and then soft aluminium wire was used to add the detail. The steel wire provided structure and the aluminium wire is easier to work with. Finally, thin copper wire was used to add the finer detail.

I have a video about drawing with wire here.

9. Drawing with Found Objects – Environmental Art

Artist Di McGhee has created the environmental art below out of found natural objects. It’s so clearly star anise and I love it textural, layered quality. She described her process in the following steps :

  • Collect together some natural materials.
  • Make a drawing to get to know the shape of your object.
  • Arrange leaves as a base for your drawing.
  • Trim or cut for accuracy.
  • Add more layers for depth and texture.
  • Take a photo to record your environmental work.

10. Mixed Media Relief Surface

Artist and art teacher Dionne Adkison has created a mixed media relief surface inspired by star anise. Initially using a hot glue gun to create a relief drawing, she builds this up further with tissue paper, and then applies thin layers of tissue and paint. It is good to show our students a creative process that doesn’t rely on realism but allows for a creative response.

This blog post will be updated regularly, so do keep checking back.

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The Arty Teacher

Sarah Crowther is The Arty Teacher. She is a high school art teacher in the North West of England. She strives to share her enthusiasm for art by providing art teachers around the globe with high-quality resources and by sharing her expertise through this blog.

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4 responses to “Different Ways to Draw Star Anise”

  1. Dionne Adkison says:

    Hi Sarah, it is Dionne again. I love your stick and ink resources! Another method to try for drawing the anise differently (if you need another idea) is to use hot glue (low-temp gun) on canvas to draw the anise and then put school glue, Modge Podge, and or fancier paper glue on it, in the grooves and around it with white tissue paper. Let it dry and then paint it in monochromatic, cool or warm tones or other color schemes. I have used paint thinner and tinier brushes to get into the grooves better. If there is a way to show you a picture, I would show you a hummingbird I drew using this method.

    Merry Christmas and Happy “arting’!

    • The Arty Teacher says:

      Hi Dionne, Yes, I’m grateful of more ideas! I like the process that you describe. I think I have done something similar with string and tissue over the top but then used ink. I’d love it if you made an example for this blog post using a star anise! Sarah

  2. Dionne Adkison says:

    Hi Sarah!
    I like to use a stick (broken, not cut clean) with ink (any color) to draw. The wooden stick creates a looseness and texture. You cannot entirely control the way the stick and ink behave. I even will roll or move the stick to manipulate the lines.

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