Monday, 23 May 2016

Sunlight Again : Fatsia and Lilies

Since I painted the 'Blue Cactus' which I thought was quite successful ( See post 22nd March), I have been very taken with trying to capture sunlight on plant surfaces......with more and less success.
However, as usual, it has been fun trying, and I will certainly keep having a go from time to time.

I started with a couple of photos I took in the garden of a splendid Fatsia bush. As the leaves are very glossy, the strong sun gives lovely lights and darks which I thought might be good to try. It also nicely fitted that week's topic at Avon Valley Artists Group which was 'Mostly Greens'


I started with a reasonably accurate drawing as the subject was quite complex and it is important that the finished painting 'reads' right. I started in the centre of the painting so that I could work on both leaves and backgrounds at the same time. I tried to keep in mind the idea that strong sunlight always creates strong shadows. I left parts of the leaves unpainted to give the bleached out areas and tried to set them against darks in the background.

At this stage, I thought it was going quite well, and continued in this way until the leaves were complete.

Now all that was required were the background shadows. This proved much more difficult. I used lots of Indigo, Apatite Green and Quinachridone Gold and added scratched in twiggy bits to give some sense of where the plant was growing.

I am disappointed that the finished painting looks heavy and somewhat uninteresting. In hindsight, I think I should have introduced some colour, maybe like the open tulips in the corner of the original photo. Trying new things is always a challenge, so I looked for something else.
I came across the photo below of some startlingly pink Lilies that I had been given as having some painting potential! I have avoided it until now as an impossible task!

I approached the subject in exactly the same way as the Fatsia leaves; reasonably complex drawing and petals first. The only difference was that the paper was treated with a wash and cling film prior to the drawing as I thought this might help guide the background when I came to that part.

The flowers seemed to be going ok and I tried to remember that I had thought the same with the leaves at this stage, so I was extra careful about attempting the background as I had put quite a lot of time into the flowers and did not want to mess it up. I left the half finished painting up in the studio for a while and gave the background some thought.

I decided that I needed to keep the background lighter, even though there needed to be some really dark areas in it. As I was painting, I kept lots of small sunlit areas between the dark leaves and twiggy bits and I think it worked much better. In fact I am really pleased with the result and am looking forward to finding something else to try.
My thanks to Pete Weekes for the photo and for believing that I could paint such a beautiful clump of flowers. I hope he is not disappointed.

Both paintings were done on 'Andalucia'  500 gm rough paper from Hahnemuhle with my usual palette of paints


  1. I agree with you about Fatsia leaves.
    One before the last photo which has white background is great.
    You are very generous, and honestly analyze your work from outside.I am always learning a lot from you. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Thanks for the comment, hindsight is a great thing.....but with watercolour, there is no going back. Glad you like the posts. I will try to keep them coming.

  3. Wow, you did wonderful job here. I really like your work and going to share it with my circle of friends. Thank you for sharing it here and keep posting more of your work