Painting Flowers in Watercolour

Calostemma purpureum2 Yesterday I took a trip to Strathalbyn at the invitation of Candy Scown to give a workshop on flower painting – but with a special twist. Candy asked me if we could focus on the Native Garland Lily, Calostemma Purpureum, as mine was part of a series of workshops that were devised around this theme.  Candy revealed during the workshop that she wanted to draw people’s attention to this lovely flower after she discovered that she had a wonderful crop of these flowers growing on her property.  But when I had asked her if we could have some real live specimens to work from on the day, she had told me they don’t flower at this time of year! So we had to work from photographs – but as it turned out, this provided a perfect opportunity to carry out a disciplined exercise in applying glazes.

I supplied everyone with a tracing of my original painting, which I had had to make from photos that I found on the Internet.

single tracing

Everyone transferred the tracing onto Bockingford Rough watercolour paper with carbon paper. I then showed them the steps that I took to reach the final painting, starting with a pale pink wash, then adding darker colours from red through purple to blue, to achieve the depth of tone that is needed without muddying the colours.  The results were stunning, considering none of the students had done any serious watercolour painting before:


We stopped for a delicious lunch and then we had to tackle the real thing: a magnificent array of real flowers that Candy had assembled.


What a wonderful classroom! This is the Red Hen Carriage, one of the original carriages that took passengers on the railway line from Strathalbyn Station, where the Stationmaster’s Gallery is now housed.

The first exercise gave everyone the confidence to tackle the real flowers, and I was rewarded with another array of beautiful paintings – this time all original compositions, and in a number of amazingly different styles, even though everyone adhered to the same basic approach – glazing and wet into wet, using broad brush strokes and very little preparatory drawing.  The second paintings were done on a thinner but smoother watercolour paper which some people preferred to the Bockingford.

Not all the pictures were finished, but the students were able to photograph the flowers for reference so they could complete their artwork at home. A thoroughly enjoyable session – thank you for your inspiring idea, Candy! I’m now looking forward to painting a real Calostemma Purpureum when it comes into flower!

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