Sketchbook Fire Lilies


In preparation for a class I’m scheduled to teach soon, I am painting some lilies that are right now “splendiforously” blooming around my back patio. Over the weekend, I did a contour drawing of them “en plein air” (a fancy way to say that I drew them from life in the open air).

But… I forgot to take a photo reference. Fast forward three days, and now the flowers and lighting have changes. Yikes! That’ll teach me, eh? I’m not sure what, but definitely LESSON LEARNED.

Contour Drawing

So I took a photo now for a general color reference. The flowers and lighting have changed, but this will keep me from slavishly following the photo anyway. Note, the lack of buds. I’ll just have to go on memory for the buds. 


Photo Reference

I decided to “puddle paint” to start. This is my term for working wet-in-to-REALLY-wet. I mean, make-your-3-year-old-want-to-jump-in-with-bare-feet wet. See shiny glossy surface below. I’ll “drop in” the colors to let them swim, swirl and mix on the paper.


Really Wet

Start with the Yellows

I like to start with the yellows, because yellows are so easily overwhelmed by other colors. I wanted to create some vibrant oranges, so I used two warm yellows, Hansa Yellow Medium and New Gamboge (both by Daniel Smith).


Add the Reds

Then I dropped in the reds. I used mainly two warm reds, Pyrrol Red (Daniel Smith) and Quinacridone Coral (Daniel Smith), but with just a wee touch of a cool red for shadow areas and to make the form turn. I used Quinacrindone Rose (Daniel Smith).


Contrasting Colors for Background

For some contrasting background, I used Cascade Green and Manganese Blue (both by Daniel Smith). All while still “puddling,” except when I broke out of the format box with the foliage at the bottom. Note how the edge is hard there? Wet-on-dry makes for hard edges. I dried the painting at this stage with a blow dryer.


Begin Wet-on-dry Layer

After the paper was dry, I started painting the next layer using positive and negative painting (Sticking with all the same colors).


Working the paper first wet-in-wet, then wet-on-dry ensured I would have a variety of edges. I was somewhat happy with the sketch just as it was. However, I wanted to put a hard edge around the inner format to give the effect of the lilies “bursting out of their box.”

No Ink, Just Watercolor

Ink & Wash Painting, “Fire Lilies”

The pen had a mind of its own, I swear! It went and outlined everything to create and ink and wash effect. I actually like it much better. It is fun that I have these process photos, though, so I can go back and look (I actually recorded the process with video).

Maybe next time I’ll want to stop that crazy permanent marker before it goes crazy? What do you think? With or without the pen? Comments below, and no rude bits, please. <smile>

This might be too complex for the beginners, though. Simplify Reynolds! On to the next sketch.

And so,  I painted it again in my sketchbook. This time in the vertical orientation. 

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