Nigella sativa – mistaken for a weed
The distinctive flower Nigella is todays watercolour sketch. Nigella grows in a gravel path around the garden. Some years ago, when I first saw it emerging, I thought it was a weed. Little did I realise then, that a beautiful blue flower with unusual seed pods was about to blossom.
On close inspection the Nigella has an almost other worldly appearance with it’s ferny foliage and bracts forming a hazy green mist around the flowers. I’ve discovered this variety of Nigella is Sativa, but it is also known as kalonji, fennel flower, nutmeg flower, black caraway and roman coriander. The seeds of the Nigella sativa are dry roasted and used as a spice in cooking, but it is also known for its healing properties. I find the flower to be structurally intriguing and wanted to paint its quirky shapes., even though it’s raining here this morning.
Nigella painting process
So looking beyond the spiky looking (actually soft and fluffy) bracts, I sketched an outline of the flower . It took me a while to work out all the winding, twisting seed pods.
Firstly I painted a yellow green watercolour mix on all the foliage. Then the first blue layers of the sepals. Then I mixed a blue pigment into the green mix, to achieve a darker green tone. I applied this to the foliage, leaving areas for the underlying yellow/green wash to show through. I added a couple more blue layers of watercolour to the sepals.
After leaving the first few washes to dry, I added a red pigment to the blue wash for a deeper blue tone. Then brushed this mix onto the sepals to add depth, using long strokes. I also used this mix for the undertones to the small dark purple petals. I added more blue pigment to the green mix and painted a final layer on all the green foliage. Then I used the red pigment to paint the long stamen filaments.
Finally I added more red pigment to the blue wash for a deeper purple mix for the final wash on the Nigella petals.