Lilac Syringa Vulgaris
Lilac is the subject for todays watercolour sketch. I wanted to capture the Lilac before it finishes flowering as I missed it last year. At the time I hadn’t realised the Lilac blossom has a short bloom.
Lilac seems to be everywhere through May and start of June, but I have to hunt about to find some near me. Sadly not all subjects present themselves on my doorstep, so I have to make time to go exploring outdoors, over fields, stiles and nettle encroached paths to find just what I’m looking for.
Lilac painting on overgrown footpaths and a high bank
I spotted some Lilac on a lane near me, it was high above me, overhanging the lane, though I could only just glimpse it, amongst the other hedging plants. So I had to walk quite a way around to gain access to a footpath across a field. Then through an overgrown path with high banks either side, I could just spy the Lilac above, growing through wire fencing. So I climbed onto the bank and managed to observe the Lilac at eye level.
Standing at an awkward angle I managed to draw a few sketches of the leaves and flowers. I used watercolour pencils to create colour references on the flowers. I would lick my finger and dab it in the coloured pencil markings. This gave me a bit of movement with the colour. Watercolour pencils can be useful when it’s a difficult location for plein air painting. It was interesting how the leaves grow at tangents upon the stems and appear to be reaching away from the flower heads. Also seeing the plant up close I could discern the deep pink buds, that become small flowers of white, pink and mauve tones and their pungent fragrance filled the air.
Lilac watercolour process
So back at the studio I decided to capture the essence of the Lilac, showing its disjointed leaves and a flavour of how the small flowers cluster together. There were a lot of flower heads to paint. I painted the petals a pale pink loose wash and kept adding layers as the previous layer dried. More layers were added to the buds to create a deeper tone of pink. I added a blue wash to some of the flower heads to achieve a mauve tone.
A yellow wash was applied to the stems and leaf veins. Then I painted the leaves a green wash. Once dried I painted a deeper tone of green on the leaves to add definition. Then I painted green stems amongst the flower heads. The new growth of branch was painted a red brown watercolour mix. Finally a dot of deeper yellow watercolour mix was added to the centre of the flower heads.
Searching for Lilac was worth the effort, it allowed me to study the plant in detail. Observing how the leaves naturally weave away from the flowers. The sweet scent of the flowers, tingling my nostrils. I’ll remember for some time.