Lavender watercolour painting a Purple Haze
The Lavender with its sweet scent and haze of purple has encompassed the garden this year. This beautiful plant thrives in most areas of our Shropshire garden, regardless of sun or shade. I know when the flowers are emerging from their dark purple pods, because the lavender suddenly becomes very popular with butterflies and bees.
Plein Air painting and best laid plans
Initially I wanted to paint the lavender outdoors and enjoy being in the garden. I am always reluctant to remove any flowers from the garden, because they won’t last as long, once picked. I have missed going on long walks and painting in the hills and woodlands. This has turned out to be a very strange year, but like everyone else we are managing as best as we can. Hence plein air painting in our Shropshire garden.
Well I mentioned best laid plans and I had my chair, board, paper and watercolour paints ready to begin, when rain descended. So I abandoned the idea and decided to paint indoors. The lavender won’t last forever and I had to make the most of the opportunity.
Layout dilemmas and where to begin painting
So after using a magnifying glass to understand the structure of Lavender flowers, I was able to make a drawing that made sense. Flowers have lots of detail and it’s important to not get lost in trying to paint all the detail. Being a watercolour artist means, I can end up with a watery purple mess.
Initially I laid out three Lavender stems, but they just looked a little lost on the paper, so I added two more Lavender stems. Also I decided to paint the tiny little flowers, usually just two, at the bottom of the stem. I felt this gave an overall pleasant curve shape to the Lavender painting as a whole.
Firstly I began painting the bright purple flowers, sprouting from the dark purple pods. I thought it would be easier to make sense of the Lavender if I painted the lighter flowers first. Otherwise everything may have ended up looking like lots of pods. The flowers are tiny and I added layers of pale purple watercolour to create depth to the petals. I kept the washes simple, just a slight dab of darker paint to hint at the shape and form of the Lavender flowers.
Building watercolour layers
Once I had added lots of light purple watercolour layers to the lavender flowerhead, I began painting the dark purple pods. I used a darker purple mix of paint. Adding layers of paint, creates a depth of colour, which you don’t normally see with watercolours. You can learn more about my pure watercolour technique here.
There are many individual lavender pods to paint. I used a small sable brush to leave lighter areas on each pod to create shape and form.
Lavender greens, time and patience
There are many varieties of Lavender and the variety in my garden is called Lavandula Angustifolia Hidcote. This Lavender has silvery-grey green stems and leaves, that can look more yellow in tone in the sunlight. Therefore I added more blue to my green watercolour mix, to achieve a more grey green tone. With hints of a warmer yellow green on the leaves. Also there are little dried out brown leaves to the underside of the pod clusters, that have been delicately painted. See my blog about mixing watercolours.
I had to keep a steady-hand while painting the lines of green watercolour for the stems. There are times when I unconsciously hold my breath as I paint. It requires a lot of concentration to paint smooth even lines of watercolour. The last thing I want to do is ruin this lovely painting, right at the end.
It takes time and patience to create this Lavender watercolour painting. By firstly observing the lavender and its structure, to composing the painting, to painting layers and layers of watercolour, to using a steady-hand and high levels of concentration, to create a highly detailed delicate watercolour painting.