Materials for my white lilies painting
Painted on Saunders Waterford hot press 300gsm traditional white paper.
Winsor and Newton Kolinsky series 7 sable brushes nos. 0, 00 and 000.
Most people are struggling to work out what day it is at the moment, however, Easter is now only just around the corner. Inspired by this time of year, I have decided to paint some wonderful white lilies. These flowers are an important symbol in Christianity and are said to reflect purity. The white lily is also known as the Madonna lily and these are truly gorgeous flowers. Although, it’s often the case that the flower heads get squashed together as buds open. To avoid this, I produced my latest watercolour painting from various photographs that I have taken of groups of white lilies.
To begin with, I mixed the various hues of green that I was going to need. This started with a pale green wash which was created by gently mixing my blue and yellow paint together.
From here, I mixed together a stronger and warmer hue of green. This was created for the anther stems of the white lilies. My final green hue was a much stronger colour but with an additional blue tone to add into the long, strong, stems of the flower.
No white paint
As I do not use white watercolour paint or masking fluid in my pure watercolour technique, I had to create the petals of the flowers through the use of shadows. This involved delicately and methodically painting in shadows around each of the petals. To create these shadows, as I do not use a pre-mixed black paint, I created a pale blue-black tone from my three watercolours (red, blue and yellow).
Finally, I mixed two palettes for the yellow/orange anthers of the white lilies.
The first strokes
To begin the botanical painting, I started with a pale green outline to the buds and stems of the white lilies and I used the pale blue/black mix to outline the petals. By doing this, it helps me identify the different shapes in the painting.
From these initial strokes, I moved on to paint the yellow tones of the anther tips within each of the flowers. To produce the strong and powerful yellow, I added about four layers of watercolour wash here.
Next, I used the pale green mix to paint the first layers on the anther stems. Again, this involved building up the layers of colour. As a layer of watercolour wash dried, I added another to create a darker green hue. Each stroke of paint was carefully added alongside the anther stem to create shadow and definition.
Once I had built up some shape and definition to the anthers, I went back to the yellow/orange watercolour wash. I applied this to the painting to add some further shape and definition to the anthers. To create the delicate fallen pollen on the petals, I added a little yellow paint to my wash to create a lighter tone and gently added the detail in.
Building layers and shadows
Once these layers had dried, I began carefully painting shadows onto the stamens, anthers and pollen using the light blue/black mix.
To create the subtle layers in the strong and stunning petals of the white lilies, I added a soft, pale-yellow wash. I only added this wash in specific areas of the petals to add some warmth to the painting without detracting from the vibrant white flower.
Building further shadows within the painting involved adding the blue/black watercolour mix. This was steadily added to the central ridges of the petals and slowly worked outwards.
To create the visible and defined shadows, I painted several layers of black watercolour mix onto the petals. Each time making the centre of the flowers darker. There are also subtle green washes in the centre of the flowers too, which help form a natural and delicate look. As I work, I constantly step back to assess the dark shadows as I paint. It is important to find the balance between shape and form of the petals and the light and dark shadows.
This white lilies painting took many sittings to create. Patience was vital in that I had to wait for each layer to dry, before I could add another watercolour layer. It’s also important to take time over adding in each layer, if the previous is not thoroughly dry, adding more can lift paint and make a mess which is often not salvageable.
The black watercolour paint
Another issue that needs to be avoided is the separation in my black wash. The different mixes try to split in the painting palette, on my brush and the watercolour paper too! It is important to stay vigilant and give the mix a quick stir together regularly. This occurs as I create my own black wash in my pure watercolour technique, if using pre-bought mixes, this shouldn’t occur though.
When finishing my white lilies watercolour painting, I add in the three buds. These are created using the green mixes, starting with the lightest, through to the darkest. One of the buds is still tightly closed, one is just about to peek out and the third is beginning to flaunt its stunning white petals.
Once the green layers are built up on the stems, I finally paint the shadows of the buds.
It’s at this point that I step away from my botanical watercolour painting. I will leave it overnight, then take another look. Finally I will add any details I feel are missed or need more layers of paint.