I originally planned to do a small painting of some Grape Hyacinths and did the wash and drawing, but was then too tempted by a large bunch of red tulips which found their way into my trolley at the local supermarket!. I will get around to finishing the Muscari so will share it with you later. The tulips were quite tightly closed but as it was only Tuesday, I put them in the semi dark for a day to prevent them opening fully before AVA on the Thursday. A bit of a mistake really, as they were still quite closed when I started the drawing on Wednesday afternoon. I had to manipulate some of the heads to get them to look more open.
The leaves of the tulips look a bit bedraggled as this photo was taken after the event and the poor tulips had been in and out of water and my art bag all day. Somehow, the outer leaves got considerably abused!
I started with a drawing this time rather than the background wash. I thought about the best way to start for quite a while, as I have tried red/green background washes before , and where they meet, the resultant colour can be quite ugly. I decided, therefore, that if I did the drawing first I could put a red/orange wash over the specific flower heads area, and then paint in the background later. I knew that painting a red tulip over green wash would not work well, but it is quite possible to paint a green background over a red wash.
I started painting the image from the centre outwards, hoping to put the greatest detail into the flowers and leaves in the middle and loosen slightly towards the edges. I also spent some time testing the various reds and oranges in my palette, as I wanted to use the least number of pigments to keep the colours fresh. In the end I chose Quinachridone Coral and Transluscent orange which I sometimes mixed in the palette and sometimes on the paper. Where I wanted darker values, I just used a more intense mix of the same colours.
When I had painted the central flowers, I concentrated on painting the leaves. I knew there would be quite a lot of work needed in this area, as lots of overlapping leaves bending and flowing through the painting would require some quite subtle variations in shade and tone to produce the 3D effect. I also wanted to create as far as possible the idea that these tulips had been pushed tightly into the vase,creating a very tight bunch. I used lots of Green Apatite Genuine and Sap Green with some yellow, blue or gold added when required.I veined the leaves with either darker paint or the reverse end of a paint brush dragged through the damp paint.
I then completed all the tulip heads, keeping the three on the right as loose as I could.
To address the background I decided against using green and created a wash of Quinachridone Rust and Indian Yellow which I applied in various strengths across the painting, with the darkest values on the LH side. I also used this mixture with a little Indigo to paint the pot.
Finally, I used a hogs hair brush which I have trimmed to half its length , and clean water to gently wash out the highlights on the leaves and flower petals. I also added some darks at the base of some of the leaves to increase the 'squashed together' look.
I think the final painting is as much about the quality of the leaves as about the flowers. Tulip leaves are so sinuous and the coil around the flowers stems and twist and turn in lovely ways. It was very satisfying to spend time trying to do them justice. I am really pleased with the painting and it looks lovely in its white frame. I think, for me, this is about as good as it gets!
Watercolour on Fabriano Artistico Extra White
45cm x 35cm