Thursday, August 9, 2012

75 Day Sketch Challenge: Day 46

My house is surrounded by hydrangeas of all shapes, sizes, and colors. They start blooming in June and don't stop until the first frost in October. All through the summer, I'm treated to those gorgeous blooms of periwinkle blue, deep pink, and soft ivory. This beautiful blue lace-cap grows next to our front porch, surrounded by Japanese iris, bleeding heart, and miniature roses...

5-1/2" x 8-1/2", watercolor & ink in Stillman & Birn Alpha series sketchbook

To get the lacy effect behind the title, I tried a little experiment. I laid down one of my grandmother's starched, crocheted doilies and spritzed diluted purple watercolor paint through it, then quickly lifted the doily and allowed the paint to dry. I rewet the area later when I was ready to add the watery washes behind the hydrangea. I wanted them to mingle and flow, covering some of the lace background and assuring it didn't dominate the sketch.

To paint the leaves, I first applied pale yellow-green paint. When that was dry, I painted the spaces between the leaf veins with darker shades of greens, blues, and browns, leaving the impression of a lighter green vein.

4" x  2" detail

The texture and detail of the flower itself was intimidating, but, taking it one step at a time, and suggesting the tiny buds and blossoms in the center of the flower rather than trying to paint every detail, I think I managed to give an impression of the lace cap hydrangea. Here's how I approached it...

First, I applied very pale shades of blue to the petals of the larger individual blossoms, leaving areas of white for highlights. I put touches of the same blue in the flower center, along with a medium lavender, once again leaving some white areas for sparkle. Touches of olive green suggested unopened buds. Next, the shading on the flower petals was painted with darker blues and purples, along with touches of red-violet in the blossom centers. To suggest spots where dark green leaves showed through behind the flower head, I added a few accents of dark blue-green. I finished off the center with a few more touches of medium periwinkle blue.

I'm glad I decided to finally get over my fear of painting hydrangeas and give them a try this summer. They're definitely challenging to paint, but I love that I have two portraits of my favorite flowers in my sketchbook now. (See the other hydrangea sketch here.)


  1. Fantastic!
    It's interesting that I can see the difference between starting with the pale yellow green layer on the leaves rather than applying the color over the top of the existing color. Great technique!

  2. Another way to do it, Mirta, is to paint the darker green on the leaf first, let it dry, then take a damp brush and wipe away the color where you want the veins to be, leaving a lighter line.

  3. This painting is absolutely stunning! I love the intense colors and I'm amazed at how well you have captured the essence of Hydrangeas! It is sometimes hard for me to have restraint and leave some 'whites', but your restraint really paid off with the white highlights in this image.

  4. Claire, thank you so much for your kind comments. Hydrangeas certainly are challenging to paint, and I'm still finding my way, but I'm happy to know this one has some "hydrangea-ness" to it.


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