Saturday, April 8, 2017

Painting Lavender at Summerhill

It was a cold, dreary day with occasional rain showers and blustery wind here in western Pennsylvania on Thursday, but that didn't stop my Summerhill Sketchers from gathering for a class on painting lavender fields.

I've been working on the lessons for my workshop in Provence in June, and I thought I'd try this one out on my local painting students. They're always up for a challenge, and I thought they'd enjoy mixing those gorgeous lavender colors and putting together this pretty landscape.

I taught two different ways to paint the lavender fields. First we tried a wet-in-wet approach, where I brushed on pale lavender, then dropped in deep purple and allowed it to mingle and diffuse, creating midtones. The deepest shadows were added after the first layer had dried.

For the second technique, we started with a pale lavender wash and let it dry, then glazed successively darker values over it, one layer at a time.

Of course, the key to a good watercolor painting is value contrast, so I stressed the importance of adding some nice dark shadows at the end to make things pop. A little spattering and texturing, and the sketches were done!

Here are some of the paintings the students did. (Not all of these are completely finished, but I thought you'd enjoy seeing them anyway.)

I love how each person's style is uniquely their own.

Even though it was a gloomy day outside, we were celebrating spring inside. I set the tables before everyone arrived...

and ran out in the rain to pick forsythia and daffodils to brighten things up.

I even took the time to fold cloth napkins into bunny shapes.

I just knew it would make my friends smile when they saw them. It's so much fun to do special little things to surprise them.

We had three different kinds of quiche for lunch: traditional quiche Lorraine, plus a vegetarian quiche and spinach/bacon quiche. It was hard to pick a favorite; they were all so good!

The side dishes were herb-marinated vegetables and a coleslaw recipe I like that has a touch of Dijon mustard in it. (See the recipe, below.)

For dessert we had a swoon-worthy trifle made with yellow cake, lemon pudding, whipped cream and fresh strawberries. Oh my!

After lunch, Carol shared her beautiful camellia page...

as well as the amazing hand-kit shawl she made over the winter.

Pat has been painting on canvas with watercolors - I've been wanting to try that, so I had lots of questions for her.

Larry confessed that he worked on some of these Zentangle designs while he was at work. We promised not to report him!

I love the rose painting that Teresa brought to share. We're planning a trip to her garden in June to see her collection of old-fashioned roses, some of which have been in her family for generations. Just imagine the smell! I can't wait.

If you're ever in the area, I hope you'll plan to stop by for a Sketching at Summerhill session. We have such a good time, and despite all the gabbing that goes on, we actually get some painting done, too. :) The next session will be May 4. Spring road trip, anyone?

Here's the recipe for the coleslaw I made for the sketchers. The dressing is light, and it keeps well in the fridge for up to a week.

Dawn's Coleslaw

¼ cup apple cider vinegar
½ tsp. salt
1-3 T. sugar
¼ cup mayonnaise
½-3/4 tsp. Dijon mustard

Make the dressing by whisking together the vinegar, salt, sugar, mayonnaise, and mustard in a small bowl until the sugar dissolves.

3 cups shredded cabbage
1/3 cup finely chopped celery
2-4 Tablespoons grated onion
¼ cup grated carrot

Combine the cabbage, celery, onion, and carrot in a large bowl. Pour the dressing over the cabbage mixture and toss to coat evenly. Serve immediately or store covered and refrigerated for up to one week.


  1. Boy--I wish I lived closer so I could attend these. You make everything so special for everyone. I am sure those flowers on the tables brightened the day--not to mention those lovely lavender sketches everyone painted. Very very nice!

    1. I wish you did, too, Annie. I think getting together with friends is good for the soul.

  2. Super scrump-delicious in all respects. What a wonderful experience!! And those lavender fields! I can just imagine the wonderful fragrance while painting those scenes. I've always had trouble with finding the right "lavender" mixture of color - mine seems to either contain too much blue, or too much magenta. But then again, I haven't painted lavender plants from life.....since I can't afford the "Provence" type experience, perhaps I'll hang around the local plant nursery and practice!!! Thanks for such a lovely report.

    1. I used Cerulean Blue + Permanent Rose for my sketch. But some of the students had a Cerulean that was almost turquoise and it didn't work as well for mixing. In that case, I had them use Cobalt Blue. Ultramarine works, too. If you feel it's leaning too far toward blue add a touch more red, or if it seems too red, add more blue. It's a balancing act. I found that the biggest challenge for me was to make the sunlit parts of the rows light enough to contrast with the shadow side.

  3. So much to comment on in this post! First, I love your sketch, Leslie. I can almost smell the lavender, and I appreciate the perspective, as I’ve been wanting to paint the rows of tea plants that stretch into the distance at a tea plantation we visit—and all completely green, too! Which of the two methods did you use in the posted sketch—the wet-in-wet or the successive glazes?

    I agree, I love how a whole class of students can paint from the same reference yet create such unique artwork. It’s so great to see all the different styles.

    I always enjoy seeing your lovely home and the yummy lunches your provide. Are all your recipes gluten free? Do you use the GFJules flour for your pie crusts? (I’d love the recipe if you do!) That's one thing I really miss, a really great pie crust.

    Your June sketching trip to Teresa’s rose garden sounds wonderful! Nothing smells as sweet as old-fashioned roses. The new varieties don’t smell at all!

    1. I used the glazing method for my sample, but I also had an example of the wet-in-wet technique. I thought glazing might be easier for everyone. I had them try both techniques, and I think most of them preferred glazing because it was easier to control.

      Yes, I make everything gluten-free, even the pie crust. I'll email you the recipe. It turns out really rich and delicious, and no one can tell it's GF. I do use the Jules flour (or Freedom Delivered, which is the same product by a different company).

      You're right about the roses. The old-fashioned ones are so lush and rich with fragrance. I don't know how I'm going to tear myself away from Teresa's garden!

    2. That would be great, Leslie. Thanks!

  4. Hi Leslie, I so hope I can join you painting someday. I am a total beginner but am attempting to paint along with you on this lavender project with your students. Is it ok to post my attempt on my Instagram account as long as I mention you and your site? Thanks so much.

    1. Of course, Karen. Thanks for following my blog, and good luck with your painting. Just keep learning and practicing - you'll improve in no time!

    2. I hope you are right haha! I do know practice helps. Have a lovely Easter weekend!

    3. and ps. thank you so much!!

  5. Love the lavender fields and may give it a try. Do you mind sharing Pat's watercolor on canvas technique? I'm intrigued.

    1. I didn't take the class, but I think they used a watercolor ground (not sure which brand) and let it dry. Then they painted with watercolor. After that dried, they coated it with a clear spray.

  6. My first time with the group. It was such a lovely day. Thank you to all for accepting a new painter so warmly. Thank you to Leslie for the very helpful instruction, generous printed information and and the amazing, delicious lunch.

    1. I'm so glad you were finally able to make it to Summerhill, Donah. We love having new people - it makes everything so much more interesting. Hope to see you again soon!


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