About a year ago I wrote a blog post about black flowers, see Paint it Black and I thought it was high time to complete the set by sharing some of my forays into painting white flowers. White flowers pose a number of issues for botanical artists, the main one being that white flowers against white paper can be 'lost' So, we need to use colour in a sparing way to create texture, light and shade without losing the 'whiteness' of the flower.
When tackling a white flower, I first decide if it has a cool or warm tone. Having mixed a range of warm and cool neutral colours, I can mix very pale washes that will help to give shape and form the petals. Shadow plays an important part in any painting but is vital when tackling a pale subject, as this will often be where the only paint used will be applied.
The snowdrops were quite cool and needed a very pale blue/grey to give the tiny flowers and unopened buds shape and form. At the time this study was painted, I was still using Payne's Grey to mix many of my neutral colours, but also mixed a mid-tone 'botanical grey' using French Ultramarine, Cadmium Yellow and Cadmium Red. Mixing slightly different proportions will alter the colour slightly, so for this study I used mid-tone with a touch more blue in it.
|Neutral colour chart|
|Lots of white paper was left to keep the flower light|
|In contrast, Clematis montana 'Avalanche' has a warmer tone|
The Clematis montana 'Avalanche' is a beautiful white clematis with lovely large blooms. Looking more closely, there is a warm, creamy yellow tone to the petals and towards the centre, a lovely fresh green. Touches of Winsor Lemon and Cobalt in the neutral grey mix kept things fresh whilst a slightly darker mix in the shadows and folds gave a little more form.
The palest pink blooms of this dwarf Rhododendron got the monochrome treatment when I had to complete a study in graphite. Without colour, the study really had to focus on the light and shade given by daylight, so most of the attention of my pencil was to the right side, emphasising the dark shadow away from the light. Here I used the H grades of pencil, from 3H to H.
And just to finish...
|...my first 'white' flower|
Taking the lead from botanical artist Billy Showell, I followed her advice for completing white and neutral flowers by making a quick copy of the Calla Lily from her book, 'Flower Portraits'. Books are of course a great source for practise exercises, but I digress. Again, as with 'Avalanche' plenty of warm neutrals with Lemon Yellow and Cerulean Blue was used to give shape to the slender bloom. Looking at it now, I can see how heavy-handed I was in the early days.