Monday 23 February 2015

Hey Mambo!

Oriental Hybrid Lily Lilium 'Mambo'  © Shevaun Doherty 2015

‘We draw the spring into our hearts and feel that life is good’ 
Oscar Wilde

My studio this week has filled with sunshine, music and flowers.  I’m not dancing but painting the Mambo, a beautiful purple Oriental lily with a seductive sweet scent. This flower is such a sassy diva that I knew that I had to paint it as soon as I laid eyes on it.

Ah, there really is nothing quite as pleasant painting with the intoxicating scent of flowers in sunshine. 

The biggest challenge of course was going to be capturing that striking colour. I have quite a good range of pinks, reds and purples but this was a good opportunity to play with some of the Daniel Smith dot charts. For those who don’t know what a dot chart is, it’s a tester chart with a splodges of watercolour. Daniel Smith paints have quite intense colours and a little seems to go a very long way. 

As always, I was surprised at how different the same paint name differs from brand to brand. Daniel Smith Perylene violet is now definitely on my wishlist, although the W&N Perylene violet is still a favourite. Quinacridone fuschia, Rhodonite and Permanent violet are now all on my wishlist. I just can't get enough colour.

I pulled apart a flower and painted a single petal. It was not easy to get that rich colour! I was going to have to paint so many layers of paint! I was also struggling to get back into painting on paper and using bigger brushes with wetter washes. I did a quick study of an opening flower to get my head back into that style of painting. 

It’s a good idea when drawing out a flower to take the outer measurements. I often find that my drawings grow on the page and that's so annoying. An easy way to stop this from happening is to draw a simple box and make the flower fit. This isn’t a botanical illustration so I wasn’t too worried about getting precise measurements. (Apologies to the purists out there!)

So having worked out my colours (sort of), it was time to start the real thing. I have painted lilies before and found that it worked best for me to paint the pistil and stamens first, and then the tepals. Then it’s a case of simply painting around them, starting with my favourite base colours of cerulean and cobalt violet.

I chose to work on this one petal at a time, because I knew that to get the intensity of colour,  To complete the painting, I needed more than one flower because those layers of paint are so time consuming layers of colour.  The petals also darkened in colour quite considerably as they matured, from pink to a deep burgundy purple.  I also took quite a few back up photographs, just in case.

The addition and placement of the dark spots and the little ridges is very important.

 I have painted lilies before, so it was quite handy being able to refer back to my study notes to get the right green colour mix. A friend recently sent me some Hansa Yellow light, so I decided to use that instead of the Winsor yellow, with Indanthrene blue and Perylene green, both of which had been added to the purples to get the darker tones of the flowers. A smidgin of permanent rose to the green mix also helped harmonise the palette.

To add the leaves and stem, I used a piece of tracing paper to draw  out some fresh leaves from another bloom.It is important to make sure that the stamens and pistil align with the stem of the flower. It’s so easy to get this wrong, particularly as the stamens move as they mature.
First washes of the leaves go on. I changed the composition slightly to fit the page.
I enjoyed this painting, although I did have my doubts earlier on because it just needed so many layers of colour! A final few glazes of winsor orange and permanent rose helped pull it all together and bring parts of the flower forward.

'To be overcome by the fragrance of flowers is a delectable form of defeat.'
 Beverly Nichols

More lovely flowers await to be painted, but I thought I'd leave you with this video of mambo music at it's sultry best.


  1. Love this, Shevaun! The light, the color, everything. But one of my favorite parts is the beautiful, perfect curve of the bottom leaf as it turns and attaches to the stem on the right. Just exquisite.

    1. Aww, Carol! That's such a nice thing to say. Thank you. I had my doubts with this one, but it was such a beauty that I had to keep going.

  2. You did great getting the rich, velvety color of the tepals, and changing the curve of the bottom leaf was just right for the composition, imo. I enjoyed Dean and the mambo too...pretty hot stuff--your flower lived up to her namesake!

    1. They named the flower well- it's such a temptress. It's a nice one to get for the garden, Janene as it's so tall. Thanks

  3. Lovely, Shevaun.
    I especially love the details of how you form your work.
    Notes taken.

  4. Great blog Shevaun, I love seeing your choice of colours. Beautiful xx

    1. Thanks Claire. Your quin rose was so useful... gorgeous colour xx

  5. I love your courage, tackling such a difficult subject. And you're using the designer colors of 2015. Gorgeous in every way.

    1. EM, thank you. Haha, are those really the designer colours of 2015? That shows how much I know!

  6. Oh, my! Dino, Colin and the Mambo just as I head for bed . . . EEEK . . .swirling, kicking up the hem of my dress, locking into Colin's eyes, swaying to Dean's voice . . . where am I? Oh, yeah, I remember now.
    BTW, love the lilies, Shevaun.

    1. We all deserve a little treat. Your comment made me laugh... hope you went and had a lie down!

    2. Your reply made ME laugh! The video has inspired me to establish a new Pinterest board called Dance Me to the End of Time. So far just a little Tango (my fave), but more to come.


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