Painting Calla Lilies

I took a break from the inspiring indoor events at the Plein Air convention for another outdoor painting session. Monterey has a number of beautiful vestpocket flower gardens that are in full bloom right now. I concentrated in on four calla lilies. You can see them in the upper right corner of photo above. 

Three were in bloom and one was shriveled. Behind them was a rhododendron bush.
As with any flower garden, the amount of detail was overwhelming, so I tried to focus my interest on the white shapes of the lilies against the foliage in the background. I could see through to the far side of the bush and a white building in shadow.

That's four layers to contend with: 1. lilies in front, 2. rhodie leaves in light, 3. rhodie leaves and branches in shadow, and 4. white wall. I was using mostly transparent watercolor, which meant mostly painting around the lighter forms. 

First I did a pencil drawing to outline the main forms. The initial painting step on this one was to lay a fairly bright yellow wash across everything but the white lilies, and then bring the yellow down with a layer or two of varied green leaf colors. I then established the blue-gray background color with a large flat brush. That blue-gray color needed the opacity of white gouache mixed in to knock out the yellow underpainting color. After that dried, I painted the dark leaves and stems in shadow. Total elapsed time was a little over two hours.

I have rationalized these steps after the fact to try to give you the impression that I knew what I was doing, but my mind state was rather scrambled and chaotic as I did the painting. I agree with John Sargent's description of the watercolor painting experience as "making the best of an emergency"—and that's what I love about the medium.

I'll tell you more about my fellow Plein Air convention faculty in tomorrow's post.

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