Orchids, continued

I'm still painting orchids (following on from my post on 24 May). After the pencil drawings my next study was a pen and watercolour botanical style drawing. I love this style. The first art I bought was a set of four Georgian botanical prints. They hang above my desk. I think they are copperplate prints, hand tinted with watercolour. 

The fine black outline filled with colour is such a simple effective way to create an image. The outline creates the form, so that all the colour needs to do is bring it to life. After initial pencil drawings, I made an image in this style, drawing the outline in pen and colouring with watercolour.

Pen and watercolour, orchid

Pen and watercolour, orchid

Pen and watercolour, orchid, detail

Pen and watercolour, orchid, detail

Next, I worked on the design for the final image I have in mind, a small square oil painting. My first blog on this subject explains why I have chosen orchids for the subject of this painting in more detail, but in summary, it's because to me they are a symbol of modern style - clean, white, and a little bit plasticky. To highlight these qualities, in the square composition I don't include the green leaves, which evoke 'plant', focusing on the white flowers and the line of the stem.

Initial watercolour

Initial watercolour

After playing around with lighting, I found that setting them before a window so that the light comes through the petals, best expressed the white quality that I was interested in.

The orchid has evolved a visually deceptive shape, the white petals are all curves and emphasise the coloured markings on the column and lip, no doubt to draw insects inwards. Initially the tiny red dots on the lip and column looked random to me, but as I painted them I found that they were almost symmetrical, and seemed to be placed to baffle and distort the shape of the inner parts of the orchid. (Orchid experts you can help me here, if you know the names of the butterfly shaped part in the centre?).

 

I built up the picture using wax pencil crayons, in squares of colour, to make the background glow and to build the subtle colours in the shadows of the backlit petals. 

Orchids Before the Window, watercolour and pencil crayon

Orchids Before the Window, watercolour and pencil crayon

New model

New model

I'm now working on the oil painting of white orchids. I've changed the design and have a new model! This time it is again a white orchid with a small flower, but with more dramatic colouring on the throat and lower petals and a more cascading shape.

 
Work underway

Work underway

Drawing the orchids for this composition, I found that I had overemphasised the elephant ear side petals in my earlier drawings, and underdone the size of the central petals. Many pencil drawings later, I have a new composition and have started the oil painting.

Update, 19 August 2015 - the not quite finished painting, below. I'm going to come back to it later. At the moment, the shadows on the middle flowers are too hard, and so they don't give the form to the flowers. As the painting is white on white (and so the outline does little to create the form), the shadows need to do double the usual work.

White Orchids - oil painting 20.5 x 20.5 cm

White Orchids - oil painting 20.5 x 20.5 cm