Magnolia with a dark background

Magnolia with a dark background

As we move through the days , everything seems to be waking up. I made the mistake today of looking outside and seeing the sunshine, so I set off merrily on my walk, without a coat , but ( as my mum would say) there was 'a nasty cold wind' which probably kept me walking just a little faster than usual. So no real harm done. 

However I could still look into the hedgerows and see the small unsung heroes making their debuts . The small ferns beginning to unfurl

the blackthorn flowers really putting on a show , for those who would watch.

Here in Devon we are blessed with an abundance of wild primroses and their delicate colour is always a joy to see.


However, our unpredictable weather can cause havoc, frost can ruin a beautiful camellia, and my neighbour's impressive magnolia looked a little sorry for it's self after a frost the other night. It made me think that the smaller, native flowers must have a knack of knowing what they're doing, sometimes it pays not to be too showy too soon


All that said I couldn't help but be so impressed by the magnolia blooms that I thought I'd show you my painting 

First I drew a flower, paying attention to where the petals are and began adding colour.

Alizaren crimson, makes a nice pink, I also added some cerulean blue. The highlights on the petal are the white of the paper, I added the darker pink by using less water and bought some of the colour up to form veins.

Next I moved around the flower, painting each petal individually , maybe adding some darker touches once patches were dry, don't be afraid to go dark. Dark against light adds drama. I made the darkest hue by adding cobalt blue to the crimson.

Then I painted the branch, just yellow ochre and burnt umber.


Now the background, the bit that scares us !!!


If you don't want a background that's fine too.

I painted an under colour of yellow 

then let that dry, while I mixed greens reds and blues, then I sploshed that around, adding the darkest tones near the whitest parts of the flower. 

I also splashed on some clean water to create watermarks.


Then I went in with another layer, going really dark behind the flower. This layering of colour stops the background looking too flat, experiment and have a go. Add warmer colours or cooler colours, but if it looks wrong in your mixing pan , don't add it. It will look wrong on the paper.


There a beautiful magnolia flower, and the frost can't touch this one !



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This is beautiful Rachel, I really want to try it. Do you use masking fluid before you add your background or just paint really carefully around? Thanks for the lovely blog 🙂

Pauline Gray

Wow, I knew this blog would help me, I always try and paint the background in first, I’m going to be brave and try it last just as you’ve explained. I can’t wait to give it a go.
Thank you 😊

Diane Hayward

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