Sweet peas and bumble bees

Sweet peas and bumble bees

Last week I was still buzzing from my trip to Cornwall, this  week I have found real inspiration closer to home. I am still filled with seascapes and the roar of the waves, but a stroll around the garden can be just as inspirational.

Look at this rose, full of flower

But this week it was my sweet peas that took centre stage, I am trying to keep up with picking them so they keep flowering and can grace my studio with scent 

I know how tricky it can be to get started, my advice to beginners would be to have a go at the simpler things, paint subjects that please you in between the things that are more of a challenge. We all need to feel that high that comes from the feeling that things have gone well. As you pass things or look at things imagine how you might paint them, start to unravel the mystery behind getting them down on paper.

Each new subject is a puzzle, and the more you do the more solutions you have. But if it keeps going wrong try something completely different, it will come, but it all takes time. The more you paint ,then the more ways of painting you will have. And the more you see, oh my, how much more you see. A walk by the canal becomes an wonderful journey into colour and light. I take lots of photos with my phone so the images have the potential to become paintings. If they never make it to the paper, the walk was still so much more enjoyable. Making art is , to me, one of the most satisfying things in the world.

So back to the garden, and the humble, beautiful, fragrant sweet peas.

Firstly pick the stems you want to paint, remember you are in charge, if a stem annoys you or looks too tricky to paint, leave it out.

Sketch your flowers

Now I like to us my spray bottle and spray around the flowers and then drop some colour onto the paper. I like to think it gives the illusion of the fragrance of the sweet peas being in the air.

Now I leave that to settle and dry and begin on the bees

I use a small brushes ( series 7 winsor and newton ) to paint the little bumbles.

These brushes come to a lovely fine point and they hold a lot of paint. But they are pricey.

Indian Yellow

Paynes Grey and cerulean blue ( see previous blogs on how to paint bees)



I even paint the little eye of the bee in the right  hand corner, you need a small brush to paint this.

Now onto the flowers, the colour put on earlier should have dried now.

Begin with the lights colours first. I am using pinks and purples. Not colours I use a lot, I find the more you use a colour the more familiar with it's properties you become. Try not to avoid colours you find tricky ( easier said than done) , as when you get to know them the mystery goes away.

Here I am using Rose Madder, with lots of water and really looking where the lights are on the petal, wet the whole petal first.

Then leaving that to dry I moved to the buds just below. It is amazing how many colours there are on a sweet pea, I begin with an under painting of Indian yellow, the Alizarin Crimson over it, letting the yellow show through, and finally a touch of cobalt blue for the darker shadow. There is also a touch of sap green.

Now back to the first flower, adding layers of colour, to add depth. I found  that Rose madder and crimson together made a good mix for the left part of the flower, hold the paper upside down wet the petal and drop the pain at the top of the petal, so the bottom is left whit, but it will seep in a bit so it looks natural.I also added some depth to the pink side by adding some purple, Look for the shadows and where the petals meet.

Move onto the other flowers. Use the white of the paper to show where the light hits the petals and darken the colour, in the folds where the shadows are. Try to look very carefully and paint the lights and arks you see.I promise the more you do the more it will fall into place.

Finally add the stems, starting with a lemon yellow, then getting darker with sap green and adding indigo for the really dark shadows. I also add some cerulean blue where the sun hits the pods or the leaves.

Take your time and alter your brush to the size of area you are painting.

I like to let the painting settle, and see if I need to add anything or take anything away.

I hope you find something that gives you joy, especially that helps you see things a bit clearer, find some beauty in your corner of the world. we all need that just now I think x







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Are these Winsor Newton brushes the Kolinsky Sable?

Marie Bridgeforth

Rachael,thank you!so much for your lovely advice.I enjoy painting very much.Your tips are so very helpful.LoveMary-Lou

Mary-Louise Parker

Thanks. I enjoyed myself painting with you.


Your response to my email re tutorials took me into your blog. It is just what I was looking for. So now I can just go in and read and soak it up!!!!

Kim Federici

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