Three peonies, step-by-step

It is a day for garden painting. The extreme heat of last week has moved on, the sky is clear blue, the wind has died down and flowers are starting to bloom. I had briefly considered driving clear across the city to paint at the Botanical Gardens but there’s so much in my neighbourhood to paint. I found a stunning bed of perennials and an owner happy to share the beauty.


On a quarter sheet of Fabriano cold-pressed paper, I draw the main shapes of the flowers and foliage. Then I wet most of the sheet and paint in a light wash of pinks and greens, and wait until the first wash is completely dry.


The next step is to define the flower shapes by doing a little negative painting. With the three flower shapes I try to keep each one a different size and a different distance apart.


From there, more definition is added to the peonies, and with a finer brush some of the darker shapes appear in the foliage. At this stage, I try to keep it quite abstract.


The three peonies are quite isolated in the garden — mostly surrounded by foliage — with a few columbines and irises in the distance.


The final stage includes adding in detail stuff, mostly in the foliage and a little in the blooms.