Susanne’s poppies

I planted poppies in my garden last year, and three opened today, almost within minutes of each other. I wish I had filmed the process with a time-lapse camera. One minute the hairy green pod was closed, a few minutes later there was a ball of red at the top of the stem, and suddenly the full bloom was open with the giant papery red petals fluttering in the wind. It was magical. And when I got closer to look, the two halves of the pod were on the ground at the base of the plant.

Earlier in the week I was invited to sketch at my friend Susanne’s garden, which is much more lush and wild than mine. The poppies, irises and peonies were all opening at once. I painted a watercolour on location but it wasn’t very successful so I tried it again in gouache. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to get the brightness of the poppies in gouache, but with a fair bit of yellow in the petals it seems to work. Painted on a half sheet of 140 lb Fabriano CP paper.

31 Comments on “Susanne’s poppies”

  1. Wow! This is really great. It shouts “SUMMER”. The quality of the light, and just enough information in the background to really set the scene. Lucky you to be in her garden. It must be fabulous!
    I LOVE your description of the poppy. I have a red peony that was almost as dramatic in it eruption into bloom, but it was a slower process.


  2. I had two open today as well. They are shockingly bright red with a purple center and black marks. I’m going to have to find a different red than what’s in my box. Your painting is gorgeous.


    • Thanks Jean. My watercolours were too dull for these which is why I switched to gouache. In watercolour my reds always seem to sink into the paper but in gouache they stay bright and saturated, so for poppies they were perfect.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Chris Rusk says:

    I’ve always loved how you convey depth in your paintings. This one is no exception, your flowers seem to playfully hover above the greenery that supports them – I can almost sense a mild breeze. Colour as always is true and vibrant – you made my day – well done!


  4. Belinda Schneider says:

    It is lovely!!!!!!!!!


  5. Uma Maheswar Nakka says:

    Good Morning dear friend Shari,

    Your brilliant idea of giving that background is really laudable.
    That has brought the natural look to the main foreground sketch.
    The awesome color combination gives a pleasant feeling in the heart and mind.



  6. Dan Killebrew says:

    Shari, I’m so impressed by the vibrancy of color you achieve with your use of gouache. So much so that I’d like to get a set. I’m sure somewhere in your blogs you’ve made suggestions as to a good basic set. If you please I’d love some recommendations.


    • Thanks so much Dan. This was a test to see if I could get vibrant colours, and I guess it was successful. I painted for as long as I could without adding white, which helps a lot. I am about to update my materials page with a list of stuff for gouache. I like M. Graham gouache because it’s very creamy and highly pigmented, but Holbein and W&N are good too. As for colours, I will post that on my blog.


  7. Cindy Wahlstrom says:

    Lovely painting! My poppies are blooming too. They are huge and a vibrant orange-red. I did an ink sketch of a seed head and applied watercolor a few days back, My peonies heads are barely opened. It won’t be long till they fully emerge and the iris are beautiful. Beautiful time of year for flower gardens!


    • Cindy, we had a huge storm last night and it crushed a lot of the peonies and poppies, so get out there soon and paint yours before a storm comes along. They get damaged so easily.


  8. Judy Sopher says:

    This is gorgeous. Shows that gouache is a versatile medium.


  9. Trevor Travis says:

    What a wonderful painting. Exhilarating and very heart warming.


  10. TonyU says:

    I think it more than works! What a lovely composition and what a glorious riot of colour. Oh how I’d love to see that half sheet for real!


  11. beth says:

    what a beautiful and summer-exciting painting


  12. patjoans says:

    How beautiful! I love your paintings and enjoy your blog very much!


  13. Donna says:

    Beautiful! Was it too breezy to do watercolor? But the gouache would dry quiclkly also. But you can paint over the gouache if need be? Interesting. I have foxglove an irises blooming today. I’ll try the gouache. Thanks for sharing.


    • Hi Donna,
      I actually painted this one in studio but yesterday I painted outside and it was fine. I used my Cup Easel and the gouache stayed fresh the whole time. And yes, you can certainly paint over the gouache. Give it a try!


  14. Jeff says:

    Beautiful painting. Were there any problems painting that large in gouache? I thought gouache paintings tended to be small.


    • Thanks Jeff. I was wondering the same thing which is why I did these two recent large format paintings. There was no problem at all scaling up. I start the painting off fairly transparently and work my way towards thicker paint. I thought I would have to use up tons of paint but it was actually fine since I paint in thin layers, and the Fabriano paper is smooth enough for the brush to glide easily on the surface. Definitely something I will be trying again.


  15. deedster56 says:

    Oh those poppies, Shari, so gorgeous! That whole painting is just out-of-this-world. What a beautiful garden your friend Suzanne has. I’m too new to watercolour to start dabbling in gouache but this sure gave me a ton of inspiration! Thank you so much.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s