First Lilies

TM8370 First Lilies 36x44 oil on panel

TM8370 First Lilies 36×44 oil on panel

I’ve been watching the sequence – first the tiny lily pads emerging in spring, then their growth, then the emergence of buds, then, finally, the glorious flowers in shades of white, yellow, and blushing  pink. I’ve studied them, photographed them, and fallen into the mucky pond edge trying to get closer. First Lilies is just that – my first large-scale lily painting, featuring four white lilies at various stages of development and one breaking bud. I loved figuring out how to paint the reflections hinted at beneath the water’s blue sky surface, the suggestion of stems underwater, and floating leaves and petals on top of (or sinking into) the water. I wanted to capture the ephemeral quality of here today and gone tomorrow, as well as the literal movement of the current. Enjoy!

TM8370 First Lilies (detail, lower left)

TM8370 First Lilies (detail, lower left)

TM8370 First Lilies (detail, lower right)

TM8370 First Lilies (detail, lower right)

Technical painting notes: The painting started with a very dark blue-green base of  oil paint over the primer, applied with a soft rubber brayer (four-inch wide). I roughly mixed colors on a glass palette, put a few drops of linseed oil and mineral spirits below the mixture, then picked up the paint on the brayer and employed it like a brush, not trying to get an even tone, but rather a streaky, splotchy texture of barely mixed color on the panel. A bold start is necessary if the textures are to show through later glazes.  Working quickly, I wiped out highlights with a rag, spritzed the panel with mineral spirits, blotted, swished the surface with plastic wrap – anything I could grab to make the surface interesting visually.  Once this layer was dry, I started glazing colors onto the panel, and used a small brush to interrupt the glaze with broken color (duckweed’s stand-in).  Periodically, I used a very soft watercolor brush to smooth the surface of the wet paint and soften the edges. Glazes of violet-blue at the bottom of the image slightly obscured the reflected shapes  and helped to suggest the sheen of sky blue on the pollen-dusted water. The lilies were the last step,  I wanted them to stand out crisply against all the water’s subtleties, and to depict the stages of time’s passing.

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