Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Bird of Paradise Botanical Painting Strelitzia Reginae

This painting of Bird of Paradise is a commission for clients who live in Thailand. I wish I could grow this plant in my garden, but unfortunately, it's much too cold where I live.

The flowers bear a resemblance to tropical birds with their beak-like bracts from which bright orange sepals and blue petals emerge. They are pollinated by birds, especially sunbirds (which are similar to hummingbirds). The leaves look like banana leaves.

All in all, they are a very interesting and brightly pretty flower!
To see how I paint a detailed illustration of Strelitzia reginae (the botanical name), read on. Or skip to the finished painting.

The first thing I need to do is familiarize myself with the structure of the flowers. So I take time to read whatever I can and look carefully at illustrations that might help. This way, I will be less likely to miss important details.

Next, I make a rough sketch then a careful drawing over it on drawing paper. I decide to use two flowers and a leaf. Originally I had two leaves, but thought it was better to keep things simpler:


I transfer my drawing to watercolor paper, then begin with a pale wash of colors on the leaf. You may see that I used not only green mixed from yellow and blue, but also some rose in this wash. I also paint colors onto the bracts:


Cadmium red and cadmium yellow with a bit of permanent rose are mixed for the orange sepals. For the blue petals I mix ultramarine blue, rose and turquoise:


Once all the initial washes of color are put in, I can begin to paint details in the flowers and leaves using mid tones and dark shades where needed:


I also (very sparingly) use colored pencil to add highlights and deeper colors. This brings out the details more than watercolor alone would do. Some artists use only a pale wash of watercolor at first and then use colored pencil for most of the illustration. But I prefer to use chiefly watercolors and keep pencil details to a bare minimum:


When the painting is finished, I write the botanical name at the bottom and sign and date it:


Here is the finished piece:



I hope you enjoyed the demo of this bright and lovely flower!

I'm happy to take custom orders. Contact me for a custom painting of your pet, home, garden, grandkids, favorite vacation spot or whatever your heart desires.
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