Rhododendron and Butterfly Flower Painting Demonstration

Today I was working in my garden which is humming with bees and butterflies flitting about. A tiger swallowtail was especially interested in my rhododendron which is in bloom. This would make a nice painting especially because it was in dappled sunlight. So, let's paint it!

I have been working on highly detailed pet portraits and botanicals a lot lately and want to loosen up and just have some fun. So I decided to do this one with wet washes, not worrying much about detail.

The entire first layer of paint is done wet-into-wet, meaning I wet the paper first in sections and then drop the color into it letting the paint flow as it will. I am using a palette of three colors: bright yellow, deep blue and rose red.

Above, the entire paper is covered with wet-into-wet washes. So much fun! I mentioned dappled sunlight and you can see the beginnings of this on one of the leaves on the right.

Next I've added cast shadows to all the leaves. This layer is painted on once the first layer is dry. It looks like the sunlit parts are now lighter than they were, but they are not. It is the contrast with the darker shadows which makes them appear to be lighter.

Do you notice how I added some red to the leaves? This contrast makes them come alive and glow.

Above, I've begun the flowers with rose red making sure to add a touch of yellow to the centers while the paint is wet. This warms the cool red a bit. I also make sure to leave the pistols and stamens light by painting around them.

Now for final touches on the butterfly. This is the only thing that will be detailed on this painting. The rest may look detailed, but it really is not! Using a few lines here and there and poking in dark colors in the right places makes it look that way.

Here is the finished painting. The contrast between the detailed butterfly and the loose washes in the background is quite nice, don't you think?
The original has been sold, but you can find the fine art print of Rhododendron and Swallowtail Butterfly in my Etsy shop.

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