This section is from the book "Arts & Crafts Magazine Vol1-2", by Hutchinson & Company.
TO paint the hollow cup-like blossoms of the daffodil was the lesson we set ourselves last month. The lily-of-the-valley, which we now consider, presents the same problems in miniature, and is a much more difficult model. To hold a quantity of the blossoms in your hand, to revel in their fragrance, is delightful; but to paint them in a bunch would be to hide in the mass their chief charm, which is their grace. Rather pose them singly, or throw a few stems of bloom loosely together with some of the fresh green leaves. You must place yourself nearer to your model than you did with the daffodils, and use smaller brushes. We will suppose the background to be rather light.
The drawing must be accurate, the painting minute but forceful and decided. Each cup must receive its due share of attention as to its form and modelling. Each cup is a little different from its fellows, owing to some accident of position or some reflection from a near blossom or leaf. It has a white lighted portion, a shadowed side which is not black, and for which the flower alone can give you a recipe. And each cup has, perhaps, reflected lights. If you look squarely into the face of one of the shy little bells you see that it is not so dark in there, but yet your eye is informed that it recedes. Study how this hollowness is conveyed to your mind, by what intensity, tint, and form of shadow, and try the painting of this spray of whiteness until you can hold your study at arm's length from you and close to the model blossom; half shut your eyes, and see that it looks as near the living reality as paint can make it. It may be that your painted blossoms look muddy or dirty in colour compared with nature. Discover the cause and correct it. It is possible you have mixed the white into the shadows until none of it is pure, or put too much black or brown into the shadows, or left the shadows so light and timid that the whiteness of the white does not show for want of a proper contrast. The stems, with all their small perfections of shining green curves, must not be neglected, nor must the leaves be slighted.
For a general palette, lay in with a tone of grey composed of silver white, cobalt, and very little ivory black, yellow ochre, and light red. Into this are painted the deep accents of shadow, for which you may use madder lake, silver white, raw umber, ivory black, cobalt, and burnt sienna. Afterwards put in the high lights with silver white, yellow ochre, and a qualifying touch of ivory black.
The best background for a white flower, as we have remarked before, is always the one that makes it look whitest, and to get this effect the background need not be dark, as some people seem to think to be necessary. Almost anything, except grey, will look well as a background. Grey, being the colour of the shadows of the flowers, must be avoided. A light blue, inclining to turquoise, a fairly strong yellow, a lavender tint, or a terracotta would do.
The painting of these delicate flowers in transparent water-colours is so difficult that anyone who would attempt it would know too much to need any printed instructions that could be given. Hut lilies-of-the-valley are often attempted in body colour on a coloured ground, either paper, or silk, satin, or leather. We shall, later, give suggestions for painting in gouache, which, perhaps we need hardly say, is the French term for opaque water-colour. In the meanwhile the general directions given above lor painting these flowers in oil-colours will apply to their treatment in gouache.
For the fixing of fleeting effects in colour or light and shade, tinted paper is preferable to white. You cannot get the exact colour on it, but it gives you a local tint, and with swift washes and putting in Chinese white for your high lights, you can obtain a valuable memorandum which may afterward prove very useful as a jog to the memory.
An old frame is a handy accessory to a studio. You can always set your picture behind it, even if it does not fit, and obtain some idea of what its effect will be when framed. A frame makes an enormous difference in a picture. A good frame will help a poor work, and a bad frame hurt a good one, as a critical tour of any exhibition gallery will prove to you.
Lilies Of The Valley Pen Study By L. Lester