Two Generations (Sold)

Two Generations

30 cm x 42 cm; watercolour on cotton rice paper; 2016

Blog Post 2

Did you notice that the Chinese Ground Orchids (Bletilla striata) represent a mother (left) and its daughter? Look how lovingly its whole body bends and reaches for its look-alike daughter. I painted it for Mother’s Day of all Species which was celebrated worldwide on May 8, 2016. Then, I sent it to all my friends who are outstanding mothers I know.

Just ‘Google’ the common or the scientific name of the Chinese Ground Orchid and you will know so many things about it. In Chinese culture, it represents perfection, elegance, integrity, nobility, and friendship–that’s why it is the best image to represent our loving mothers.

Paint the leaves first, then the flower stalk, followed by the flowers. Here are some tips on how I painted the leaves:

  • Colours I used: mix rattan yellow and green to make yellow green
  • Load  a large soft brush with yellow-green, then dip its tip into flower blue. This will produce two-toned leaves.
  • Paint the leaves in free-hand style. They should be long,continuous strokes with pointed tips.


  • Create spaces where you can paint the floral stalks. (See the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th leaves.)
  • Paint some folded or twisted leaves. (See the leftmost leaf.)
  • Review how the leaves gracefully grow out of the plant’s base. See if you have to add more leaves. Then, paint the stem of the flowers.

Here are some tips on how I painted the flowers:

  • The orchid has five petals: two represent its ‘heart’ or core (smaller ones), and three represent the three other petals (larger ones).


  • Colours I used: vermillion, rattan yellow, and ink.
  • To paint two-toned petals, load a medium white brush with vermillion. Then, dip its tip into carmine.
  • Paint the two-petaled ‘heart’ or the centre first. One should be larger than the other. This is the space where the three stamens will come out.Then, paint the other three petals in three different directions. This will produce that graceful effect of soft, light petals dancing in the wind.
  • Paint many orchids per floral stalk. They grow alternately and from opposite sides of the floral stalk. End with partially opened or unopened buds.
  • When the petals are fully dry, paint the ‘dots’ or stamens at three per flower. Aim for a triangle-shaped formation of the stamens per flower.
  • Stamens should be darker than the petals. So you can use dark ink or carmine.
  • Since this is an outdoor scene, you can paint small insects which visit and hover this fragrant flower: bees, butterflies, or dragonflies.

The Chinese Ground Orchid is one of the Four Gentlemen, representing spring. The other three are Plum Blossom for winter; Bamboo for summer; and Chrysanthemum for autumn. I still keep my first set of paintings on the Chinese Ground Orchid. They serve as my 2013 painting benchmark–reminders of how far I have gone and how much more I have to learn.

It may seem so easy to paint the Chinese Ground Orchid but definitely, the exact opposite is true. In fact, I wasted a lot of rice paper and ink before I was able to paint one which could pass as a beginner’s painting. But, in patiently practicing how to paint the orchid leaves and flowers, I learned how to control my brush–its stroke techniques, water and ink loads, and varied pressures on rice paper. Indeed, there are so much more to learn about the orchid’s  elegant leaves and flowers.

Would you like to paint the Chinese Ground Orchid too? When Yoda poses a challenge, he says: “There is no try. Just do it!”





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