38.5 cm x 45.5 cm; watercolour on rice paper, 2016

Blog Post 7

“Roses as big as cabbages!” was how Marco Polo described peonies when he first saw them. Indeed, peonies are very colourful and attractive as their large flowers burst in all colours except blue. They are found in Asia, Southern Europe, and Western and North America.

Peony is the national flower of the People’s Republic of China. It is a symbol of spring, beauty, wealth, luck, and happiness. Thus, for all the wonderful things that peonies symbolise, they  have become one of the classic subjects of Chinese brush painters. And of course, when you receive a peony painting, you become a very lucky person.

Nowadays, peonies are the accent flower in bridal bouquets and the traditional flower for celebrating the 12th wedding anniversary.

For me, the best way to honour the beauty of peonies is to paint them. Here are some tips to set you on your way of doing so, too.

To paint the fully opened flower:

  • Load a large white brush with poster white and dip its tip into flower red. Start each brushstroke from the the core of the flower so the inner sides of the petals will be darker than the outer sides.
  • Remember to turn the brush inward to paint a tight core of inner petals. The outer ones should gradually spread, become larger, and have a loose or relaxed appearance.
  • A peony petal is usually painted with 3 scallops, with the mid-scallop being taller than the two side scallops.
  • From the first core petal, continue adding petals, keeping the overall round shape of the flower.
  • Add more crinkles at the edges of petals and lines (or petal folds) with the chosen darker colour of the petal. In this painting, use flower red. Dry.
  • When fully dry, add the stamens. One stamen means 3 elongated stamens, with two same-size stamens on either side of the tallest stamen.
  • Paint stamens with a color which is in contrast with the color of the petals; e. g.: paint dark rouge stamens (rouge + ink) against vermillion petals; paint poster yellow stamens against purple petals.
  • Long, curved stamens should be at the core of the flower, peeking from the core petals.

To paint the half-opened flower:

  • Paint the broad and thin sepals first. Then, paint the 2-toned, crinkle-edged petals over them.
  • Stamens may or may not peek from the petals.

To paint the bud:

  • Load a medium brown brush with yellow-green, then dip its tip in rouge to paint buds that are short and fat.
  • Load a thin soft brush with  yellow-green, then dip its tip in rouge to paint soft, young, and fresh sepals.

To paint the flower stems:

  • Load a medium soft brush with light green, then dip its tip in rouge. This should end with pointed young leaflets growing from an old branch.

To paint the old branches:

  • Load a medium brown brush with umber, then dip its tip in dark ink. Finish with dots of ‘mosses’ using dark ink.

To paint the leaves:

  • For mature leaves: Load a large brown calligraphy brush with dark green, then dip its tip in flower blue.
  • Brushstrokes from the base to the tip of the leaves should be two-toned, darker at the bases and then gradually becoming lighter toward the tips.
  •  Each leaf is made up of 3 joined leaflets.  In turn, each leaflet is made up of 3 smaller, joined leaflets which have pointed tips. So each leaf has 9 pointed tips. When still damp, load a thin brush with dark ink to paint the leaf veins.
  • For young leaves: Load a thin soft brush with light green, then dip its tip in  rouge. When still damp, paint the veins in rouge.

Enjoy painting the pink peonies and then try painting the multicoloured ones, too.  Nothing beats the joy of having painted the beautiful peonies!

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