Brilliant colour in wood lilies

Native wood lilies (Lilium philadelphicum) are brilliant orange or vermillion. (Or yellow, on Manitoulin Island.) The flowers are pollinated by hummingbirds and they cannot afford to by shy. Portraying that brilliant colour was my first concern in drawing these lilies. I used the same sketch in June in an attempt to use Yupo as a substrate and I gave up the attempt – Yupo is a brilliant white but I could not find a way to get it to accept a saturated colur built up from several layers. This week I returned to my lilies, this time using traditional coloured pencils (mostly Prismacolor) on watercolour paper.

The first stage is to transfer the shapes to the watercolour paper using a very thin outline. For my next step, I start adding areas of dark, to build my forms and establish their relationship to each other. This is very different from watercolours, with which one has to start with lightest colour and work toward darks.

Wood lily: outline in thin colour, and first layer of dark shadow colour.

I continued to add colour, trying very hard to keep the hues brilliant. The undersides of the petals have some ochred tones, but mostly I used carmine, pure orange and lemon yellow. To see the finished drawing, please go to the Wild flowers page.

Wood lily: adding areas of yellow and orange.

Published by

Trish Murphy

Artist: botanical, still life, and natural history illustration. Garden designer: native plants and naturalistic gardens