Step by step watercolour study of an 18th century floral painting

The original oil painting. Source:

With the long winter lockdown evenings, I was looking for a project I could really get my teeth into to pass the time. For a while now, I’ve really admired a floral still life in a Dulwich Picture Gallery catalogue of Dutch and Flemish painting that I have. It’s by a little-known Dutch painter called Francina Margaretha van Huysum, who trained under her father Jan van Huysum – a family of floral painters! This beautiful still life takes up just one quarter of the page in this catalogue and is only a quick reference. Nonetheless, it’s the page to which I always turn and it sprang to mind when I was wondering what to paint.

My flat is a bit too packed to set up shop with an easel and oil paints and so I decided to use my go-to medium of watercolour. I wanted something with lots of intricate detail to delve into and the cacophony of botanical textures and forms in this still life was just what I was looking for. It’s also been glorious to spend time staring into those luminous pale pinks, set against inky shades of teal and indigo. The colour palette is probably what most drew me to this still life although, like so many others, I can never resist a billowing vase of fluffy peonies. Painting this study has filled me with anticipation for peony seasons to come!

When I first shared the final artwork on Instagram, I was asked if I had any progress shots and I actually do – for once! I should really take photographs of new work as it develops more often as I love to see this with other people’s creations too. So I’m sharing below what I do have, apologies for the phone quality. I hope it’s interesting to see how it progressed. The final painting is at the very end and is also now available as a print.

And this is where I stopped documenting the progress on my phone – behold the final study below! (Once I scanned it in to my computer so you can see it properly). If you’d like to see the giclée print available in my shop, I’ll link it here.

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