Hyacinth Bud Vase Progressive

This will be a long post covering four days of painting work on an 24 x 18 painting. I am creating just one post, instead of many daily writings, so that you can follow easily in sequence, from top to bottom, instead of the usual way that consecutive blog posts read bottom to top. Okay? Let's go…


In August, the local grocery store was selling hyacinth bulbs in small glass vases. Standing in the store, I got this idea for a painting. (Don't you love that "Aha" moment?) I could see it in my head, but wondered if I could really accomplish it. Always up for a creative challenge, I went for it.

I set up the vase on the floor of my south facing lanai, which gets all day natural light and constantly changing shadows as the sun moves across the afternoon sky. It sat on a light beige mat board, with a dark brown board behind it. I set up a camera on a tripod right in front of the vase. During the next ten days, as the plant grew, I shot 124 pictures of it. I was trying to capture the image I had in my head.


Of course, there is no possible way I could get the vision in my head within a photo, so I used several as references for the different parts of the plant. The image I decided on was sketched lightly in graphite pencil on an 24 x 18 inch stretched and gessoed cotton canvas.

I usually start with the background. That gives me some value reference as I paint the subject. The first colors are a guess. You can see my paint scribble as I try a few tones. Settling on one, I start blocking in the background. I always hope I have guessed correctly, but sometimes I get the whole painting done and find the first colors down have to be redone.

Hint: If you are going to work a large area in a solid, flat color, then mix up about three times the amount you think you are going to need. The exact color can never been remixed, no matter how good your color sense is, and you will end up using most of it in corrections and subsequent layers. Save the mixture by putting it  in a small plastic container or wrapped tightly in plastic wrap (as I do). Protected from air like this, it will keep for a few weeks at your easel or months in your refrigerator.

As more background colors go down, the edges are blended and softened. 

Hint: Your principal subject, what you want the viewer's eye to see first, is done with sharp edges. Elsewhere, soften edges.


My favorite part of the vase are the roots, so I have started blocking them in. With such a complex pattern, it is sometimes overwhelming as to how to start. I find it easiest to just get some paint down, then adjust by pushing other colors into and around that paint.

When I was happy with the initial stages of the roots, I went onto the bulb. The waterline was done three times before it looked right. The roots were deepened in value. A black line was put under the vase, simply because it bothered me not to have that done. 


Blocking in the white flowers and foliage. At this point, I can start to see my original vision come to life.


The top of the bulb was painted. For the first time, the canvas was covered with paint. There is still work to do on the foliage and blossoms, but I need to let them dry first. The bottom of the vase, around the roots, was darkened to get some contrast and sparkle.

Hint: If you want an area or highlights to appear brighter, darken the area around them.

The canvas is being put aside for a week to let all the paint dry. While I am happy with the bulb, roots, and vase, there is more work needed on the greens and flowers. The brown background needs a second coat, especially to cut in better shapes around the blossoms. The shadow in the foreground also needs a second coat and better shape. There is one or two more days at the easel to finish.

I hope you have enjoyed this progressive. Please email at NanceDanforth@moments.red with any questions. Happy creating!

end of day four

roots detail

unfinished plant detail

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