Shirley Trevena: Still Life on a Garden Table

Inspired by a photograph I had taken in a French garden, these amaryllis and lilies were placed in front of a row of conservatory windows. Bright sunshine made the windows black and glossy, giving a perfect background to these wonderful flowers. For my composition I placed a green cloth under the vase, added a few props including a small china dove in the right-hand corner. The lacy garden seat and view through the window were images I found in my collection of photographs. The scarlet amaryllis are the stars of this show, the reds singing sweetly against the vibrant greens.


Here is my photograph of some amaryllis and lilies placed on a windowsill. I could see the possibilities of a painting and added a strip of pink patterned carpet, a jug and bowl. We were staying in a house in France, I didn’t have my wonderful props with me so it was all a bit make do, but I knew I could use this image for a painting when I got back home in England. I don’t begin with a pencil drawing on the paper, just jump straight into the deep end and start painting the red amaryllis.

I painted the surrounding colours to the amaryllis, various greens and blues. Rather like working on a jigsaw I only add colours to existing paint marks.

At this stage I can’t wait to see how the dark areas of the windows will exaggerate the various shades of red and give me the negative spaces of the white lilies. With these rich, dark areas painted the picture comes alive, stretching out to the edges of the paper.

I now had to decide what objects I would chose to replace the jug and bowl in my photograph. I wanted it to be a garden painting and so I pulled the composition away from the windowsill and put the vase and bowls on a green table. I found a photograph of a garden bench, this I did draw on the paper first and then used masking fluid to keep it’s whiteness. I never use white paint, all my whites are the watercolour paper shining through. The view through the window is also a picture cut from a magazine and placed on the paper just to make sure it was going to work or if I should go ahead and darken the whole of the top area. This is the beauty of checking first with cut out paper, if it’s wrong you can change it without a lot of heartbreak over trying to take out large areas of watercolour paint.

The vibrant green tablecloth connects the floral still life to the base of the picture. The masking fluid has been removed and you can now see the shape of the bench. There was a lot of tweaking the colours at this point, the centre of the colours darkened, the leaves and stalks made more vibrant.

I have added the view through the window copying my cut out photograph. The box and china now have more colour and a small white china dove had been painted in the bottom right-hand corner. The red amaryllis are certainly the stars of this show and rather like stained glass they glow against the dense, dark areas.


Shirley’s DANIEL SMITH Watercolor Palette
consists of:

  • Cadmium Red Scarlet Hue
  • Quinacridone Pink
  • Piemontite Genuine
  • Green Apatite Genuine
  • Undersea Green
  • Imperial Purple
  • Jadeite Genuine
  • Sugilite Genuine
  • Fuchsite Genuine
  • Rich Green Gold
  • Zoisite Genuine