Flower Paintings – Painting Flowers

http://artandphotographyhenning.blogspot.comI love flower paintings!

I love painting flowers!

About flowers, abundance, proportions, wild flowers, pastels, inspiration, famous still lives, contemporary art, mixed seasons and more …


17th Century  –  Dutch Still Life Paintings

Flower paintings emerged basically in 17th century Netherlands. The famous names here are:

Ambrosius Bosschaert (1573-1621)

Jan Brueghel (1586-1625)

Jan Davidsz. de Heem (1606-1684)

Abraham Mignon (1640-1679)

Rachel Ruysch (1664-1750)

Jan van Huysum (1682-1749)

(In: Celia Fisher, Flower Paintings by 40 Great Artists, 2012, franceslincoln.com [editor])

Down below you can see a beautiful and funny picture by Juan de Arellano (1614-1676) who is not on the above list because he is Spanish. He painted flowers in beautiful, vibrant colours. This one shows a toppeled over vase, flowers all over the place.


Juan de Arellano, Flowers on Some Steps, 1665, oil on canvas

Photo by courtesy of: www.the-athenaeum.org/art/detail.php?ID=116681

Some more information regarding the appearance of flower still lives you can find in my blog post: Vibrant colours: flowers, fruit, vegetables

My Own Paintings

Inspiration by Jan Davidsz. de Heem

I don’t know what Mr de Heem did. However, I bought a bunch of pink roses and a bunch of sweet Williams because of their vibrant colours (and because they were cheap). I had intended to paint them in acrylics on a black canvas which would bring out the colours quite nicely. Like e.g. in de Heem‘s picture.

BUT: Personally, I find pastels so much easier for painting flowers realistically. I did flowers in pastels for two years solid in the past. Therefore, pastels it was!

Materials used:     one sheet of A3 black velours paper

soft pastels

To start with, I put on some roses and sweet Williams which soooo did NOT look great at all!!! Oh, sooo not!

I was sure it would never work out – no way! And that right at the start …

Project, ArtHenning


Mixed Seasons Flowers

The only thing that might help, I thought, would be putting way more flowers in, to save the paper if nothing else, and then I remembered my favourite Dutch paintings. Got the book out and looked for an inspiration. And there it was: de Heem’s painting.

A wild thing: A happy mix of abundant wild and not so wild flowers and what-not in vibrant colours on a basically black background. Totally overflowing! Awesome!


Jan Davidsz. de Heem, Flowers in a Glass Vase, oil on wood, ca. 1650

Cheap into the bargain with the wild flowers! Wow!

That really got me going. First I copied a few flowers of my own old flower still lives like the two tulips and a branch of wild ivy with purple berries. I’ve been into wild flowers for years. They can add a lot of interest. All flowers originate from wild plants anyway.

Tulips, ArtHenning                                    Wild Ivy in Brown Jug, ArtHenning

Tulips, watercolour, 2011                                             Wild Ivy in a Brown Jug, pastel, 2011

Just like in the 17th century, I ended up with a mix of different seasons’ flowers. Easy-going mix-and-match! A feast for the eyes: roses, sweet Williams, tulips, wild ivy, meadowsweet, guilder roses (viburnum opulus) and chrysanthemums.


Proportions and the Quest for Abundance

The proportions of the flowers in themselves and to each other didn’t bother me too much. The famous Dutch artists didn’t seem to always put a lot of emphasis on getting that one right. Not the way we do these days. So – take it easy! Easy-going does it! For more information on this relaxed approach, see my blog post: How to Draw – Portrait of an Elephant

After the tulips and the ivy I had to come up with more ideas. Meadowsweet was still in bloom and it smells absolutely GORGEOUS. A bit like honey. The downside: It doesn’t last long in water (it grows everywhere along the roads and in the fields). But once picked, better paint it within hours! I tried it before!!! It is edible by the way, in small amounts. So no poisoning. In the past it was used as a medicinal plant.

Meadowsweet, ArtHenning                              Meadowsweet Garden, ArtHenning

Meadowsweet in My Garden, photos Bridge 2017

The meadowsweet flowers are actually pale yellow like in my painting.

Meadowsweet was still not enough! Next idea: The shiny berries on the guelder roses (viburnum opulus) with red and green leaves in between were right in front of my nose – as in my front garden – and looking fantastic. I cut a small branch and in it went into the vase and my picture. They last a while. They are very healthy, these berries. Loaded with vitamin C. People made jelly with them in the past. Horrible on the tastebuds when raw. I read it!!! Not going to try!

Autumn Reds, ArtHenningGuelder roses with red berries in my front garden, photo Bridge 2017

Still not enough! Something else required for the composition. But what???

Looking around the house at my old paintings. Ahhh! These small yellow chrysanthemums with brown centers, looking more like miniature sunflowers, which I painted some years ago.

   Chrysanthemums and Gerbera, ArtHenning

Chrysanthemums and Gerbera, pastel, 2008

Now this looks different! That’s it!

Abundance, ArtHenning

Abundance, pastel, 2017

Looks finished to me. I can certainly live with that. What do you think?


Best wishes, Bridget

Find me on my website: arthenning.com

or on facebook: facebook.com/BridgetHenningArt

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