img507Painting this wonderful vibrant red bouquet was quite a challenge. My local florist Fabulous Flowers provided me with the image which appeared in Wedding Flowers Magazine. It is a beautiful hand-tied bouquet of `Piano’, `Ruby Red’ and `Black Baccara’ roses together with `Rubicon’ spray roses.

The first thing I do before I get my paintbrush out or start to draw is to study the flowers in the photograph in detail and find out as much information as I can about them. Understanding the general structure of a flower is important. Although I am not a botanical flower painter observing the shape and form of each bloom at the outset pays dividends later. Sometimes I even buy an example of each flower to work from. I have heard it said that `drawing should be 80% looking and 20% moving the pencil’. Whilst studying the bouquet what really struck me was the fabulous variety of reds. I knew that in my painting it would be vital to mix exactly the right colour red for each bloom.

What I like about this bouquet is the strong contrast between the Black Baccara roses and the other brighter roses. True black coloured roses don’t exist. The closest you can get to black are Black Baccara and Black Magic. Both roses are long stemmed hybrid tea roses. Black Baccara has the darkest coloured roses. While it is not truly black it has a beautiful velvety rich deep-red colour. Black Magic is also a dark red or burgundy colour, but not quite as dark.

With Black Baccara being so dark a brighter red rose in contrast gives more dimension to the bouquet. Piano roses are medium sized, dark red on the outside and lighter red on the inside. They open beautifully into a perfect deep cup similar to peonies in look and are often used to subsitute when peonies are out of season. Ruby Red roses are vibrant red blooms. The Rubicon Spray roses add an extra dimenson of colour with the green foliage of the bud.

To be honest before I painted this bouquet I wasn’t keen on red roses! I would rather be given a bouquet of country garden style flowers or cheerful yellow roses for Valentines day than the traditional deep red rose.  I have been pondering why I wasn’t keen on red roses and I think it is the shade of red. I am drawn to cheerful Spring like colours and these are also the colours that suit me. I really don’t like dull burgundy red as it reminds me of school uniforms! However I do like poppy and scarlet red.


The Hidden Meaning behind the Colour of Roses

Red Roses

The red rose is the ultimate symbol of romantic love and enduring passion. Red roses are ancient symbols of love  and have long been associated with romance. The poet Robert Burns once wrote “my love is like a red, red Rose, that’s newly sprung in June”.




Yellow Roses In Victorian times the yellow rose was a symbol of jealousy. Today yellow represents friendship, joy and caring. A bouquet of sunshine-filled blooms conveys warmth and affection. Maybe that is why I like them so much. In our wedding vows my husband and I promised to care, respect and cherish each other.  Yellow roses seem to convey these promises.


White RosesThe white rose represents purity and innocence. It is often referred to as the Bridal Rose and conveys a sense of new beginnings.




Pink RosesThe pink rose is youthful and symbolizes gentility, femininity and elegance. Pink is considered the colour of happiness and is often considered as lighthearted and fun.



Orange RosesThe orange rose is fun and flamboyant and radiates warmth and energy.

Orange flowers are often used as a symbol of enthusiasm, endurance and confidence.


The Colour Red

When I was deciding how to paint this image of  `Ruby Red’ Bouquet I concluded that the most important aspect to convey was the colour `red’. What makes the bouquet work is the deep dark red of the Baccara roses contrasted against the vivid scarlet roses. The image is all about the colour red. Usually my primary concern is to choose watercolour pigments which are transparent and convey the luminosity of each bloom. This time I decided that it was more important to get the colour right. I was prepared to sacrifice transparency to get the right colour.

I have enjoyed exploring the concept of  the colour `red’. There are so many words which  can be used to convey a sense of `redness’ – crimson, scarlet, poppy, rust, ruby,maroon and burgundy are just a few. There was an excellent radio programme with Stephen Fry on the language of colour last year – Fry’s English Delight. It explored how we developed words to describe colour.  There is an emotional language behind colour. On the programme David Hockney said `We all see colour differently. We see with memory and emotion.’  I definately have an emotional response to the colours used to describe redness. I am drawn to warm red colours – crimson, scarlet and poppy. It is an emotional response. The colours remind me of summer fields of poppies and brilliant sunsets which give me a feeling of warmth and happiness.  On the other hand I dislike maroon and burgundy. The words remind me of shabby dull school uniforms! However my emotional response would be different if I thought of rich, deep, luxurious velvet or a fine red wine!  To other people `poppy red’ symbolises war and death.

I love exploring colour and the attributes of each of my paint pigments. There are three  properties to color. First is hue, which simply means the name we give to a color e.g. red, yellow or blue. The second property of colour is the intensity or saturation. This refers to the strength and vividness of a colour. The red hues in my bouquet image are all very intense and highly saturated. We have a striking scarlet red and a strong intense dark red. Neither colour is dull or grayed.  The third property of colour is its value meaning its lightness or darkness. The term shade or tint refer to value changes in colour. Some pigments can be applied very intensely or darkly other pigments will always be pale in colour. Sometimes I convert a painting to monochrome to check if I have the values and correct range of tones.

Another aspect I considered when choosing my red pigments to paint with was whether the hue could be described as warm or cool. Warm reds lean towards orange or yellow. Cool reds lean towards purple or blue. In my bouquet picture we have the warm scarlet reds and the darker cooler reds of the Baccara roses.

I experimented producing colour charts to see which red pigments would work best in my painting.

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Once I had put so much ground work in to finding the right reds for my Ruby Red Bouquet picture the actual painting was a real joy. I can truly say I now appreciate the richness of burgundy red in a way I didn’t before! I hope you like it!

Red Roses





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