Spring lilacs – challenge 59

It was cool and partly cloudy, but spring was in the air today at Descanso Gardens, where the lilacs are beginning to bloom. I painted this botanical study in my paperblanks journal which I am using for that purpose, exclusively (see callistemon, earlier this month.)

I used a combination of tube watercolor paints and caran d’ache watersoluble crayons for this one – with just the barest pencil drawing underneath. A Niji waterbrush provided the water. It was a special treat to have several conversations with other garden visitors who like plants and art.

Now, this is in complete contrast to “Union Station Sketchcrawl” (March 12) in which I changed almost every aspect of the courtyard to suit my composition. Here, I tried to faithfully represent the subject as best I could. I think that both are good styles for drawing, you just need to be clear about your objective before beginning.


  1. Linda
    March 20, 2006

    Karen — this is beautifully done! A perfect botanical drawing.

  2. Lin
    March 20, 2006

    I MELT into this one Karen … GLORIOUS in its simplicity and exquisite rendering!

  3. Nicole
    March 20, 2006

    Very lovely botanical. Makes me think of spring. I can smell the lilacs from here! Your online sketchbook is a delight.

  4. Brenda
    March 20, 2006

    Karen – you have lilacs already!! I’m jealous.

    Our forsythia are in full bloom for now, and considering they’re another of my favorites, I will be content for now.

    Thanks for a beautiful piece.

  5. Sioux
    March 20, 2006

    It is so lovely…so soft and delicate, as new spring flowers are.

  6. Jim
    March 20, 2006


    I have a degree in the biological sciences. Your sketch here reminds me of so many hundreds (thousands?) of these types of drawings we had to study in a plant taxonomy class I once took about 848 years ago. You have done the practice proud here. Way to go.

    By the way, where do you live to have lilacs already in bloom? Here, our lilacs are just now beginning to get buds and there is not a leaf on any one of them to be found.


  7. Rachel
    March 20, 2006

    Just stunning…I love the look on the cream paper too! our lilacs, which grow surprisingly ok in el paso because they don’t need much water, are just leafing now.

  8. Karen
    March 20, 2006

    Thank you, Jim (and all)! I love those types of drawings, too. I have some framed over our bed, although I think it will take me many many years to even begin to approach that skill. It really takes a lifetime to do what those illustrators did.

    Regarding blooming time — we are in Southern California, so I think ours may be the first in the country (other than TX or FL, but I don’t believe it ever gets cold enough in Florida to grow them. They may need a little chill.) We can’t grow peonies either, not enough cold weather.

  9. Karen
    March 20, 2006

    Thank you Rachel, you are just a little bit behind us, climate-wise. Some of our lilacs are still in bud/leaf also. I think it depends upon the species.

  10. joyce
    March 20, 2006

    Beautiful sketch! I love the idea of a special sketch book just for these….will it be a garden journal of sorts?

  11. coffee
    March 21, 2006

    Been quite busy lately. Can see that I have missed out quite a lot. Love the effect given by the paper.

  12. Karen
    March 21, 2006

    Joyce, I think it will be more along the line of just pure plant drawings since some of these are not grown in my yard. But if I am growing them then I’ll write a little bit about the plant on the left hand page.

  13. Toni
    March 21, 2006

    Karen I like how you presented this lilac, the different parts and comments. Simple and elegant.

  14. Nancy
    March 22, 2006

    How beautiful, and what an amazing range of styles you excel at! I just love this.

  15. Ulla
    March 29, 2006

    Beautiful and very poetic!

  16. clare
    March 29, 2006

    Karen your botanical drawings are DELICIOUS! I am so in awe of what you produce.

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