Rainbow Flower

A few weeks ago I took a picture of a red hibiscus flower on the short walk from the driveway to our front door. I always do that – take pictures of something that strikes my eye. Usually a brilliant color or subtle design attracts my attention. That day, I had an additional unexpected pleasure: lens flare. Most of the time, lens flare (the bouncing around of light within the camera lens, creating auras on the focal plane) is annoying. This time, it also added an essential element of design to the composition.

Digital Photo: Rainbow flower (lens flare)

Rainbow Flower
Digital Phone Photo

Watercolor experiment:

My wife, Joy loves rainbows. I tried to capture the essence of this photo in watercolor.


I knew that it would be impossible to paint any kind of color over a black background in the watercolor medium, so I blocked out the places for the rays, with latex resist.  I also modified the format from portrait to landscape.

The petals of the flower required a number of different shades of red due to the wide range of values from pinkish to dark red. The ticklish part was the thin stamen. I painted small dots of cadmium orange and hoped they would be visible to the viewer.

After the resist dried, I used neutral tint to darken the background, and removed it to reveal the white beams.

I had planned to paint dots of the rainbow spectrum on my wide (3.5 inch) brush and use it to paint the rainbow on each of the appropriate rays of white.  It was a good plan, and it worked… on the first ray. It seemed that the first miniature stroke – not even a stroke – the first touch of the brush rendered it unusable to paint the other rays.  I painted the rest of them individually.

Watercolor: Hibiscus with sun and rainbow rays

Rainbow Flower
9″x12″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block


I like this piece, even though it doesn’t resemble the photo much, and some of the ‘rainbow’ rays look like knitted scarfs.  It does capture some of the spirit of the original.

8 thoughts on “Rainbow Flower

    • Thank you, Otto. I appreciate your comment. I didn’t refer much to the photo after I sketched in the flower and the rays. I was a bit surprised at the difference between the photo and the painting after seeing them side by side. You’re right: the painting turned out to be a deconstruction of the photo.
      Thanks again.


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