Tulips – there is something about these gorgeous flowers which makes me happy just looking at them. I’m not sure if it is because of the years I spent in Holland as a little kid, or because my father takes so much pride in raising them to share with the family. There is definitely something special about sitting down with a glass of wine in his beachside garden, watching the colours on the petals change as the sun streams in from different angles. It is a truly beautiful experience.

But these particular tulips, I have to confess, are my backup supply. My solution to a black thumb, if you will. Tulips that will brighten my day whether or not they receive water or any type of loving care. Tulips that can be shoved quickly into my bag of art supplies when I suddenly have to find flowers for our monthly art group. Ok, I might be blushing, but I can’t deny it any more … yes, they are fakes. Latex in fact. Beautiful, certainly. But real? Not at all. And I, who once scoffed at the idea of artificial flowers, have bunches of bright yellow and red tulips throughout my house, no matter what the season. And I’m proud of it. So there!

I have painted tulips before, but this time was different. As part of our monthly art group, Beth showed us a video of Helen Cooper demonstrating her flower painting. I loved it – the brilliant colours, the focus on lights and darks, the apparent simplicity, the way her glass vases slide gently into the background. Just gorgeous.

Of course we had to try it ourselves. In the video Helen cautions against painting tulips as they turn towards the light. I had a feeling that my tulips might not have that issue 🙂

We started with a 30 minute tonal drawing of flowers from Laziza’s garden to warm up. I can’t say mine was brilliant, but I tried hard to avoid drawing lines and to concentrate on drawing shades of light and dark instead. So frustrating though, when bits of the drawing don’t join up in the right place!

Painting red tulips inspired by artist Helen Cooper

After admiring everyone’s sketches, and a few more nibbles, including Laziza’s amazing poached plums with yoghurt – we sat down to create a little painting of our own, attempting to follow the lead of Helen Cooper. Easier said than done, as you can imagine.

I must have painted over that background 20 times. The same with the tulips, their stems, and the jar which just kept changing shape without asking me for permission first. So many times I thought “yuck – I’ve mucked it up now!” but I kept going. There is nothing quite like paint when it comes to forgiving (or covering up) mistakes. It is just one layer upon another.

In the end I have to say I like it. It’s not very sophisticated, but it IS a simple, little, bright, happy painting. It reflects how I felt that day, spending my time with good friends. And I couldn’t ask for more than that. Once more, I’m grateful to our wonderful teacher Beth for inspiring us to try something new.

And I’m grateful to Helen Cooper too – I love her work, and her generosity in sharing her techniques. Thank you 🙂

[PS For my fellow students in Sketchbook Skool I’m also going to count this as homework for Bootkamp. Surely it qualifies as an artwork inspired by another artist?]