Cherry Blossom, water-mixable oil on canvas board, (25.5x30.5cm)

Loosen up your brushstrokes as you paint pink cherry blossom against a bright blue sky using water-mixable oils, acrylics or traditional oil paints with Valérie Pirlot.

I produced this painting en plein air in my garden looking directly at the subject. I am a strong advocate for painting outdoors. If this is new to you, I recommend you give it a try, as it is one of the best ways to enjoy the richness of the colours surrounding you.

If you have a tree in blossom in your garden, why not give it a go and apply the same steps detailed in this demonstration to your very own subject? Otherwise, feel free to use my reference photograph, below, or even take your own reference during one of your walks.

Reference photo. Note that I’ve only painted a small section of the flowers pictured on the photograph but decided to include the whole branch in the photo as you might want to crop it differently for your own painting.

Top tips on tone

When painting flowers, people are often obsessed about colours, and rightly so, but often, achieving the right tones – the depiction of lights and darks – is what will help you to convey a real sense of vibrancy, brightness and likeness in your painting.

Don’t be scared of making your darks dark enough, and sometimes dull enough, if needed, as it will contrast beautifully with your bright colours.

Top tips on painting contre-jour

When you are painting contre-jour, it simply means that the light source, in this case the sun, is behind your subject. This often results in the desaturation of the colours in your subject. Indeed, the flowers in the centre look slightly dull and grey, because they are in the shade and the eye of the viewer is blinded by the light.

A wonderful advantage of painting contre-jour is the beautiful halo of light hitting the edges of the objects, making those areas light and bright, contrasting nicely with the areas in the shade. I find such subjects often more interesting than those in full light, precisely because of those interesting contrasts between light source, halo and shade.

Demonstration: Cherry Blossom

For this painting Valérie uses Winsor & Newton Artisan water-mixable oils