Lilacs by Haidee-Jo Summers

Lilacs, oil on stretched linen canvas, (45.5x40.5cm)

Haidee-Jo Summers shows that there's a subject to be found in every garden as she demonstrates an oil painting of a table of pots and plants beside a potting shed.

Gardens as inspiration

Claude Monet, the artist most famous for being a passionate horticulturist, dedicated 43 years of his life to developing and painting his beautiful garden at Giverny. Many of his most iconic works were completed there, such as The Japanese Footbridge and Water Lily series, which consists of around 250 paintings.

My garden certainly isn’t on the grand scale of Giverny, and my gardening skills are almost non-existent, but I think there’s a subject to be found in even the most humble backyard.

Painting at home has many obvious advantages, you needn’t worry about forgetting any supplies and refreshments are readily available.

Another great reason to choose your own garden as a subject is being able to study the same view in different lighting conditions and throughout all the seasons.

I have painted a small series of the yew tree in my front garden at different times of the day for my own practice and development (see below).

Yew Tree Morning Light

Yew Tree, Morning Light, oil, (20.5x25.5cm)

Yew Tree Afternoon Light

Yew Tree, Afternoon Light, oil, (20.5x25.5cm)

Yew tree March Drizzle

Yew Tree, March Drizzle, oil, (20.5x25.5cm)

Light and movement

Washing Line and Apple Blossom by Haidee-Jo Summers

Washing Line and Apple Blossom, oil, (15x30.5cm)

Before you decide on a viewpoint and composition you need to start looking at your garden through your artist’s eyes, observing areas that have an interesting abstract arrangement of shapes and colours. A simple viewfinder can help you to see a potential composition for a painting, but make sure that the shape of the aperture you are looking through has the same proportions as your painting surface. Then you can use the viewfinder frame to note where objects in your composition will reach the edges of your panel or canvas.

One of my favourite garden subjects is clothes on a washing line. I’m excited by the patterns of light, particularly on white garments, the unexpected shapes and movement and, also I must acknowledge, a sentimental attachment to this motif.

Other garden subjects that I am particularly drawn to are vegetables growing in raised beds or containers, and the play of light through a greenhouse or reflections of the sky in glass or water. Even on a dull overcast day there is light to be found if you have a pond or greenhouse.

Greenhouse and Sheets, Solva

Greenhouse and Sheets, oil, (30.5x40.5cm)



Nasturtiums at Rosemary’s, oil, (30.5x40.5cm)

If you are a flower painter I very much recommend getting outside and painting flowers as they are growing, not least because they may last rather longer than they will in a vase (weather permitting) but also because the deep shadows in a mass of foliage do a terrific job of showcasing the blooms, as in my painting of nasturtiums (above).


Tea in the Garden, May

Tea in the Garden, May, oil, (25.5x30.5cm)

I try to include my pets when I can, or those belonging to owners of the garden that I’m painting.

Cats and hens are my favourites to capture. The painting Tea in the Garden, May (above) shows my cat Pumpkin asleep on a chair in the garden. We recently lost Pumpkin at a grand old age and are so happy to still have this special painting.

Charlie and the white daffodils

Charlie and White Daffodils, oil, (25.5x20.5cm)


Demonstration: Beside the Potting Shed, Gunby Hall

Potting shed, Gunby Hall by haidee-Jo Summers

Beside the Potting Shed, Gunby Hall, stretched cotton canvas, (28x35.5cm)

I prefer to look for an intimate little corner rather than a grand sweeping vista, and as I am seeking a challenging arrangement of shapes I am often drawn to areas of clutter, which exists beside a shed or greenhouse.

Gunby Hall in Lincolnshire provided me with this complicated scene to get my teeth into. My aim was to simplify the chaotic subject and capture a joyful and timeless scene, one that is familiar to all gardeners.

One of the loveliest aspects of this subject for me was the textural contrast between the more regimented solid shapes of the pots, table and building features and the more fluid, delicate shapes of the foliage.

oil paints