George Elgood was one of the great Victorian watercolorists specializing in flower gardens.
His paintings show botanically accurate flowers in natural groupings, often with architectural or landscape elements. Flower gardens are a brain-busting challenge to paint in watercolor because you have to paint precisely around all the light shapes.
Let’s go back in a time machine 100 years to see how he does it.
Mr. Elgood draws the whole subject carefully in pencil, especially if there are architectural elements. But he prefers not to tie himself to a hard and fast outline, instead drawing as much with the brush as much as with the pencil.
According to A. L. Baldry, who watched him work, he often “lays the whole thing in at once, sometimes in colours which are not by any means those he sees in nature,” thinking ahead to the colors he wants to add later when finishing.
He then builds the rendering from a strong dark and light focus. He works fairly rapidly, often focusing on a group of flowers that is in peak bloom.
He then moves on to other groups on subsequent days of a multiple-day plein-air study. All of his works are done primarily on the spot, though he doesn’t copy what he sees, but rather uses nature as a reference for a composition that he assembles from the best elements.
He uses no opaque white and limited scratching out. His preference is for lifting lights out of wet washes and in general working simply and directly. He works on smooth, stretched Whatman paper with a relatively small palette of colors.
A. L. Baldry “The Practice of Water-Colour Painting,” London, 1911