Jacarandas on the Brisbane River

Jacaranda trees are magical, and here in south-east Queensland they are particularly magnificent in October and November. They celebrate my birthday – and end of year exams. I figured that they would make a good subject for watercolour painting. So on our Urban Sketcher meet at Kangaroo Point – at the tail end of jacaranda season – I was on the lookout for some jacarandas to paint.

Jacarandas at Kangaroo Point


This was my most recent attempt, and a lot better than my first efforts. At least I have managed to capture some of the beautiful mauve flower display… but painting trees against a hill is never easy.

Here is the photo I took, across the river:

To paint, the background is quite dark, and the background buildings are boring.

This was my first effort, in the field (“en plein air” is perhaps a little grand for what I was doing… ):

Jacarandas at Kangaroo Point - first attempt


This was done in my 6″ X 6″ sketchbook, which first of all was the wrong format for such a panoramic scene, and moreover was far too small for all the detail I was trying to cram in.

The beautiful old Queenslander house is not too badly done – though a little wonky – but the jacarandas themselves got overwhelmed by the dark shadows which I was using to try to bring out the brilliance of the blooms through contrast. And the shape is just a formless blob…

The rework (first image above) is much better, done on A4 watercolour paper and not trying to include the whole panorama.

I’ve managed to capture a fuller range of values in the trees, and was able to be more impressionistic with the background buildings. I like the way I’ve done the Queenslander house in the foreground, and specially with the dark verandah openings including different colours to add interest and suggest at what might be going on inside.

The river is simplified, with the walkway and so on being omitted, and I have used Daniel Smith Kyalite genuine to add some sparkly highlights in the water. This is an amazing paint – it has tiny flakes of mineral in the paint, which add a subtle glitter to the foreground (which is only properly visible in the original painting).

Anyway, it’s now way past jacaranda season, so my next attempt to depict these glorious trees will have to wait…

Mara Dall (46 Posts)

Mara Dall is a writer and traveller, exploring wild, magical places of the earth, of the mind, and of the soul. Read more about her here.