How to Paint Lilacs

Charong Chow

Lilacs in the United States predate the revolutionary war but are not natives. According to Harvard's Arnold Arboretum, the common lilac (Syringa vulgaris) is originally from eastern Europe and is also known as the French hybrid. One of the most famous paintings of lilacs, is Vincent Van Gogh's "Lilac Bush,"

Many artists have painted lilacs.

which was painted in 1889 in Saint-Remy. He used dynamic and vibrant brushstrokes over the flowers to convey naturalism and the power of nature. To create your own lilac painting, start with the flower's basic anatomy.

  1. Squeeze green and violet acrylic paints onto your palette. You will use your palette to hold the paint before your use them, and you will mix colors here too.

  2. Lilac flowers grow on a tall stalk.
  3. Paint a vertical green line just off center onto your prepared canvas with the green paint. This line will be the main stalk for your lilac flowers and it should be slightly diagonal, rather than completely straight. It will give your flowers a more realistic look.

  4. Add another green diagonal line from the bottom of your first green stroke. It should start from the bottom and go to the left. This will be the secondary stalk of lilac flowers.

  5. Dab violet paint into a four-petal pinwheel shape at the bottom of the main green stalk. Above this first flower paint a row of three flowers in the same fashion. It should look random and natural. Above the row of three flowers, paint five pinwheel-shaped flowers.

  6. Paint rows of flowers above the last row of five flowers until you reach the top of the stalk. As you get higher on the stalk, decrease the amount of flowers so it has an overall cone shape.

  7. Dab four-leaved pinwheel-shaped flowers on the secondary stalk in the same fashion as the main stalk. Wait about one hour or more for the paint to dry.

  8. Mix one part white to one part violet paint onto your palette. This lighter purple color will be used to create variations of color on your lilacs.

  9. Highlight some of your flower petals with the light purple paint you mixed. Randomly paint some violet petals with this paint. This will create a more natural look.

  10. Dot some of the flower centers with white and light purple. This will give your flowers depth. Go back and add violet shadows onto the flowers by repainting some of the petals with violet paint.

  11. Tip

    Acrylic paint is more versatile and faster-drying than oil paints. They are good for beginner painters. You may add dark blue or black to your violet paint to create a dark purple to use for the shadows. Leaves may be painted at the bottom of the stalks. Paint a teardrop shape in green and add veins of white afterwards. Lilacs range from deep purple to very light purple in color. You can experiment with color variations in your painting.


    Use a drop cloth for your table and floor. Acrylic paint may stain fabric and floors.