The Smell of Honeysuckle


One day recently as I walked near my favorite Lane, I smelled honeysuckle! I could smell it before I could see it. And then, rounding the corner at the top of our neighborhood, there it was…a blanket of white and yellow vining in a tangle of overgrown weeds.

Bliss! You know how it is…

A hush of the scent comes wafting ever so gently on the morning breeze, blue skies dancing as the smell increases until it’s heady fragrance nearly knocks you over! But it’s a curious thing, this honeysuckle. If you go up to it, actually pick a stem of the flowers, they don’t look much like they smell. You expect to see some sultry, large-petaled, bright colored flower to match the fragrance that drew you in. Instead, you find small straw-like flowers in pale shades of white and yellow. And when you put the flower to your nose, hoping to breathe in more of its musky odor, you can barely smell it, causing you to wonder if you have the right patch of flowers.

Honeysuckle fragrance is best from an entire patch of it, rather than a single stem. I like that. It speaks to the whole “we are better together, than just on our own” thing.


Now…how to paint that smell? I put this challenge to myself, and stood for rather a long time in front of my drawing table. Eventually something came out of my brush. The above is my attempt. Here’s how my thinking went as I tried to paint the smell, without painting what honeysuckle looked like.

*What medium does honeysuckle suggest? The vivid heft of soft pastels? Heavy acrylics? Black & white pen? Watery watercolor? etc. I decided that watercolor was perfect for the ethereal smell of honeysuckle.

*What about the smell is predominant in my mind? Is it the light sweet aroma? Or the strong, heady odor? I decided I think of honeysuckle as being light and sweet with a few punctuations of the strong stuff. So my painting needed to be on the watery side to depict this airy fragrance.  Then have bits of more concentrated color and some splashes to denote the heavier smell.

*What small bits of its physical properties can I include but not describe? The fact that the fragrance wafts from the ground up was something I tried to suggest with the darker greens near the bottom of the page and the slight blue at the top. And the little stamen in the centers of the flowers seemed delightful and significant…so I added a few as “hints” here and there.

So this is how my mind goes with a challenge such as this. The cool thing is that if you posed these questions to many artists, they would come up with totally different paintings. Or even across disciplines, the results would be so varying. Why don’t you try it? Post it on your blog or FB, or Everyday Matters FB and share with us!

CHALLENGE: ??How would you paint, collage, stitch, write, sculpt, etc. the smell of honeysuckle??  (No need to be a professional at this…just have fun with it!) AND>>> let me know you’ve done this, so I can see it and compile them into a post later. 🙂

0 thoughts on “The Smell of Honeysuckle

  1. Timaree freebirdsings says:

    I’m like your interpretation. I would have it in my mind if I were to try this challenge now. Better to have the challenge before seeing your piece, at least for me since I tend to be too literal.

  2. Suzanne O. says:

    Here you can see my 2 attempts to draw the smell of honeysuckle
    I felt so inspired by your blog post to try this experiment; although I am not used to do this kind of challenge; as I have a honeysuckle myself (although here in Europe it is not yet blooming) and as I love this heavenly (to me) smell which makes me always happy!
    I chose watercolours too; in the first one I started with a few yellow oil pastel swirls as resists. I chose phthalo blue for the heavenly, lemon and indian yellow for the lemony scent, raw umber for the sugary note and sap + permanent green for the freshness and translucent orange for highlights. I worked wet on wet (a bit timidly) and regret that I didn’t leave more white. I find my composition not airy and light enough, but enjoyed the process a lot.
    Later I tried a second, more abstract, composition, as the first one reminded me too much of a flower lane. Again I worked wet on wet. Again the colours are a bit too heavy, I would have liked more yellow, less orange and a paler blue (at least in the upper part). But again I had lots of fun.
    I find your blog very inspiring and am just reading through your mini-lessons and can tell you that they inspired me to draw a bit again. I have still a lot of difficulties with the proportions and seeing things “right”; but I know that I have to do lots of drawings to get better. I have been a crafter all my life but started drawing only a few years ago.
    Have you been drawing all your life, and do you work in pencil first or do you use your pen directly? Do you mostly draw from life? And do you take measures first or do you simply start in a corner to do the contours without lifting your pen?
    Thanks so much for being such an inspiration and sharing with us!

    P.S.: Although I have a lot of drawing books I think that Steven Aimone’s Expressive Drawing and Kimon Nicolaides Natural Way to draw would be very special books to add to my stash!

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