Graveyard of the Flowers

It has been raining the whole afternoon. Dark, wet, dreary.

I looked at this photo of frangipani flowers by Philip Little. Also dark, wet, dreary.

In Singapore, frangipani flowers are also known as graveyard flowers as they are often found in cemeteries (or what’s left of cemeteries on our tiny land scarce island).   My grandmother and mother would refer to it in the Chinese dialect of Cantonese less glamourously as as “死人花” (si ren hua) or flowers of the dead. According to Wikipedia,  Asian folk beliefs say that frangipani trees provide shelter to ghosts and demons. The scent of the flowers has been associated with a vampire in Malay folklore, the pontianak.

This photo is interesting because it shows the flowers of the dead in its watery grave. Yet, there is something ethereal about it, something beautiful transcending out of death. I had an enjoyable time painting it.

*Afternote (5 Jan 2013): I learned yesterday that Philip had met with a motorbike accident in Malaysia recently and had passed on.  He was over 70 years old, and had remained the free spirit that he always was.  RIP Philip.



The frangipani, also known as the plumeria. (Photo from Singapore by The Backdoor by Philip Little)


Graveyard flowers in their watery grave.

9 thoughts on “Graveyard of the Flowers

  1. What a fascinating story, its a bit sad they have such sad connections as the flowers are beautiful. Your painting is stunning, love your shading.

    Have you tired mixing different media together? If you paint the same picture again, perhaps try adding some coloured pencils over the top for extra texture or darker colours. I love the picture you have though, its just another option if you want to go really dark and textured with it and aren’t getting the effect you like with watercolour alone.

    I can highly recommend Derwent Inktense pencils, as an option, you can use them dry for texture but also add water to get a more paint like effect. The good thing about those pencils is that once dry you can’t re-wet them like normal watercolour pencils so they are great for layering.

    Check out for more info on them.

    Keep drawing and painting your results are beautiful

  2. Thanks Billie! The flowers give off a rather sweet (sometimes sickly sweet scent) that adds to its hauntingly fascinating reputation. : )

    I have not tried different media though. I think I would try out what you suggested with water coloured pencils. I have some from Faber-Castell but the Derwent Inktense ones should like a good choice too. I did not realise that they cannot be rewet after drying and that this is great for layering. Thanks for the tip : )

    And thanks for the encouragement too!

  3. Pingback: In Remembrance of Philip « Monica Wants To Draw

  4. It’s apparent painting evokes emotions, am touched reading what you wrote and how you relate the frangipani to death, in Malaysia I’ve heard of such superstitious belief. This is an awesome watercolour by the way, beautiful blend of soft tones 🙂

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