Kristie’s favorite flower is a daisy – so of course I love them as well because they make me think of her. I have completed a few daisy paintings like A Daisy for my Lady and Lovingly Yours – both were inspired by a bouquet I gave her.
We grew some yellow daisies and marigolds in our garden a few years ago.
That group of flowers inspired a painting that I named after our Daughter Eve. You can see that I didn’t use the composition or the can, just some of the flowers.
My class asked if I would use that painting to teach a demonstration because they loved the colors and realism of the flowers. The painting sold quickly so I used a print of the painting for the demo. Fortunately, it hadn’t been too long since I finished the original so it was still fresh in my mind.
Let’s break down the 9 major steps I used to create the demonstration painting, and then watch it altogether in fast motion:
- Using a mix of Walnut oil, Alizarin Crimson Permanent (Gamblin), Ultramarine Blue and Transparent Oxide Red I quickly covered the panel with a warm dark wash to create a contrasting background for the bright flowers. Notice I left a lot of the brush texture for interest. I also wiped off the areas for the flowers so the colors would be clean and saturated.
- At this stage I don’t usually worry about detailed drawing. I like to add the middle value colors to set the stage for the brighter values and colors that will go on top of those middle values. I start to suggest some of the flower petals, but only in a very general way. Not concerning myself with exact detail allows me to decide later how many refined petals I want to have and also lets me move things around or make them bigger or smaller without losing a lot of time consuming work.
- Laying in the initial value shapes loosely allows me to blend some of the petals in with the background for an overall harmony among the elements while refining other petals to a realistic finish which is what I began doing right after beginning to define some petals. This whole buildup so far has taken less than a half hour. To demonstrate how quickly we can create the illusion of realism I used my brush loaded with a darker reddish orange hue to lay down a flower petal that transitioned from the darker tone to a middle value in one fluid stroke. I then added a bright yellow highlight on the edge of the petal to pop that petal away from the petals behind – a simple 3-d effect!
- Once I added structure to some of the petals and established the level of refinement the flowers would receive, I began to lay in the leaves and supporting plants – those bits of color and shape that help the flowers integrate into a natural setting. I emphasized for the class the importance of warm and cool variety among the hues like warmer and cooler greens of the same value.
- Then the fun little harmonic spots of color that add zest to the painting were blocked in with the semblance of a flower petal here and there. Using darker middle values at first allows those areas of the flowers that are not developed or refined to fade into the background washes without drawing attention away from the more refined petals – they look like petals that are too far in shade to bother scrutinizing. That gives us a lot of artistic license leeway. I purposefully chose lavender and blue flowers since those hues are compliments to the yellows and oranges of the primary flowers.
- I struggled a bit with the larger purple flower because in the original painting I had pulled out Rose Madder Genuine when the Alizarin looked too dirty and I wanted a brighter, cleaner lavender color – I forgot about the change in pigment since I rarely used anything except Alizarin. That prompted me to research some Alizarin substitutes and I now have Quinacridone Red on my palette – it is a stable, lightfast pigment that does not have the blue tint of Alizarin and makes wonderfully clean purple or light crimson colors. It is not dark enough for my shadows though so I also still use Alizarin Permanent.
- The key to convincing realism or structure is light and dark contrast or value separation. An easy way to think about shadows is to imagine a power pole in the sun – when the sun is right above the pole the shadow is short – the lower the sun shrinks in the sky the longer the shadow gets. We can apply the same idea to a flower – the greater the angle of our light source the longer the shadow from one petal onto another petal or the stamen in the middle of the flower onto the petals around it (the taller the stamen is the longer the shadow will be as well – so if we want the stamen cluster to appear shorter we make the shadow to the side away from the light smaller). That is what I demonstrated with the larger lavender flowers.
- With so much of the flower refinement completed it was time to add more interest into the leaves and surrounding plants. More than describing exactly what the plants were, I wanted to add fun shapes of color and value and then let the viewer’s imagination decide what the plants might be. One way I add pizazz to a painting is to load up my brush and lay it on thick, both in very calculated flower petal ends and on brighter leaves. Thick accents of paint are one of the great joys of painting for me – the icing on the cake. I am careful to place them in spots that will help lead the viewer around the painting. Remember, the viewer will be drawn especially to thick bright highlights, hard edges and high contrast of either values or hues – so be sparing and calculating with their use!
- The final details are the prerogative of the artist. How much or how little we decide to add depends on our personality and goals. This is where it is important to listen to our own instincts and not what other artists think. It is in the final 10% that we separate our work from the crowd and make it uniquely our own. Don’t think about if anyone else would do it that way or add those little details or use those colors – just follow your gut and find your own joy in painting – if other artists don’t like it, they can paint their own.
Here’s the fast motion video I promised you, filled with lots of good voice over instruction. Our Monthly Members can view the full 2 1/2 hour instructional video, along with hours and hours of other great full length videos, by clicking HERE (masteroilpainting.com/monthly-member-videos).
If you’re not a Monthly Member, but would like to learn more and view one of our full length videos for free you can check it out here: masteroilpainting.com/hammock-stand-bonus-video
Remember, there are no rules or boundaries. It’s about finding joy and stretching ourselves until we feel good about what we’ve accomplished and have a lot of fun during the journey. If we do that, there will be plenty of others that will love it as well!