Here are your 10 steps to paint Hollyhocks. Do you have a favorite subject you like to paint? Hollyhocks have been one of mine for 30 years. They grew along the side of my studio in Rye, Colorado, and came back year after year. It was love at first sight when we moved into our home there, and I have been painting hollyhocks in different settings ever since.
What is it about hollyhocks that could cause such a lasting affair? They’re twisted of course.
Not like Jafar from Aladdin – like aspen trees, they twist and turn and offer endless combinations of movement for intriguing compositions.
The video these photos were taken from ‘At Home on the Range’ which shows the entire process of painting these hollyhocks is part of the Master Oil Painting Membership library. It’s almost 5 hours long so it’s not possible to cover every brushstroke in this post, but this should give you a strong glimpse into the techniques and thoughts that went into painting these flowers. If you want the full brushstroke by brushstroke explanation you can watch this and over 30 other full-length videos in the Membership.
For both members and our ‘not yet members’ I wanted to share some images from the video so you can learn from the painting’s creation from block-in to refined finish. I hope you find these photos, along with the explanations and the video at the end, give you some ideas to help you paint your own hollyhocks!
Here are Your 10 Steps to Paint a Hollyhock Masterpiece:
The major planes are the first thing I lay in with a thin walnut oil wash. Sometimes I leave the quickly done brushwork so it’s visible in the final painting, but in this case, I rubbed the paint into the texture of the panel to leave just an overall color field in each of the larger shapes of sky, hills, and foreground.
Then it was time to establish the shadow pattern, especially where the bulk of the leaves would reside. A combination of Ultramarine Blue, Alizarin Crimson, Transparent Oxide (or Earth) Red, and Phthalo or Sap Green made most of the darker shadow colors. The color choices depended on how warm or cool I wanted the color temperature of the shadows. How do you know when it should be warmer and when it should be cooler? A great question that can have multiple answers. In this case, the shadows that would be farthest into the recesses were left warmer since they would get the least amount of cooler sky reflection. I added a bit more Sap Green to cool the color temperature a bit in random places where I might place a leaf so it would suggest reflected light from the leaf that would lighten and cool the shadows.
Then the real fun begins deciding where to place the leaves and flowers. I try to keep in my mind a constant awareness of the light source direction so the shadows and highlights are consistent. Notice how simple the shapes are – no small details. For most of the initial painting a size 10 or 12 hog bristle brush was used to lay in large brushstrokes and to increase the textural qualities.
I kept mixing back into and expanding the piles of color on my palette to help with harmony throughout the painting’s progression. For instance, I would mix up a large area of green color and then cool the temperature with blues or warm the mixture with yellows and reds, using opposite sides of the original pile of paint, so I could keep juxtaposing warm and cool color temperatures throughout. I will often have one side of the paint mixture lighter and one side darker in value as well.
Once I have the leaves blocked-in with a variety of large and small shapes I do the same thing with the flowers. With a solid structure of light and dark established I began to refine the flowers and leaves with stronger contrasts and warm and cool color temperatures. In the previous image, I intended to paint a lot of similar dark lavender hollyhocks, but changed my mind and made the lavender hollyhocks on the left side lighter in value to increase the variety of colors and contrasts.
At this point in the painting process, the flowers and leaves started to feel more 3 dimensional and pulled away from the background. I also began to develop leaves in the shadow areas. adding highlights to flower petal edges helped create a feeling of depth in the flowers.
At this point in the painting, the flowers began to really take shape and receive their individual identities. The leaves also got a few more peaks and valleys using light and shadow and warm yellow-greens in the light vs cool bluish-greens in the shadows.
Then it was time to do something about the other spaces by resolving the sky and hills in the back, and by adding rocks and grasses in the front – to keep the hollyhocks company. The background went through several ideas – transitioning from hills to trees and back to hills again. To counter the upward movement of the vertical hollyhock stalks I added some horizontally moving light wispy clouds in the sky. I kept the clouds fairly indistinct so they wouldn’t draw too much attention from the flowers.
The foreground rocks and grasses were kept simple as well with the same idea. By keeping the strongest details and contrasts in the flower shapes it helped them remain the center of interest. I refined some of the blades of grass so they could become visual pathways to guide the viewer up and through the painting to the more important hollyhocks.
The final image kept the shadows under the leaves dark, yet softened by the grasses going in and out of the diffused light of a slightly overcast day.
In case you’re not a Monthly Member yet, here is the YouTube fast motion version to enjoy, with fun tidbits of instruction mixed throughout.
I hope this helps simplify the process for you.
I love these magnificent, twisting flowers, and am excited to see the masterpiece you create!
Here are a few more of my own from the archives…
I hope you enjoyed the 10 steps to paint hollyhocks. What are some of your favorite subjects and why?
As always, Happy Painting!