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Flower Step by Step

Flowers Step by Step

This was written for my daily painting from January 17th.

For today’s painting, I wanted to try my first attempts at fusing flowers with a style I’ve used (and love) for human faces and dogs. It’s a process that involves less control. When it works, it feels magical. When it doesn’t work, it feels like a long slog.

I know that the road to figuring out my floral style will be paved with confusing days. Today was probably the first of many. But I learned a lot and the final painting is a good first attempt. Plus there was a bit more pure play in today’s approach and that always feels good.

Quick note from today’s session:
The Derwent Magenta 22 water soluble pencil stains pretty hard. Even where I tried to wash it away with water and pull the pigment off with a paper towel, left line remnants. It also turns much brighter than it lays down. That might be something I want down the road, but for today’s painting it proved hard.

Also, magenta and greens don’t play nicely. My greens were on the yellow side which again, is the wrong side for easy magenta use.


To the process:
I started by laying down scribbles and stamps. I added a layer of stencils and I started adding my whites. Then I worked with my table and background until I got the values I wanted.

After a quick seal of matte medium, I used my value study thumbnail to lay in my design with the water soluble pencil.

The flowers are the star of most floral shows. I assumed that if I got them where I wanted, the rest of the painting could adjust accordingly. This wasn’t a bad approach but got tricky when I tried adding some pattern to the flowers themselves. The past few times I’ve worked with carnations, I’ve left them pretty flat, solid shapes. That has seemed to work. I’d like to try pushing some of that into pattern but I think that’s when I started going down a road I wasn’t quite sure how to correct.

The next complication was the vase and the shadow. I definitely hit an ugly painting stage and this was it. Flowers weirdly patterned. All the values fighting. The cool blue in the middle of the painting crying out like a 3-year-old at bedtime (we have nieces and nephews and know the bedtime battle well.)  

I snapped a quick photo with my phone and desaturated it so I could see the values at play. They were all too similar especially compared to my value study. I darkened both the shadow and the non-shadow paying special attention to getting my table especially dark. Then I worked in a bit more darks in the flowers.

I called finished and pulled off the taped edges.


What I like:
In the end, I like the purple shadow against the greyed purple blue of the table. I like the texture of the background although it was a struggle to get it to not fight too much against the flowers.

What could be stronger:
The flowers are the focal point but only barely. The lines of the table and shadow are way too hard and would probably be a stronger painting if they weren’t as hard…or if the lines of the flowers were a bit harder to match. But besides the hardness, the table and the background are some of the darkest darks aside the lightest lights.

The strangest section are the stems. I have a tendency to draw the vase and then draw the flowers and I don’t think much about the relationship between the two. But there is a relationship.



First, the brain knows on some level that the tallest flower wouldn’t be able to stand up in a vase that short. If I brought the flower down just a bit and angled it slightly differently it wouldn’t appear as strange.

Second, how the stems meet the vase is careless. Stems (and greens) bring me the most confusion when painting flowers. It becomes more obvious when I’m working with a three stems instead of a  bunch, which can hide some of that uncertainty.

In tomorrow’s painting, I’ll pay special attention to that relationship and study it more in my flower models in the house.



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