The flowers where I’m making the biggest gains are the flowers I have right in front of me in my home. It’s possible the peony is just tougher, but my strides have gone farther with the carnation, star gazer and the mum, all flowers I have access to live.
I think the reason is two-fold. First, when the flowers are in the house, I’m thinking about them constantly whether I know it or not. I think about their shape, their composition and their nature.
This thinking is all happening in the background. Half of it I’m not even conscious of, but it happens. So when I do finally bring pen to paper during a drawing session, I’m not starting from zero. My brain has been thinking through how flowers work for hours or even days because they are sitting in my studio and where I eat all my meals.
Second, when I’m around live flowers, I begin to understand how they work in real space. Flowers exist as three-dimensional objects. We translate that information to the two-dimensional picture plane when we draw and paint. But it is a translation. When there is a 3D flower to study - even if I’m painting from a photo- having access to the living flower gives me access to more complicated information. Complicated information that may have not made it into the photo.
I will always work from reference photos to some extent. Many flowers, like peonies, just aren’t available most of the year. And I find that I like painting from reference photos almost more than the living flower because I get information overload when working from life. But from a learning perspective, having real flowers in my home is making all the difference in learning to draw and paint.