Friday, February 17, 2017

No more detail than necessary

Dainty California
I realized last week, watching two of my earliest camellias opening beautiful flowers, that most of them are big and bushy enough now that I can prune fairly long branches off them with no noticeable effect, so I started bringing some inside to enjoy, since it's mostly too wet to go outside. I took a couple photos of this little bouquet the other night against a dark window, and decided to paint them against a black background.

I had to rearrange them on the paper though, to make a nice composition for 8x10, and I was feeling the need to draw it first so I moved the flowers around in relation to each other and took some liberties with the leaves, besides inventing the round vase. For colors, I figured red, green, and blue, and made the top a blue-black with the same cobalt on the table. I started out with a pink vase but in the end added just enough yellow to make it more coral; the golden yellow stamens add a nice balance for the blues. I have a tiny glass frog I added, in a sort of homage to our local tree frogs.

I had fully intended to make another loose, impressionist-like sketch, but once again, what I was planning simply did not happen. After I blocked in the colors over my charcoal drawing, which was more precise than I expected because I needed the drawing practice, I felt like I was being pulled back to the super-careful brushstrokes and slow, tedious painting I'm so tired of. I stopped working on it for a few hours until I could shift my mindset to be, okay, you have exactly the composition you wanted, now just start slopping on the paint, like you've been doing in the other sketches. That seemed to break the spell and I was able to pick up a brush and just relax and put the colors on where I thought they should go. It was easier than I thought. I did try to make mindful strokes, but fairly loose ones, and not worry about whether they came out right, knowing I could always paint over them. The work went quickly and I was able to get it almost complete within a few hours, and yet it looks like I spent a lot more time on it than I did. The colors were simple, and the backgrounds too, and that helped. So it wasn't tedious, it was relaxed and fun, and I actually enjoyed doing the few bits of detail.

I love the dark background, and having that seemed to make it easier for me to put in natural-looking shadows. I did touchups on it for another couple hours this morning. Except for the stamens and the frog's toes, there's almost no detail, and I like that about it. So I think it still qualifies as a sketch since it took just over one day. I could probably spend a lot more time on the patterns on the petals, but it looks like camellias, and that was the main thing I wanted. I wouldn't want to have to put the sawtooth edges on the leaves, but that's probably what I would have tried to do last year. Enough is enough.

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