Wednesday, June 28, 2017

A June flower patch

Flower Patch
I came back from an artist friend's house with a nice photo of one of her flower patches. I was looking for another quick flower sketch to frame for my weekend show in ten days, and I decided to try this one. The afternoon light from the top left helped define both the masses and the individual plants.

I blocked in the background and foliage colors first. After that I started brushing in details of the different foliage types and colors. When I had their shapes in, I blocked in the dark shades of the flowers. Because of the darker background, it took several layers of paint to build up the lighter colors.

The many different foliage shapes and textures required a few different brushes and more detail than I've been doing, but those different shapes and hues are the substance of this painting, and I was hoping to make a few of the plants recognizable to gardeners—feverfew, foxglove, roses and California poppies. The mop in the upper left is supposed to be asparagus.

I was surprised by the amount of depth that appeared; maybe it's from the darker-than-necessary shadows in the background.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

184 Lewisias...give or take a few

I was taking photos of my neighbor's heirloom bearded irises and this Lewisia cotyledon caught my eye on my way out of her yard. I know this lewisia personally because I was with my neighbor when she bought it, at Wild Ginger Farm in Beavercreek, maybe 6 years ago? I had my doubts then that it would survive outside—ignorance on my part—but it has obviously thrived in bright, filtered light and everything the weather has thrown at it. I took a quick photo of it, and decided later that it would get painted before the irises. I knew what I was getting into but wanted to try anyway.

I figured patience would make or break the painting, and started out with a charcoal drawing, settling on clumps of flowers, and cutting down to about 160 flowers to start with, from the maybe 250 in the photograph. I found first that there were hues of orange, red, yellow, magenta, and deep red-violet in the flowers, and greens that ranged from light yellow-green to deep emerald and turquoise-green. I started by blocking in the flowers in shades of peach as a base, knowing it would take many, many layers to capture all the colors. I had no plans to paint every petal on every flower, and saved that for a sprinkling of large ones around the upper right where the brightest were. Everybody else got just a suggestion of their many hues. There was not one flower that showed only one hue.

As soon as I started working on the leaves, I knew I wanted a live model, so I called Wild Ginger and asked if I could come pick one up. I wanted to get a good sense of the thickness and curves of the leaves and how they reflect the light—they were too much obscured in the photo for me to get a good feel for them—and also I was by then insanely jealous of my neighbor's success and had to try growing one—no, two—of my own. I don't care if I have to wait six years, I want one like this!

After that I alternated a day on the flowers, then a day on the leaves, building up layers of hues and picking what to emphasize and what to dress down, trying to build a center of focus in the upper right. Yesterday, after six days, it was ready to start the finishing touches, when I realized I needed to darken and violet-ize everything on the left side, but my glaze was too thick and they all went from semi-defined flowers to undifferentiated blobs. ARGHHH! Fortunately I still had all my different hue mixes and it only took a couple hours to repaint them all. Some dark blue-violets in the darkest shadows made the highlights pop, and the yellow centers in every open flower made them look more defined than they are. The orange hue in the cement surface in the lower right woke up the turquoise upper left and helped fill out the color scheme.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

New, cool colors

I was wanting to get away from the blues and oranges I've been working with for many weeks. I started out with a triad of red-violet, blue-green, and yellow-orange, but when I had developed the rough composition, that combination looked too intense and unrealistic. I took one color at a time and began graying them and lightening them. In the process I added violet flowers and more greens to the bouquet, and created a green-dominant background, with just a few touches of the original red-violet. I ended up with an unbalanced color harmony, from pale yellow-orange through yellow, greens, grayed teal, and all the violets. No blue, orange, or red.

I also started out with a clearly defined table top, but wasn't happy with the starkness of that composition. On a whim I turned that into what could be an unfocused garden scene, backlit and pushing into the foreground, with just enough level surface to anchor the vase and its shadow.

In the end, all the layers of colors first tried and then rejected remain in small bits within and around the edges of the color masses, where I think they add depth and a kaleidoscope of small relationships with the colors that replaced them—violet over blue-green in the bouquet, and blue-green over red-violet in the lower half of the surround.

I did have fun with the vase. Part of me would have liked to do more work in pottery at some point, and I colored it with the metallic red-violet and turquoise of raku, like a vase I used to own before it was broken. I really indulged my imagination in this painting, and had a great time doing it.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Playing with color as energy

Floral #9
My goal as I began this floral was a painting that was as much an explosion as a floral. I'm not sure I achieved explosion, but I think I at least got to "Pop!" with this one. If the colors look familiar, they should, because I'm still working the same palette sheet as I have been for the last couple weeks. I just hate throwing away paint until it's unusable. I keep a plastic cover over my palette and spritz it every morning, and once more at night if I don't do any painting that day. I do end up with small puddles, but those pull off easily with a brush, and I usually want my paint slightly wet anyway.

On this one, I wanted to work from dark to light so I didn't have to end up painting dark spaces around my flowers, and I wanted to paint as loosely as I could possibly make myself. But more than anything else, I wanted to COMPLETELY PAINT OVER Floral #1, "Blue and Orange", as I stopped liking it several months ago and took it off my Etsy site, but hated to waste a good panel. You may recognize the vase, slightly updated. One of Robert Burridge's sayings, "Don't worry about painting things that don't make sense," played in my mind several times whenever I hesitated while painting. As long as the blobs looked like they were supposed to be flowers, that was going to be good enough for me.

The background is just layered scribbling, and only one of the flowers got any detail at all, the rest are just shaded to suggest petal shapes and three-dimensionality. About halfway into it, I discovered I was making lost edges around the bouquet by going back and forth between the flowers and the background scribble-glazing, and I liked that. I had discovered on a previous unpublishable sketch that if you decide your foreground subject shape isn't quite balanced—or too balanced—you can offset that with your background shapes and colors. I had fun making the bouquet look bigger with blurry colors around the outside, extending the color range and adding more color energy to the painting. It also transitions from the semi-defined flower shapes to the completely ambiguous background. It's sort of like a halo or aura of light around the subject. A bit romantic, but fun.

ANNOUNCEMENT! I'll be at the Local Author Fair tomorrow from Noon till 3PM at the Oregon City Library, signing copies of my first book, "First Aid For Your Menopause Emotions". Thirty-five other local authors will be there with me. Come on down!

UPDATE: I've finally created a facebook page for this book, where I'll be blogging about menopause and anything related to it, including living a best-possible post-menopausal life. You can find it HERE.