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.

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