What’s in a Painting?

My gf had to put her dog down and her niece sent her flowers. I thought great, I can paint flowers. The sunlight on the bouquet setup was beautiful and I got my paints out and set out to catch the light.... more like chase the light. Big mistake #1.

Normally, I would tone the canvas, make a thumbnail notan of the darks and lights, and then do a sketch of the composition with the major shapes and values... that is how to capture the light and not chase it. Because I was rushing, I jumped right in... it happens. White flowers, white canvas.... limited pallet... blue, sienna, ochre and white... never try to paint flowers with a limited pallet. Big mistake #2 and 3.

I tried to compensate by painting in some darks... maybe a little dark background... nothing was working and my drawing was off... like way off. I hadn’t at least charcoaled in a sketch on the canvas. Big mistake #4. The muse had dumped my ass.

In an effort to get some contrast to the whites, I just wiped the canvas, loosing all those fresh loose expressive touches of color. Since the canvas is now wet... I could either let it dry and start over, get a new canvas, wipe the canvas dry, or... persevere without the muse by my side. I sat defeated. So I mustered my courage and thought I’ll re-layout my drawing using white on the toned background, correct for the proportion errors and carry on. I observed my subject... measured with my paint brush, tried to get an overall feel for the shape of the outline and decided it was some kind of circular or 6 sided shape.

As I laid it out, or restated it on the canvas... I ended up with a tiny polygon in the middle, so I thought... okay, I’ll double the proportions... I started in painting the light shapes instead of the dark shapes, and it just kinda took on a size and shape of its own but was bigger than little and littler than big... so I figured, I’ll run with it.

While I liked the mottled background, those light layout lines bothered me. I’ve had some luck with painting florals at night. Using a still life box usually results in a dark background, but allows the artist to control the lighting of the subject statically (doesn’t change). I added some Pane’s Gray to my pallet and restated the background then dig into the positive space and began stating the soft warm rose, avoiding slow drying green that gets into everything. I’ve learned to put the green in last... but that means putting the darks in with umber or something else first.

I happened to have some ivory black on my Tonalism pallet and could have easily created greens by adding yellow and not just blue and yellow. And, I’m using Payne’s Gray as the background... I heard Payne’s Gray and yellow make a nice yellow... I’ll have to try it with yellow ochre, but for now I have expanded my pallet to double primaries plus things like Dioxazine Purple.

I have not finished my last three flower paintings, so for now I’ll leave it as a work in progress (WIP), and come back and update the post... a cliff hanger!

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