Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Tree Peony - 4-22-14

What a talented group of painters in the watercolor class! Each week I am more and more impressed by the quality of work being produced. Last week the project was white daisies, not as easy as it sounds. White flowers on white paper without using any white paint can be a real challenge. As you can see the challenge was well met.

And as a real plus one talented artist painted a very charismatic cat that is worth sharing.

This last Tuesday the project was a tree peony with a little oriental twist and a very limited palette.

The main color of the flower is a peach color created with Cad Red and Lemon Yellow, (or Cad Yellow light), variations on the color are made by adding Alizarin and New Gamboge.

The green for the leaves is created by mixing Cerulean Blue and New Gamboge, it makes a lovely green. To darken use a touch of Paynes Grey, lighten by adding more yellow.

The stems of the tree peony are woody, so I created the color by using the peach color and the green of the leaves, the two colors combined make a wonderful brown. The cerulean blue gives the brown a misty look.
One of the secrets to a more dimensional flower
is how you handle the shadows in each petal of the flower. This tree peony has ruffled edges on the outer edge of each petal. When you paint in the shadows on the petals look at the ruffles, choose to put the shadow where the ruffle comes down into the petal, by putting the shadow there it makes the outward ruffle come forward. For this flower it is really important to try and show the shadows of the crinkling of the petals. Think of crepe paper, with its many wrinkles, that is the closest material I can think of that is similar to the tree peony petal.
I do one petal at a time, wetting the area with clean water then dropping in the color. As the
paper dries I keep adding darker color where needed or pulling out color for highlights. I try to get all my color on each petal before it dries completely. The colors blend together much better when just slightly wet. Too wet and the pigment floats on the water, too dry and you can see the additional layers sitting on top.
The next petal should be away from the one you just worked on, to keep the petals distinct from each other and give dimension to the flower. Remember where you have the darkest shadow, the lightest light goes next to it. I usually work my way around the flower by doing every other petal, by the time I have worked my way around
 the flower the petals are dry and I can start to fill in until all the petals are painted. This drawing has petals that have little  turns, or fold overs, where you see the back of the petal. This is another opportunity to give the flower more dimension.  On the inside of the petal there will be a strong shadow to make the fold over stand away from the rest of the petal, the edge of the back of the petal needs to be lighter gradually getting darker as it goes towards the base. Think of a sea shell as you shade in the area. 
This is also a good time to think of your values. Values give your flower dimension. Without the dark shadows and highlights the flower will appear flat, the petals just lying on top of one another. Values make the petals appear to have space between them and to give the flower a 3 dimensional look.
Learning to see and work with values can make the difference between a very successful painting and a mediocre piece. For this painting see if there are areas that would benefit from 
darkening. If you add some dark in the lower left area ( using numbers on a clock), at 8, then add some dark at 12 an 4. That will balance the color in your flower. Do the same with the lights.This may sound like a broken record but as you paint remember your darkest darks go next to your lightest lights.
For the center of the flower, I put in a line of dark along the edge of the petal in front with my darkest shadow color, then softened the inside edge with a damp brush. Using my small round (#4) I put dots of new gamboge at different heights above the dark shadow. When that was dry I used my small brush and drew fine lines around the yellow dots and put a tiny dot in the center of each yellow dot and drew a line down into the shadow. You can pull out some dots in the shadow with the point of a clean damp brush.
Now it is time to put in the krinkle lines on the petals. Think
again about a sea shell, the lines have to curve with the shape
of the petal. Straight lines will flatten the petal, by curving
your lines you add more dimension. The lines start at the bottom close together, as they move up towards the middle they spread apart and close up again as they go towards the top. Very few of the lines reach the top edge of a petal. The lines can wiggle a little, break apart and start again.  Try to keep them from looking mechanical, vary the length and spacing. I used straight cad red, use only the very tip of your smallest round brush. Hold the brush straight up and down and do quick strokes, the more you do the easier it gets. One of the major differences between the tree peony and a regular peony is that the tree peony does not die back in the winter, the stems are woody. So for this painting the stem is painted a warm brown,  created by using my darkest flower color and my darkest leaf color. You can see in the photo at left on the branches that are thinner leading to the leaves, the stems change to the dark green of the leaves.  The leaves are painted
 with a mixture of the cerulean blue and new gamboge, leaning towards the blue. In some areas I dropped in the color
of the flower to give the leaves movement. When I paint leaves like these I tend to paint half of the leaf at a time leaving a thin white line between the halves. Sometimes I will go back in and darken the line to one side to create a shadow. Like the flower petals, there are no straight lines in the leaves, the lines follow the curving of the leaves. You want your leaves to have movement, curved lines do that.
The last two things I painted were the small bud at the bottom and the opening flower at the top. Both of these were added to the composition to make the color flow. These were worked the same way as the large flower. Even though I added the flower color to the leaves, the big bright color of the flower creates a "hole" in the composition. The viewers eye does not flow through the painting. By adding  the flower color
at the bottom and then again at the top the viewers eye is pulled into, up and out of the painting. With no color to help in the background the composition has to do all the work.
The very last thing to do is erase as much of the pencil lines as possible. If you have left the edges of the petals very light you will get a very nice "lost edge" effect on the flower.
Okay the very last thing to see on this painting is to check if my values hold up. Are there enough darks, is there a pattern of darks to make the pieces hold together? Do the light areas sparkle?

Check your paintings out by making a black and white copy, it will show you any changes that need to be made. This is one of the best learning techniques you can employ.

Nest Tuesday we will be doing a magnolia, 'Queen" of the spring bloomers. Here is the pattern. Have a great weekend!

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