Monday, February 23, 2015

Spring has Sprung in the Pacific Northwest!!

Beautiful weather here, daffodils, crocus, and various flowers are blooming, grass needs mowing and the flowering trees are bursting with color. Kind of scary really, it's only the last week of February and all those little tender shoots have a long way to go before they are safe from cold weather. Usually this time of year I am chomping at the bit to get out and do some gardening, so to inspire myself I try to do some spring flower paintings. I found this photo of some lovely pink and yellow tulips sitting on an old distressed chair with dandelions blooming in the grass, perfect, everything I love about Spring in one photo!! Yes I even love dandelions!!

This painting is a little more difficult than the waterlily, lots of greens. Green can be a difficult color to work with, and because there are green in green areas in this painting there is a tendency to want to use different shades of green. Doing that can cause the painting to loose its harmony. In a painting like this I use one color of green, in this case I used Sap Green, I changed the values of my green by

what I add to it. For the back ground on the bottom third I added Paynes Gray and some Ultramarine Blue, as I moved up I added New Gambogue and Yellow Ochre. Before I put the green down at the top I painted in the dandelions, let them dry, then finished painting in the Sap Green with a bit of Cad Yellow around them. I found when I finished that the green was a bit bright so when it was totally dry I did a wash of Quin. Pink over the entire background (not the dandelions). That grayed the green down to where the flower leaves would stand out.

One of the things I do before putting paint to paper, is to check my drawing. Using a No. 2 pencil, I connect broken lines, make sure the entire drawing has been transferred, darken any lines that are too light to see easily, erase confusing lines. The little bit of time you spend doing this will pay off big time when you are painting the picture.
After the background is in and dry, the next thing to get painted in is the the back of the chair. Cerulean Blue for that soft sky blue color. In this painting I did not wet the paper first before applying color, here I put the color down then wet as needed. It is a much more controlled way of painting. As the blue was drying drop in a little more pigment on either side, pull a little color out of the center, this gives the illusion the back is bowed. When dry a little line of darker color along the bottom to give it depth. The crackle lines are put in with a small brush, short straight lines angled into another straight line, very few curves. Paynes Gray works great for this task.

Next were the spindles, paint them all, including where the paint is peeling off with watered down New Gambogue, as it is drying add a little more pigment to the edges to create roundness. Get your edges clean and put in the shading where the knobs are. When it is totally dry it's time to do the peeling paint. The color is
a mixture of Sap Green, Quin Pink (or Alizarin Crimson), and Cerulean Blue, mix together until you get a reddish brown. You can make it lighter by adding more water or darker by adding a little Paynes Gray. Looking at the photo you can see where the paint is chipping off, dab the color on with short strokes. You can see in the photo I used some of the same brown for shadows in areas where the paint is not peeling. These areas should not be just a flat color, try to get variations in the brown by adding more pigment in some areas or pulling some out with a damp brush. the more variation in color you get the more is will round out the spindles.

When that is all done it is time to move on to my favorite part of the painting the tulips. For the pink tulips it is Quin Pink (or Alizarin Crimson), for the yellow New Gambogue. Leave the paper for the tops of the tulip, starting at the bottom of the petal, drop in your color, clean your brush, leave damp and drag the color up towards the top of the petal, leaving the top
of the petal uncolored. The inside of the tulip will be darker towards the bottom, lightening as it goes up toward the edge. In some cases I left a small line of white, in others took the color all the way to the top. The yellow tulip that is pitched forward has  a few dark pieces that are Paynes Gray.

Next was the stems and leaves. Just Sap Green, Cerulean Blue and Paynes Gray. No Yellow in the leaves, any yellow would make them disappear into the background. If you look at the photo, you can see that the leaves do not stand out that much, they are there but the tulips are
the center of attention. There is some yellow in the tulip stems, but more towards the inside. When doing leaves like the two branches sticking out to the sides, have a lighter side the overlaps the dark of the leaf underneath. That builds volume and dimension. The little dangling flowers are white paper with the same green as the leaves along the bottom.

The chair seat is Quin Pink and Rose Madder, and some of the brown from the spindles. You can leave some white areas or whatever to make the seat look old and battered.

This is where I ran into a bit of a quandary. I really didn't like the clear jar the tulips were in and although I had dropped a bit of the blue in the chair seat, the back was the only place with a noticeable blue in it. So I decided to make a change to the color scheme of the painting, by making the jar blue and the ball of string green.
To get the color of the old Ball jars I mixed Cerulean Blue and Sap Green. In areas where it needed to be a bit darker just adding some Paynes Gray did the trick. First decide where you are going to leave the glass reflections, if you are not confident about leaving those areas white use some friskit. Paint in the stems, using the same colors as the top, where the stems enter the water leave a little line of white paper. When dry put in the blue shadows on the jar, remember too that there will be reflections of the pink chair bottom and the green twine in the jar. All the colors and shadows get put in place now, When all of that is totally dry,  do a wash of the blue over the entire jar, except where you have left highlights. The wash should be light in color and go on in one or two light strokes. If you keep brushing it will pick up the paint underneath and it turns into a muddy color. If you want to pick out more reflections, use your 1/4" flat. The green ball of twine is green because "why not?". There is so much green in the painting it just seemed to fit in.
Here is the final piece, although I may end up doing a few more things to it after I have lived with it for awhile.

I harp on values a lot in class because they are so important for a successful piece of art, no matter what medium you choose to work in.  I read a quote today that really hits the mark.

Values do the work, Color gets the glory.

Think about it!!

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