Painting Stages & Commentary
As part of the preparation a holiday online art show, I decided to capture both time-lapsed video and photos of each stage of my painting. The following are comments on how I created the painting and decisions along the way based on the reference photo and the painting itself. To learn how to apply these techniques in your own painting, see the information about my Wednesday night painting classes at the bottom of this email.
The Reference Photo & Inspiration
These white wildflowers in the summer sun made a beautiful bouquet against the backdrop of the dark tall trees. Even though the flowers were all the same “white”, I wanted to emphasize the warm yellow white of the flowers in the sun compared to the cool blue white flowers in the shadows.
Step 1: SQUINT
With your eyes half closed, look at the reference photo and identify the grouping of the most darkest values. Don’t worry about color, just value at this point. With the underpainting my goal is to get the canvas covered. For these trees and grasses they both have dark shadows. .
I first placed my dark cool blue-grey values followed by the dark warm green values. Notice that the paint is applied unevenly to suggest the randomness of nature. I also added a hint of blue sky, overlapped with light green trees.
Suggesting the Grasses
You cannot paint every grass blade or leaf otherwise you will go looney. Instead you can create the impression of grasses and stems of the wildflowers.
To suggest thin, light blades of grass I simply take my palette knife and scratch into the dark wet paint. The scraching shows the white canvas underneath. This technique is easy to do in oil but can also be done in acrylic if you work VERY quickly or use a slow-dry medium in your dark underpainting.
Since I was working in oil, I put the painting to the side to let the oil paint set overnight. This allowed me to paint the crisp edges of the leaves in the next step.
Next, as shown on the right, I suggest a few of the wider leaves that are attached to the stems of the wildflowers. Because of spacial perspective, the leaves in the background are smaller as compared to the wider leaves in the foreground. You only need to suggest a few of leaves, and the viewer “fills in the rest” in their mind.
Adding Sunlit Leaves
In this stage I was attempting to add the light yellow sunlit leaves of the wildflowers. When I look back at this photo they look like yellow wildflowers…oh well…that seems to work too!
Flowers Are Not White
Although the “Local” color of the flowers is white, none of the painted flowers used pure white. Instead I mixed a tiny bit of yellow into some white and used this for any of the flowers in the sunlight. For the shadowed flowers I mixed a tiny bit of blue into some white.
Adding the “White” Shadowed Flowers
This visual “tool” is very important to the artist. By squinting you eliminate the detail and instead focus on the masses of shapes that provide unity and direction in a painting.
If you don’t group your shapes, then the “dots” of suggested flowers painted evenly across the canvas would look fake and mechanical.
In this step I painted the groups of shadowed flowers with the light blue. I paid attention to the grouping and how the flowers in the lower right will lead the viewer’s eye into the painting, across the sunlit top, then down the left side. Be sure to leave some of the dark background and neighboring leaves peek through the flowers.
Adding the “White” Sunlit Flowers
The previous photo also included some of the sunlit flowers painted with the light yellow. I thought I was finished with the painting but when I looked at it again the next day in the daylight, the painting appeared too cool and blue. By adding more of the sunlit flowers across the top and partially down the side, the painting brightened up and the “white” flowers in the sun seemed to sparkly in the sunshine.
The Finished Painting
“White Wildflowers” 5×7 Oil on Canvas
Time Lapse Video
Click HERE to view a one minute time lapse video of myself painting “White Wildflowers”. This is a fun video to watch as an entire painting, that took more than an hour over several days to create, unfold within seconds.
Learn To Paint (or paint even better!)
If you would like to practice these techniques and learn many more, then sign up for my Wednesday night painting classes. Give me a call at 215-260-6826 to arrange for a tour of the workshop and to learn more about the classes. You can also CLICK HERE to get more details about the classes.