Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A Lesson In Flower Arranging

Some painters transform the sun into a yellow spot, others transform a yellow spot into the sun.

Whenever I'm at shows or markets, people ask how I make my collages. I know all the rage now is Live Video, but I've not advanced to that as yet, so here is my step-by-step for a piece that I recently finished.

Usually I make collages of animals, which I paint and add paper to. I save a ton of photos and clippings that serve as inspiration, and I had run across a bunch of flower bouquet photos I have and thought I'd take a break from the animals. I reinterpreted one of the bouquets in paper and paint a few months ago. I had gotten good feedback on Instagram which I use as a sort of barometer, so I thought I'd do a few more.  Here is the first one.

So, here's my process:

First, I looked through my color clippings. Whenever I see color combinations I like, I cut out the magazine page, or get a sample of the fabric, or take of photo of the outfit.  I find that if I just make note of the colors I don't remember the precise shades that attracted me. This is a nice combination of pinks, whites, reds, and yellow from a catalog. I love using red and white -- those colors always look classic but also fresh, clean, and energetic. And red and pink is my all time favorite color combination (at least today it is). This is a comforter/duvet cover from the catalog.

Next I found a photo of a flower bouquet that I thought I could recreate using this simple color combination.

 I made a rough sketch in paint to create the composition and make sure the proportions were correct. When I paint in oil, I usually do an underpainting but since most of the canvas will be covered with paper I didn't see the need for this step.  Based on the photo,  I divided the flower parts into the 4 basic colors, deciding that the stems and leaves would be white.  

Next,  I put in a little bit more detail for the flowers to further clarify the shapes and where the colors would go. Whenever I'm teaching drawing and painting I suggest that students concentrate on making shapes instead of trying to capture the actual object they are drawing. With this bouquet of flowers there are lots of roses, peonies, tulips, and ranunculus, all with different leaves and stems -- which can be totally overwhelming to capture on canvas. However, if you look at each part as just a shape (instead of a particular flower), your brain forgets the roses, peonies, and ranunculus, and you make circles, ovals, and lines.

After I got the shapes right, I started to add the paper. I have a HUGE collection of papers, and keep them fairly organized according to color. So I grabbed a stack of pink papers and scraps and started pulling out pieces I wanted to use. Not as simple as it sounds --  I have particular shades of pink in my head; a soft medium bubble gum pink for the background -- in paint, and a fuschia hot pink for flower parts.

I finished off with the papers, including the whites and creams for the leaves and stems.

To finish and pull together each flower, I add another layer of paint, outlining the shapes.  I then added a really basic vase in a great neon pink, and added a yellow table (including a shadow using yellow paper), as well as yellow centers to the flowers. You can see how this paint step really differentiates the flowers and stems from one another and pulls the piece together. 

I usually come back a day or so later to look at the piece with fresh eyes and decide if I need to make any changes. If it's done, I cover the canvas with a water based varnish to make sure the paper doesn't start to come unglued later or tear, as well as give the painting a glossy finish.  Voila.

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