Happily, I think things are turning around. You may remember that I painted these sunflowers over the summer.
Above is the original set up and this shot is what I thought was the finished painting. I was happy with the flowers as soon as they went in, but the rest of it was a struggle and it just never seemed quite right to me. After spending a few months analyzing it, I realized a few things. The background was too dark, the velvet cloth was not flowing, and the biggest problem: the vase was too flat.
On Saturday I arrived at my studio and just started painting. For whatever reason things were flowing and the painting is now so much better. I lightened up the background and re-did the red cloth. Just those two things made a huge difference. Then it was time to get to the hard part: the vase.
White objects and cloth can be very difficult to paint. It usually takes more than a few times to get it right.
See the difference with the lighter background and the fixed up red cloth? The whole painting was looking muddy and I'm so happy that is gone. I then outlined the vase one more time and commenced with the re-painting. I really darkened up the shadow (by mixing in some of the green background to the white mixture) and then added my medium and light whites. I brought the lightest white over to the opposite end of the vase in order to make the vase appear round and not flat like it had been before.
Things were looking a lot better, but I was still not completely satisfied, so another coat of the white colors went on.
Now that I finally had the fullness and roundness of the vase that I wanted, it was time to put the highlight in. People are always surprised when I put the highlight in before the pattern, but this is one of the first lessons that Gregg Kreutz (my teacher) taught me. You have to make sure that your whites are dark enough so that your highlight stands out. If you wait until you are finished, you may end up having to do the whole painting over. If you look at the above photo, you can see that the highlight is sitting on the white just where it should be.
At this point my light was gone, so on Sunday I went back to the studio and got right to work on the pattern. The secret to doing the pattern is to paint the darks and lights just like you would any other aspect of the painting. The pattern is blue, so I have Ivory Black and Ultramarine Blue in the shadow portion, plain Ultramarine Blue on the bottom of the vase and Ultramarine Blue and Titanium White on the lightest portion.