Monday, August 21, 2017

Painting Sunflowers

I'm happy to say that after having a few months of nothing working, I now have two completed paintings.  First up, I will show you my sunflowers.  Years ago there was a grower at the Long Island City farmers market that sold the most amazing variety of sunflowers.  I used to buy bouquets and paint them, but unfortunately, that was back when I did not have a clue what I was doing, so those paintings never worked out.  After that one summer, I never saw sunflowers like that again until a few weeks ago when I spotted them at the Union Square Greenmarket.

I grabbed a bouquet and got to work.

My placement on the canvas and the color block in went very well, so I deluded myself into thinking the painting was going to be easy.  Of course, that was not the case.  I've long said that the reason Van Gogh occasionally went off the deep end was not unrequited love, syphilis, epilepsy or the latest theory, neighborhood kids.  It was the sunflowers!  They are one of the most popular flowers in the world, but painting them is extremely difficult.  They have a ton of little petals and buds and the color looks the same on many of them, so you have to fake the shadows.  But I must confess, the biggest issue I was having was that I kept comparing my sunflowers to the most amazing sunflower paintings of all time, Van Gogh's.  That is not something that I usually do, but like many people, his sunflowers are in my brain.  I pulled out my books and started looking at his paintings to get some inspiration, but also to remind myself that my paintings are not suppose to be copies of a Van Gogh.

A little tip:  these art books are heavy.  In order to avoid lugging them to my studio, I snapped pics on my phone so I could easily refer to them without having to bring heavy books all over town.

I kept building up the layers, but if you look at the set up in this photo, you will see that the flowers were croaking out and I was nowhere near finished.

After six days, the flowers were starting to lean over, so it was time for drastic measures.  I took some old brushes and used them to prop up the flower heads.  Between the brushes and the blue tape, I kept them standing up for another day or two.  In the end, I used three different bouquets of flowers, but I'm glad I was able to use the original long enough to get the painting on it's way.

I was happy when i reached this point.  The background was finally working and the pitcher was looking like porcelain.  I was not completely happy with the flowers, but I decided to just keep going with the rest of it and deal with them later.

I began to paint the blue pattern onto the pitcher.  I did this in one afternoon and it was the easiest part of the painting.

However, I still was not happy with the flowers.  They looked bland to me, especially once the blue was on the pitcher.  After going bonkers for days painting and repainting them, I happened to be talking to Gregg and showed him a picture on my phone.  Of course, he spotted the problem right away.  The shadows!  They just were not strong enough.  He suggested using some transparent red oxide for the shadows in order to pump everything up.

That worked like a charm and I was able to finish the painting.

Here it is fresh off the easel.  I'm very excited to have a finished painting after a dry spell of things just not working out.  And I'm especially glad to have another sunflower painting to add to my collection.

Happily, I also finished a still life painting last week.  I'll have that on here as soon as I get a signature on it.

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