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Will You Accept This Rose? (War of the Roses Part II)

Will You Accept This Rose? Yes, Finally. Watercolor, 7x5"
Will You Accept This Rose? Yes, Finally. Watercolor, 7x5"

After all the struggles of the previous day, I was determined to succeed in painting a rose and decided to give myself a break. First I rearranged the colors in the palette, putting them in my prefered, mostly color-wheel order instead of helter skelter as they were, and replaced several colors (see below for color chart).

Revised Schmincke Palette chart
Revised Schmincke Palette chart

(WN=Winsor Newton, S=Schmincke, DS= Daniel Smith, H=Holbein):

Top Row: WN Transparent Yellow, S Cadmium Yellow Light, DS New Gamboge, S Cadmium Red Light, WN Permanent Alizarin, WN Permanent Rose.

Middle Row: WN Violet, S Ultramarine, WN Cobalt Blue, H Cerulean Blue, WN Winsor Blue, DS Indanthrone Blue.

Bottom Row: S Thalo Green, WN Sap Green, S Yellow Ochre, WN Burnt Sienna, DS Indigo, S Titanium White (the latter will probably be removed since I’ve never successfully been able to incorporate white into watercolors).

Second to Last Rose Test, ink & watercolor
Second to Last Rose Test, ink & watercolor

The other thing I did to give myself a break was that after I made the second to last rose sketch above from life, I decided to work from a photo of the rose.

That’s how I painted the rose at the top of the post. I displayed the photo on my iPad and drew it freehand with pencil instead of my usual ink, trying to be accurate in the shapes and dimensions (I even used an eraser!). Then I painted one petal at a time with my new palette arrangement. It was fun and relaxing and finally I got a rose sketch I could accept.

My takeaway from the War of the Roses: To me, the point of art making is to enjoy the process and to learn. Finding a way to balance struggle with success, work with play, and tension with relaxation just might be the key to that enjoyment.

Yes, drawing and painting from life are essential for building skills. But why not make life a little easier once in a while and paint from a photo where the subject holds still and the light doesn’t change?

I get so focused on working hard that sometimes I have to remind myself of the advice in this wise cartoon:


10 replies on “Will You Accept This Rose? (War of the Roses Part II)”

The top rose is stunning! The petals appear to be rolling outward and it has wonderful depth.

I’m a big fan of accuracy, and working carefully from a photo is a much less stressful way to achieve it. There is a bit of a stigma attached to working slowly and carefully from photos these days, and I, for one, am looking forward to the passing of that particular line of thought. My favorite writing artist Jack White once wrote, “All realistic artists either work from photos or they lie about it.”

So, use your pencil, eraser and photos and hold your head up, Jana!


Loved these two posts on your War with the Roses! I agree with your comments about enjoying the process and sometimes it means working from photos. So be it! I continue to take lots of reference photos and rarely use them except for rapidly moving animals and children. Then I definitely need them.


Yay, Jana! I learned so much from your last posts.. My paints are always helter skelter so I will have to rearrange them– I can get quite muddled at a painting moment when I try to mix and match.
As for photos, I can’t do a thing without a model or a photo of it and since I am (STILL) a Muddled Beginner, I don’t worry about photos– I just use ’em when I got ’em.


Carol, can you help me understand why it isn’t advised? Or more accurately, frowned upon? Haven’t we come beyond the days of people belittling Norman Rockwell for posing his scenes and using cameras?

Your work is beautiful – accurate, but whimsical at the same time. Who can tell whether or not you used photos or the real items?

This bugs me. Can you tell? 😎


Maybe what Carol is referring to is the advice to paint from life because photos don’t capture the range of colors as exist in life. And then there are the plein air folks who think that plein air is the only way to go and every thing else is cheating. I personally don’t like to sketch from photos–it takes away from the challenge and the excitement of discovering all the visual details and nuances that are all just laid out for you in a photo. And then there’s the skill-building required to convert our visual 3-D world to a flat 2-D world when working from life.

But I’ve always been able to see or imagine much more in photos than what is there on the surface and like to exaggerate a bit when I paint anyway. And if it makes it possible to enjoy painting to work from photos then I’m going to do it whenever I want to!

Do you work more from photos or from life? Jana B.


Hey Jana, I couldn’t figure out how to reply to your reply so I replied to myself. tee hee hee.

I work from photos. Completely. It usually takes anywhere from 3-15 photos to do a decent pencil drawing. I use a drafting table, T-square, triangle and giant magnifying light to get the details and edges exactly right. And, it takes for-flippin’-ever to do the kind of detail I strive for!

In oil paintings, I also work from photos. Tried plein air on my own without instruction for awhile. Thought the bugs would carry me away, and in no way could I figure out what I was painting because the colors changed faster than I could mix them and the shadows moved constantly.

I’ve come to accept this method as legitimate because I am the one seeing the original scene, operating the camera, cropping and framing the scene, composing it in advance of studio time. I look forward to the day when this is no longer “frowned upon”.

In conclusion, I have declared myself a “studio artist” who remains in awe of your ability to chase the scene quickly and catch it! “Challenging” might be an understatement here.


I’m totally with you! In watercolor I can have fun chasing the scene because I can get it down quickly. Forget it in oils. Just give me a nice comfortable studio with steady light and temperature for them. I think as long as you’re enjoying yourself, whether you use a camera, a ruler, a pencil or a pen, you’re doing it right! But I think that means you need to enjoy learning, solving puzzles and overcoming challenges in order to enjoy the painting process. Jana


Supposedly, photos flatten the image somehow so what we paint isn’t as realistic as drawing from life. Since I don’t have a lot of depth perception, this is how I see anyhow. So I draw from both pictures and from life. Do what YOU want. Today I saw a quote on Violette’s blog which was from Dr. Seuss but it fits with this thought. It is “Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”

Now as far as your roses go, these are both lovely and both are prettier than your previous two. Before you say the pink/purple one here is not good let me tell you my daughter has roses in her yard that look just like this, color and all! Nice work. Be proud of them both.


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