Art theory Flower Art Oil Painting Painting Still Life

One Bouquet, 2 Paintings: Generalizing vs. Specifics in Drawing and Painting

Mothers' Day Bouquet #1, oil on linen panel, 8x8"
Birthday Bouquet #1, oil on linen panel, 8×8″

My three wonderful next-door neighbor children bring me flowers every year for my birthday. This year the bouquet lasted so long I got to make two paintings from it. They come to my door, hand me the flowers and then each one shyly gives me a hug and says “Happy birthday.” I love that they’re still doing it at 10, 13 and 16.

When they were little they would come to the studio and make brilliant expressive paintings. Then school got the better of them and they started drawing the archetypical house under a rainbow with 2 windows, a door and smoke coming out of a chimney).

Mothers' Day Bouquet#2, oil on linen panel, 8x8"
Birthday Bouquet #2, oil on linen panel, 8×8″

When I try to work too fast or am tired, I start generalizing, which rarely turns out well, whether in painting or drawing. It’s too easy to do like my neighbor kids and just make a generic house or bunch of flowers rather than these specific ones. I enjoy the process and the results much more when I go for accuracy in drawing, color and value.

Some people are great at simplifying and whipping out gorgeous, impressionistic art. But for me, it’s the individual personality of my subject that interest me; the specifics that make it that particular rose, place or person.

That was the discovery I made when painting these, so they are two more “almost” paintings (see previous post). Each one is just a stepping stone on the long and joyful path that is painting. (And some paintings really are better suited to use as stepping stones in the garden than hanging on the wall!)

5 replies on “One Bouquet, 2 Paintings: Generalizing vs. Specifics in Drawing and Painting”

This speaks well of you as a person and a neighbor that these kids still bring you flowers for your birthday!!! Beautiful paintings!!


Thanks Carol. I think it speaks even more of what a great job their parents have done raising such wonderful kids. We do a lot to help each other out (I helped both their parents get their jobs and share my wifi with them–they help me with work on my house and more. The older boy takes my trash out and brings it back in for me each week (for a pittance that I pay him) since it’s one of my pet peeves–I hate hauling it in and out. Jana


I’m with you – haven’t heard it expressed in words before, but you said it well. That messing around without concentrating rarely results in anything I want to keep. It does supply a good foundation to build on when my mental faculties are more acute. . . so, maybe it isn’t a total waste of time.


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