Oil Painting Painting Plants

Struggling with Sunflowers Again

Sunflowers #1-A; oil on Arches Oil Paper, 17
Sunflowers #1-A; oil on Arches Oil Paper, 17″x10″

Sunflower Attempt #1 (Above) This one quickly went off the rails, the flowers got scraped off and then not repainted because the actual flowers had keeled over and I had nothing to work with.

Sunflower Attempt #1-B (Below)

There are some interesting things about this composition but I was still working too large (about 16×11″) and by the time I started painting after getting it sketched and blocked in it was too late in the day and the next day the flowers were falling over. The brown scarf covering the table was a bad idea, way too much dark brown in the painting. I experimented with repainting the table top a few different ways. I ran out of time with the flowers that were smelly and drooping and didn’t finish the vase because I wanted to try again and had just lost interest in this attempt.

Sunflower Attempt 2, Oil on Arches Oil Paper
Sunflower Attempt 1-B, Oil on Arches Oil Paper

Sunflower Attempt #2 (Below)

I tried making the background out of Gamblin’s Portland Greys with a little color added. It turned out really dead. I gave up on this painting after fussing with the bottle and loosing patience with it and the dull look of the background and the lack of value contrast in the flowers. I had some good values at first and then turned it all into mid-tones as I worked too long.

Sunflower Attempt #2, oil on Arches Oil Paper, 12×9″

Sunflower Attempt #3 (Below)

Sunflower Attempt 3, oil on Arches Oil Paper, 12x9
Sunflower Attempt 3, oil on Arches Oil Paper, 12×9″

I started out wanting to just do big shapes of value and color and leave them alone but I couldn’t resist adding more details and then wasn’t happy with the outcome. I’m a little happy with the background but wasn’t able to capture the look of variegated colors and brushstrokes that makes a background more interesting except a bit in the shadow. I had a really hard time getting a photo with accurate colors but maybe this is close enough to see the problems.

I always like the sketchy block in phase better than the finished painting–although I wouldn’t call this a finished painting. I went as far as I could until I would have had to scrape or rework but stopped instead, having had just about enough of sunflowers for now.

7 replies on “Struggling with Sunflowers Again”

Sorry!!! My mistake. I was trying to make it not visible until I was ready to publish it but did it wrong. I took off the password protection and will just let it go even though its not quite ready for prime time.


Sunflowers!! Love them!! Am working on them myself right now. Maybe darken your darks and lighten your lights. Lots of beauty in what you have already done. God bless, C-Marie


Sunflowers are a ton of fun to paint, one of my most favorite flowers. Your accuracy in drawing on these paintings is good and I like the composition of all of them. I do think that the intensity of the yellows would be more apparent if your values in the shadow areas were closer to the images. Overall I think your second attempt is the best in my opinion. Love to see you working hard on a subject, keep it up!


I feel your pain, Jana! It can be so frustrating trying to paint something that has inspired you, but you feel like you just can’t seem to capture what you see.

You may not be happy with it, but Attempt #1 reminds me so much of paintings from the 1930’s (can’t think of the artist’s name right now).

Hang in there!


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