Mr. Grumpy’s Cheery Roses

“Mr. Grumpy’s Cheery Roses”, painted from life, finished from photo after flowers died, oil on canvas, 12x9”
“Mr. Grumpy’s Cheery Roses”, painted from life, finished from photo after flowers died, oil on canvas, 12×9”

After taking cuttings from my neighbor’s yard (with permission this time) I painted these from life but had to finish them from a photo after the flowers died. I experimented with starting with an acrylic underpainting but I’m so unskilled with acrylics that it didn’t really create a useful value-study underpainting as you can see below.

Clockwise from top left: Photo of flowers when I started, acrylic underpainting, getting started with my focal rose, then some darks and leaves
Clockwise from top left: Photo of flowers when I started, acrylic underpainting, getting started with my focal rose, then some darks and leaves

I’m still trying to find my way with roses. I’m quite attracted by simplified, more abstract ways of painting flowers, but my own tendencies towards detail always seems to override my intentions. Maybe if I painted really large, I could put in all the details, turning them into abstract shapes? Hmmmm….. 

Flowers and leaves blocked in, background and glass and stems added, darks and lights restated, final.
Flowers and leaves blocked in, background and glass and stems added, darks and lights restated, final.

White Roses, Grandma’s Vase (and a Great Little Still Life Lamp)

White Roses: Spring Rose Series #7” Oil on Yupo, 12x9”
White Roses: Spring Rose Series #7” Oil on Yupo, 12×9”

I was happy that I met my two goals for this painting: 1) to keep it light and airy and 2) to draw and paint the flowers quickly before they changed or died.

I did the drawing on the first afternoon; painted the flowers and the background and began the vase on the second afternoon. I completed the rest of the painting the next morning, knowing it was my last chance before I’d be out of the studio for a few days. You can see the steps in the process photos below.

When I returned three days later the flowers were quite dead. Although I had a reference photo I could have used to “touch up” a few things, I felt that I’d said what I had to say and for once was willing to let it be as is instead of endlessly trying to perfect things.

Set up with clamp on LED 3-color lamp
Set up with clamp on LED 3-color lamp

One thing that made the painting really enjoyable was the discovery of this inexpensive and wonderful little clamp-on LED light that can be set to provide warm light, cool light or medium temperature light. It provided a perfect amount of directional light for lighting a still life and was easy to clamp on to my foam-core still life shadow box. The side of the box wasn’t quite tall enough so I just clamped on another piece of foam core and attached it to that. Since the light doesn’t weigh much it didn’t need anything more sturdy. No more clutter from a standing lamp or glare in my eyes from big heavy clamp on lights.

Spring Rose Series #6

“Spring Rose Series #6”, oil on Yupo, 12x9”.
“Spring Rose Series #6”, oil on Yupo, 12×9”.

I was careful to get these roses painted in one afternoon, after spending a couple hours arranging the still life and getting the drawing down because I knew the flowers would keep changing. On the second afternoon I worked on the leaves and background. I saved the vase for last, thinking it wouldn’t change. But of course it did, as the flowers slumped and the water level dropped. I wanted to paint it from life, but had trouble making sense of what I was seeing and ended up wiping it off. 

By the next day I had to toss the flowers so I used a photo reference on my iPad of the vase. Two more days of fails and wipe-offs followed. Finally I got to a point where I was willing to declare it done. You can see some of the steps in the process below.

Photo reference and initial block in stages
Photo reference and initial block in stages. Worked on flowers first.
Worked on leaves and background. Tried and failed repeatedly with vase.
Worked on leaves and background. Tried and failed repeatedly with vase.

Spring Rose Series #5 (and #2-#4)

“Spring Rose Series #5” Oil on Yupo, 12x9”
“Spring Rose Series #5” Oil on Yupo, 12×9”

I was happy with this painting of my roses, done from life in 2 1/2 afternoons, especially after having tried and failed several times to paint my neighbor’s pink roses. (See below for photos of the process).

I’d read that oil painting on Yupo paper worked well and was archival so decided to give it a try with a pad of Yupo I’d bought long ago for watercolor. It hadn’t fit my watercolor style then, but I found it very fun to paint on with oils and also easy to wipe off. It’s similar to painting on DuraLar except it’s not transparent.

Photo of setup and steps in the process
Photo of setup and steps in the process of painting above

Every time I tried to paint my neighbor’s roses, I’d get the drawing and block in started, run out of time and the next morning the flowers had slumped or collapsed to the point I’d have to give up, wipe off and start over.

 Roses painting attempt 3 and 4
Roses painting attempt 3 and 4

I finally decided the square oil primed linen panel was jinxed and abandoned it. (Or maybe it was karma? The first bunch I’d taken without permission but even after I’d gotten permission his roses just wouldn’t hold up.)

Rose painting attempt #2
Rose painting attempt #2
Dead Flowers Again!
Dead Flowers Again!

Spring Rose Series #1

“Spring Rose Series #1”, Oil on Linen Panel, 10x8”
“Spring Rose Series #1”, Oil on Linen Panel, 10×8”

My roses have started their spring parade of long stem blooms and I can’t resist painting them even though I’m allergic to their scent. This painting started a whole series that went from OK (this one) to 5 total fails (each painted on top of the previously scraped one), to one I declared successful, which I’ll post next time.

See photos of the setup and work in progress below. 

Wedding Bouquet (FIXED!)

Wedding Bouquet (Fixed), oil on panel, 10x8"

Wedding Bouquet (Fixed), oil on panel, 10×8″

Thank you to everyone who responded to my previous post and offered feedback about whether to try to fix the right-hand rose that was bugging me. I figured if everyone said leave it I would, but if others saw the problem too, I’d try again to fix it. They did, so I did, and now I can look at it without feeling frustrated.

To solve the problems with the rose, I turned the photo and the painting upside down and could immediately see I had the shape wrong. Then I converted the photo to gray-scale to check values. I reshaped and repainted the rose using grayed-down, paler colors. I touched up a few other spots in the painting (back top right flowers, some leaves and small changes to both left roses). I added a black border to simulate how it will be framed.

Now I think the focal point (the middle rose) stands out, and the minor right rose recedes. FYI, the reason these roses don’t look that rose-like is because although I started working from life, I could quickly see that the flowers were about to completely fall apart (it was several days after the wedding) so I took a photo of the almost over roses.

Below Left (AFTER): fixed final painting; Below Right (BEFORE): before adjustments and fixes.

Wedding Bouquet (Finished or Fix?)

Wedding Bouquet, oil on linen panel, 10x8"

Wedding Bouquet, oil on linen panel, 10×8″

I started this painting of my daughter-in-law’s wedding flowers soon after the wedding in January 2014 but wasn’t thrilled with the way it turned out so set it aside. I began reworking it again recently, and after several times reaching a point of saying, “Finished” and then working on it some more, I remembered the saying, “Art is never finished, only abandoned” and decided it was simply time to stop.

But there’s still one thing that bugs me in this painting: the pink rose on the right just feels too Barbie pink to me. Every time I look at the painting it irks me. But I’ve repainted it 5 times and perhaps because the photo I’m working from isn’t very good, especially of that rose, it keeps turning out the same. I may try one more time. What do you think? Leave it or try again? Or maybe find another photo of the set up with a different view of that rose and try again from that photo?

My challenge in painting is always how to maintain the freshness of my original inspiration, color choices and brush strokes while holding back my inner perfectionist who wants to keep noodling around forever. Another challenge with returning to an older painting is that the fresh flowers are long gone and only a so-so photo remains to work from. Likewise all my new fresh ideas about painting have to be set aside to work on something from the point of view of a year ago.

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