Drawing Flower Art Gouache Painting Still Life

Playing with my flowers


White ink, gouache on black Canford paper 10″x8″ (larger)

I got home from work just as my painting group was arriving for our weekly painting session in my studio. I grabbed a quick bowl of shredded wheat for dinner, fed the cats and plopped this little vase of white flowers on my drawing table.

I looked at the dainty, delicate white flowers, and feeling a little rebellious decided to draw them with white ink (using my favorite white ink pen, a Uni-ball Signo) on black paper, with no idea what I’d do after that. This was a “let’s try this and that and see what happens” sort of thing.

Once I had the drawing I decided to fool around with adding a little gouache. Just for fun I stopped before I’d covered all the petals, leaving some random black spots.

What I discovered is how much fun it is to paint with gouache on a dark background, which I’d never done before. It reminded me of those cool coloring books I always wanted (but rarely got) when I was a kid where you painted with water and the painting appeared magically.

It might have been a “better” painting if I’d paid attention to value, composition, light, etc. but tonight I just felt like playing like a kid, not trying to make a good painting.

Here’s the drawing without the gouache:

Which do you like better?

Landscape Oil Painting Painting

Flower Stand at Night in Oils


Oil on panel, 9″x12″ (larger)

This is the same scene I did a few days ago in watercolor last week. I’m not sure if I’m done or not, but it’s time to set it aside and give it a week to see what if anything is still needed. It’s interesting how much better I like it when viewing it from a few feet away instead of a close up view like this.

Several times today I thought I was nearly done and then took a break, sitting in a chair across the room with a notepad, writing down all the little things I spotted that needed adjusting and then went back to the painting and checked them all off.

Here’s the original photo reference I took the night before Thanksgiving:
Photo reference for Night Flowerstand
Photo (Larger)

I also got out and did some plein air painting with Elio‘s class on Sunday. He seems to be charmed as we have had no rain on Sundays now for three months of classes…or maybe it’s global warming? But it is pretty amazing being out painting in a sunny meadow in the middle of December. I dug out my longjohns and gloves from my skiing days and a Lifa turtle neck from my sailing days and dressed in several layers, which worked just fine in the mid-50 degree weather. Now if I can just get all the mud out of the crevices in my boots!

Flower Art Life in general Outdoors/Landscape Painting Sketchbook Pages Watercolor

Flower Stand at Night

Ink & Watercolor in Canson 7″x10″ Sketchbook (Larger)

This little flower stand looked inviting and yet so forlorn all by itself on a dark, lonely corner in downtown Oakland the night before Thanksgiving. On my way home from work I stopped to take a few photos using a postbox as a tripod and was lucky enough to get some good shots.

I did this quick ink sketch with watercolor from a photo as a study for an oil painting. I especially like the way this appears on the monitor since it enhances the feeling of light glowing out of the dark.

I’ve been feeling a bit of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) lately — grumpy and craving light. I know that it’s a common affliction and just a physical reaction — that things are just as fine in my life as they were a couple weeks ago before SAD hit. A friend of mine recommends sitting in front of special lights designed for this purpose and says they really help her. I know exercise helps mood so I’ve been trying to do more of that, especially outdoors when it’s sunny, but I think it’s time to explore SAD lights.

As much as I love to occasionally spend a good rainy afternoon listening to Mozart’s Requiem and wallowing in melancholia, generally I prefer feeling cheery.

Art theory Flower Art Glass Oil Painting Painting Sketchbook Pages Still Life

Wax On, Wax Off (Breathe In, Breathe Out)

Rose in a Jar

Oil on panel, 12×9″

The title of this post refers to words from the 1984 movie Karate Kid and also my process in this painting except for the painting it would be more like “Paint On, Wipe Off (Breathe!) Paint On, Wipe Off… ” (click on “Keep Reading” below to see photos of the steps). I’m not happy with the front flower but I’m ready to move on to the next painting. With each one I learn so much more, including how much more there is to learn!!!!

I had two main goals for this painting/learning experience:

  • Think in terms of “Whole Canvas”
  • Keep trying to understand how to work with oil paint so that I’m taking advantage of its wonderful qualities rather than fighting them. (I’ll keep trying!)

In my many years of watercolor painting, I worked hard to capture what excited me about my subject. I often worked close focus without much background, or just using the lovely white of the paper as my background to set off the glittering glass or glowing flowers I was painting. If the composition didn’t quite work out–no problem, just crop as needed with a mat and frame.

In oil painting the background has to be an integral part of the painting–you can’t just leave the glaring white of the gessoed canvas as your background. And you can’t crop a stretched canvas or panel like you can paper. I was struggling with this concept and finally it clicked. It’s just another way of seeing and, like peeling layers of the onion, the haze peeled from eyes and I could see that a painting is not subject & background — they fit together to complete the picture, just as night completes day. While an object that interests me enough to paint it is the focal point, I need (for now) to think of the PAINTING as the subject.