Allergic to Peonies

“Allergic to Peonies”, oil on Gessobord panel, 12x9 inches
“Allergic to Peonies”, oil on Gessobord panel, 12×9 inches

I was excited when I found these peonies at Trader Joe’s and wanted to try to paint them. Maybe they’re not native to the Bay Area since I’d never seen them in person before, only in other artists’ paintings.

Preliminary sketches, block in of flowers then background, then vase
Preliminary sketches, block in of flowers then background, then vase

I got started and all was well at first while they were newly opened. I got them sketched out and blocked in the first afternoon of painting. By the end of the second afternoon when they were fully opened, their scent was killing me, making my throat and eyes itch and I started sneezing and coughing. I gave the bouquet to my neighbor.

Working on the flowers then the background and the vase to strengthen shapes and values
Working on the flowers then the background and the vase to strengthen shapes and values

The next day I finished the painting from a photo which isn’t nearly as much fun as painting from life. I also didn’t particularly enjoy working on Gessobord which is kind of dry and absorbent compared to the wonderful Yupo I’d been working on lately but I stopped using it because of some possible issues with mounting or framing Yupo.

Photo reference
Peonies in Mom's Copper Pitcher, oil on Gessobord, 10x8"

Peonies Painted in Mom’s Copper Pitcher

Peonies in Mom's Copper Pitcher, oil on Gessobord, 10x8"

Peonies in Mom’s Copper Pitcher, oil on Gessobord, 10×8″

A couple of years ago my mom and I had one of those conversations that goes something like this…

Mom: “You know those flowers that are big and fluffy and round…”
Me: “Uh, no.”
Mom: “You know! One of your neighbors had some that we saw when we walked by once.”
Me: “Do you mean the ones that we always called “popcorn ball flowers” and that I can never remember the real name of?” (referring to Hydrangea).
Mom: “No, ugh, I can’t remember what they’re called but they’re really pretty…”
Me: “Sorry. I have no idea.”
Mom: “Well anyway, I was thinking you should paint some.”

Two months later the phone rings:
Me: “Hello.”
Mom: “PEONIES! That’s what they were! You should paint some.”

While I’d often admired them in paintings, I’d never actually seen them in real life. So when Trader Joes had them in their flower stand I brought some home to paint. This nifty copper pitcher came from my mom’s collection of interesting objects.

Peonies, quick preliminary  thumbnail sketch in journal

Peonies, quick preliminary thumbnail sketch in journal

I made a good start on the pitcher but as I began painting the flowers, life intervened. I broke the “rule” for painting from life: always start with the thing most likely to move, fade or rot (which wouldn’t be the pitcher). So by the time I returned to the studio, the flowers had lost some of their fluffy peony-ness and were looking more like roses. But they hung on long enough for me to finish the painting.

Now I keep watching flower stands hoping to find more peonies to paint. But next time I’ll start with the flowers!

Click here for painting purchase information.

Beauty Parlor Still Life

Beauty Parlor Still Life

Ink and watercolor, 9×6 (larger)

This was my view while I was getting my hair cut on Friday. The beautiful peonies were an apology gift to my hairdresser from one of her clients. I don’t know what the client had done wrong but I thought the combination of the scissors, hairbrush and flowers made an interesting still life.

I’m going to be in a painting workshop all week with Camille Przewodek in Petaluma and may not have a chance to post until I return. It should be an exciting and intense week of painting. It’s also a vacation from work (whoopee) and I intend to enjoy every moment!

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