Less Struggle, More Sunflowers

Sunflowers #4, Oil on Arches Oil Paper, 12x9"

Sunflowers #4, Oil on Arches Oil Paper, 12×9″

I’m still trying to figure out sunflowers. I hate to quit before I’ve succeeded so decided to give it another try, continuing from the four attempts in my last post. Off I  went in search of fresh sunflowers. After striking out at the first two shops, I decided that if they didn’t have any in the next store I would put an end to the sunflower project. But freedom was not yet mine; they had sunflowers.

Below are a couple steps in the process. This time I didn’t spend as long sketching or blocking in and I made a point of starting with darker tones which I think helped. I get fooled by the concept of “yellow” and have trouble really seeing how dark yellow can be in the shadows.


And believe it or not, I’ve started yet another sunflower painting that will be the last one for a while. I’m desperate to get back to portraits and a still life I have in mind.

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 Read More

Sunflowers in Old Crock

Sunflowers in Found Crock, oil on linen panel, 8x8 in

Sunflowers in Found Crock, oil on linen panel, 8×8 in. Click image to enlarge.

I found this wonderful old crock set out on the curb, adorned with a “Free” sign so I carried it home for my “Found Stuff” painting series. One handle had broken off but the owner had thoughtfully placed the pieces inside and I glued it back together. I love the way the flowers are reflected and shadowed on the crock. The painting is available here. Below are photos of the work in progress.

It takes two to paint. One to paint, the other to stand by with an axe to kill him before he spoils it. William Merrit Chase 

My biggest painting goal is to stop what I call “unauthorized painting” — I finish part of a painting, like it and write my plan for that area: “Don’t touch it!” Later I decide to just do a little “touching up” and the next thing I know I am wishing for a “REWIND” button as I try to wipe off the “unauthorized” paint. Where’s the guy with the axe when I need him? I need to draw him, axe and all, and stick it on my easel!

If you’d like more details about each session’s goals, my thoughts, missteps and corrections, click Autumn Sunflowers and Found Crock (PDF) to open the chart. As promised in my last post, here is a Session Template (click to DOWNLOAD Word file), for anyone who would like to use or modify it to track their own work. I’ll also post it on my Resources Page.

 

Two Sunflower Survivors with Process Chart

Two Survivors, oil painting of sunflowers and white vase on linen panel, 7x5 in

Two Survivors, oil painting on linen panel, 7×5 in

Persistence, patience, perseverance, determination, curiosity, courage, confidence, wonder…these are all qualities needed to become a better painter. Another essential is learning to really see and understand the subject. I titled this painting (available hereTwo Survivors because only these two survived from the big bouquet during the week I struggled with two previous sunflower “studies” (aka failed paintings). Sometimes it takes a while before the “blinders” fall away so that I can see the shapes, colors, and values instead of the named bits (e.g. petal, leaf, or nose) that interfere with seeing as a painter.

I was inspired by artist Chris Beaven (whose sunflower painting I purchased and love) by his Session Detail charts that he embeds at the end of each post (sample). I modified his chart to create one for myself to focus my goals and intentions for each session and the painting as a whole. Completing  the chart at the end of each painting session with image, results and plans/goals for the next session is making a big difference in my process and helps me avoid random, unfocused messing about with paint.

Below is the chart I used for this painting. If you’d like to see all three session charts for this painting with my notes about goals, composition mistakes and corrections, and corresponding images, click here to open 3-page PDF file.

Session 1 Detail Chart (Click image to enlarge or click PDF link above to see all 3 sessions)

I loved the original painting of the vase in Session 1 above, with wonderful warm highlights and cool shadows created by the new LED lightbulb I’m experimenting with. My intuition told me to leave the vase alone but instead I started adding the pattern from the actual vase. After a few strokes I realized I didn’t like it and tried to wipe the pattern off the still wet paint. Then I tried to return to the original shapes of color, temperature and value.

I revised the chart layout after this painting. In my next post (another sunflower still life) I’ll include the completed chart for that painting’s 6 sessions and a blank template for anyone who wants to experiment using or modifying it for their own artwork sessions.

Monterey Market and Berkeley Horticultural Nursery

Monterey Market Sunflowers, ink & watercolor, 5x7"

Monterey Market Sunflowers, ink & watercolor, 7x5"

My Tuesday night sketch group met at North Berkeley’s Monterey Market to sketch just before the produce store was closing. My friends started indoors while I stood and sketched the buckets of sunflowers in the parking lot, using a handy shopping cart as my table.

Berkeley Horticultural Nursery, ink & watercolor, 7x5"

Berkeley Horticultural Nursery, ink & watercolor, 7x5"

When the store closed at 7:00 they joined me in sketching the sunflowers. Then I walked around the block to the entrance of the wonderful Berkeley Horticultural Nursery. I saw this crazy Dr. Seuss-like plant along their fence and had to sketch it. Each fuzzy orange-red flower grows out of a stalk that comes up from the flower below it.

The next morning I called Berkeley Hort to ask about the plant. The guy who answered went outside to check and told me it is a Leonitus Lenorius or “Lion’s Tail,” a drought-resistant, sun-loving plant.

You can see Micaela’s market sketches here and Cathy’s market, melon and sunflower sketches here on our Urban Sketchers blog.

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