Monday, September 25, 2017

Rose Up Close

Rose Up Close, 9x12" Arches CP
In spring of 2017 I began to instruct sketching and watercolor classes at the Art Verve Academy, so when they invited me to help instruct a group of art students during an art excursion in Italy, I just could not pass that opportunity up!  I have been back only a week and I am still buzzing with inspiration for painting!

Here is one example of my latest inspired works, which is a watercolor of a rose blooming at the villa in Tuscany where we were staying.  I must say, I am really pleased with how the painting turned out!  I'd like to share with you a little of my process in creating this painting.

The first step was noticing the beautiful rose blooming in one of the planters at the villa after a few days of rain, and grabbing a couple photographs of it with my phone.  I have a new phone, a Samsung Galaxy S7, which has a really good camera on it.  Here is the photo that I liked best:

Rose blooming at our Italian villa
The light was flat due to clouds, but this allowed the rich color variations of the rose petals to be captured by the camera.

Now I could have made a painting with a composition the same as how I photographed it, a lone rose standing up out of the planter, but I didn't find the composition exciting.  The best part of the rose to me is the wonderful patterns, colors, and textures of the interior of the rose, so I decided to crop my image to compose such that the center of the flower is clearly the focus.  I love floral paintings that are more like macro photographs for this reason.

To crop the image I used the Android app called Photo Editor by i Share.  This particular app allows you to select the aspect ratio you want to crop, a very important feature for planning a painting.  In my case I wanted to do the painting on a 9x12" Arches Cold Press block I have, so I cropped the photo to my liking using the 3:4 ratio in the app.  I wanted the center of the flower to be slightly off-set from the center of the frame, and to include a bit of the leaves at the bottom.  Here is the cropped photo I decided on:

Cropped photo
Next is to start making the drawing.  I had a few options.  One is to print out the reference photo to correct 9x12" size and trace it (a bit of a feat since my paper is only 8 1/2 x 11").  Another is to make the drawing on a separate piece of drawing paper then transfer the finished drawing onto the watercolor block using Saral Transfer Paper.  I could use the grid method to improve the accuracy of my drawing that way, drawing grid lines onto the drawing paper and viewing the reference photo using an app that super-imposes grid lines.

I certainly use one of these two methods when the accuracy of the drawing is crucial, such as when I do animal portraits.  But since this is a flower full of organic shapes, accuracy is not quite as critical, so I decided to just "go for it" and draw lightly with pencil directly onto my watercolor block.  I did actually use a minimal form of the grid method.  Using an Android app for gridding called Drawing Grid Maker by Vavatch Software, I viewed the reference photo as a 2x2 grid.  Basically a horizontal and vertical centerline was imposed onto the photo.  On my watercolor paper, I made tiny tick marks in pencil at the center locations, top and bottom, and each side, as well as a tiny cross-hairs in the center of the paper.  I'd reference these tick marks as I drew my shapes compared to the gridded reference photo.  I made sure to make very light lines, and any errors I erased gently using a kneaded eraser.

With my drawing penciled in on the watercolor paper, next was to consider what paints I wanted to use.  I like to try new things, so I first explored in my color journal the primary triad of DaVinci Hansa Yellow Deep, Daniel Smith Quinacridone Coral, and M. Graham Phthalo Blue Red Shade.  I never use these colors and wondered if it was an opportunity to use them.  Once I made a color mixing chart, however, I was not pleased with the yellow and coral mixes, they were too neurtralized and not bright enough.  So I decided on my standby soft-color triad of Winsor Yellow, Quinacridone Rose, and Cobalt Blue.  I could have used my Daniel Smith Hansa Yellow Medium or M. Graham Azo Yellow.  To me, all those yellows are about the same, and are towards the "cool" end of the spectrum.  Cobalt Blue is my favorite blue for "gentle" purples.

I was feeling a little uncertain about what technique I should actually paint, considering first doing a loose 3-color under-painting wet-into-wet.  I decided against that idea because I wanted there to be white edges on the flower petals.  So I decided to paint each petal separately right from the start onto white paper.

Brushes used for the painting
Using techniques described by Birgit O'Connor (one of my favorite floral watercolorists) in a YouTube webinar on the Artists Network YouTube channel, I used my natural hair brush (DaVinci Cosmotop Mix B #12) to paint clear water to almost the edge of the petal, then paint in color to the edge of the petal using my blended-hair brush (Silver Black Velvet #10).  When needed, I softened the edges of color using the damp natural hair brush.  Birgit O'Connor says that the nature of the hairs on the brush make a big difference and are best used for particular functions in painting.  Natural hair brushes (made of sable and squirrel) are great for holding water and softening edges; blended hair brushes (made of a combination of natural hairs and synthetic) offer better control of paint.  She loves her natural hair brushes but almost never actually paints with them.  I can agree with that, I've always been frustrated when I paint with my natural hair brushes and tend to prefer my Silver Black Velvet brushes to paint with, which are a blend of synthetic and squirrel hair.

I highly recommend you view Birgit O'Connor's webinar, it's very informative.

I had puddles of yellow, rose, and blue paint on my palette and loaded my brush with them as I studied the reference photo for what colors are needed for each petal.  Brighter peaches were usually a combination of only yellow and rose, deeper reds usually a combination of all three.  I painted petal by petal, carefully noting the values in my reference photo.  I mixed a little on the palette, but in general I endeavor to let colors mix on the paper.  Once all the petals were painted, I did a lot of squinting at both my painting and the reference photo to ensure the values were correct.  I ended up deepening the color in several areas in further layers.

I painted the leaves in a couple of layers of yellow and cobalt mixtures (with touches of rose) and painted the background using the deep Indanthrone Blue mixed with Quinacridone Rose.  Once that was dry, I decided the leaves competed with the flower so I glazed over all of the leaves and background areas with another layer of Indanthrone Blue and Quinacridone Rose, to "push" the leaves back and bring the flower forward.  Painting complete!

I apologize for not photographing each stage of the painting to illustrate the process, I shall endeavor to do that next time!

No comments: