Monday, April 4, 2016

4 Sunflower Studies

It's been about a week since I did any oil painting, however I have had a different sort of brush in my hand, since I was decorating my daughters bedroom all week!

The shops seem to be full of sunflowers at the moment so I thought I'd do some studies of these I picked up.

This variety are a particularly vivid - almost orangey hue. I have daylight bulbs in the ceiling of my basement studio (I will post something about that at some point) - the sunflowers look great in there.

I really wanted to try to capture the light and the 'glow' these sunflowers have.
I've been reading up a lot about the difference between opaque and transparent pigments in oil paints.
Greens and blues - particularly ones that I use a lot such as ultramarine and phthalo are transparent, and if you use them in the background without mixing white into them, it gives your painting the illusion of depth.  Most yellows, apart from a rare few, tend to be opaque.
Adding white tends to remove some of the saturation so I decided to use no white at all in these paintings, to keep the pigments as pure and as saturated as possible,

I think it worked to an extent. I used yellow ochre mixed with cadmium yellow deep for the shadows on the petals.
One way to darken yellow is to mix it with it's complimentary colour, which in this case is violet.
I discovered that if you mix violet with lemon yellow you get yellow ochre! A new discovery.

Each painting is:
(6 x 6 inches)
15 x 15cm approx
Oil on gessobord panel

Something else I learned from painting these 4 times: It's always a dilemma whether to paint the background or the main subject first. The first couple of paintings I decided to paint the background first because I wanted to be able to sweep the points of yellow petals into the green background with my brush. However this means that you inevitably get green paint on the end of your brush and have to wipe the brush in between every stroke!
So for the third attempt, I painted the flower first, but then I had to carefully paint around each petal for the background, losing that spontaneity you get from the sweeping brushstrokes.
By the fourth attempt I did a sort of combination of both, blocking in the basic colour for the flowers and background, then finishing with sweeping strokes and petals. In the end the results were all similar but the last one required less work.

I read that Whistler often scraped back his painting multiple times and overpainted with loose strokes, leaving the impression that his paintings were painted with spontaneity, when in truth a lot more work had gone into them.

I was inspired to read up about Van Gogh's sunflowers (see pic below). He did at least 7 versions of his stylised sunflowers over a very short period of time ( I think he did 4 paintings in a week!), as well as a number of small studies.

I like this one of his best. I think it is brighter and fresher than the other versions.
It is part of a private collection though, sadly.

File:Vincent Van Gogh - Three Sunflowers F453.jpg

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