Part 2, project 2, exercise 2 still life with flowers

I’m using an A4 sketch book for this, trying to keep things in one place after earlier experiences selecting which books had which best selection to send off with an assignment. This top page is untreated and I used wet-in-wet to make some general flower shapes before mopping with paper towel and training some of the pigmented edges in directions indicative of petals. When it was dry, I used a limited palette of reds and oranges (the flowers) and blue/green for the stems and leaves. Meanwhile, I applied a layer of white gesso to the page beneath for the next sketch.

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I’m not sure I’ve done the poppy any favours and i’ve lost the petals on the lower red flower. The metallic surface they’re lying on looks more convincing on the bottom page though.

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21st Feb. I watched a video of an artist painting flowers as mine were baffling me, especially the big orange one. The technique is quite formulaic and the results not really ‘painterly’ but it gave me some ideas which I tried today.

My first stumbling block was the consistency of the medium – whatever this person is using, it’s very fluid while still holding pigment (pouring paint maybe?) whereas mine was either dilute or thicky and sticky so that my flat brush rapidly became shaped and wouldn’t replicate that technique at all. Nevertheless, the general idea had some effect and the larger paintbrush helped too. Even better, in my haste to apply this to the prepared page on the other side of these, I blotted them with black sugar paper and found something quite unexpected – flower shapes by suggestion. I wonder if I can use this to make the still life.

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I think the orange poppy is improved with larger brush strokes, but for now the others seem to have taken a dive and need more definition with better colours. I have to remember this is an exercise and not spend too much more time on it though.

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22nd Feb and this is turning into my personal bete noir. While that poppy looks quite acceptable onscreen (above), it looks much less so to me in reality. I’ve spent some time today trying to find textures and shapes by using a variety of media in my sketch book and inserting different kinds of paper into it.

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In the end, my favourite poppy is the metal beetle!

My suspicion is that the multitude of lines created by the folds of the petals are somehow confusing my eye and brain. They don’t stay still, some of them seem to go missing, others appear apparently from nowhere. I’ve found this before with multiple lines, usually in perspective drawings, so I think the message is to KISS it (keep it simple stupid). I’ve prepped the back of a very old Daler sketch pad with white gesso with a view to setting up a different composition – simpler flowers and my star beetle.

23rd February and I’ve realised I need to get a move on, hence this was completed in one day. I’ve changed the orientation of the flowers – particularly the poppy – in the hope of finding some simpler shapes that don’t defeat me. The red flowers now feel rather better, the poppy still much less so. The beetle though, favourite fellah! I’ve used acrylics throughout and found dealing with the background quite difficult as it had to be completed after the main elements because some colours loose luminance if they’re not on a white base – or they do in my inexperienced hands. Perhaps this will be tackled later in this module or in the UPM module to follow. I’d also intended to use mixed colours rather than pre-packaged ones but with time against me, I resorted to whatever I had available that suited the situation. There was still quite a lot of mixing, and also a combination of dry brush undiluted and very wet diluted paint. There are several layers here with underpainting in naples yellow and a series of colour layers on the flowers and the beetle.

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Steep learning curve here. I really thought I wouldn’t get it done today but I did and also discovered I could rescue it where before I might have given up and started again. I attribute this to watching the heroes of Sky’s Landscape/Portrait Artist of the Year series’ pulling all sorts of miracles out of the bag in just four hours.

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