Monday, January 14, 2013

How I Make Sunflower Paintings

Sunflowers in Three
Oil on canvas. From left, 12x48, 48x48, 24x48

During December, when I was not posting much, I was painting like crazy! I made a series of commissions for people, and happily, they loved them - and I loved them!

So here's how this big piece grew:

One of the surprisingly difficult parts of the process was getting all three canvases supported at the same  height and at the same angle. It took three easels and an amount of propping. At one horrible point, when the piece was about 2/3 finished, the center and right-hand easel toppled backwards. Friends were visiting and luckily for me, one was in the studio with me when this happened. We were able to catch and right the pieces, and no harm was done.

The first thing I do is put the centers on the flowers and lightly sketch in the petals. 

When I paint in plein air, I rarely outline or block in anything. I just start painting. But with really big canvases, I've found that if I don't block in the sunflower centers first, I tend to make them smaller than they could and should be. After all, what good is a big canvas if the images on it are small? 

Then I start to fill in the centers, generally using dark colors around the edges and brighter colors near the center. Many sunflowers don't have the dark centers, but I like the way they look!

Here's the triptych before I start the background, which in these paintings, I do last:

The backgrounds on these sunflower paintings really help make them dramatic and interesting. I call this technique "petal painting," because when I am doing it right, it's like laying down petal upon petal.

To make these strokes, I load up the palette knife and pretty much squish the paint onto the canvas, then squish another palette-knife load below that one, and then another and another and another. I work hard to make the petal painting be rhythmic and sensual.

Love these sunflowers? You can win a painting - of sunflowers or whatever you like - when you commit to sponsoring my upcoming painting trip, "To Tubac and Back." 

Click here to read about the sponsorship idea and how you can get involved! 

1 comment:

carrie jacobson said...

That's a great idea! I think I will!