Sometimes I neglect everything else in life and paint for days. Other times I do things that need to be done and neglect painting. This is one joy in my amateur status. It’s not a job.
When a subject takes up most of the space on a painting the negative spaces become an important design element. The art viewer’s eye needs to find a place to rest so it doesn’t get tired and will look longer.
Making an interesting background keeps the art viewer’s attention on the painting with more contrast and texture but it’s not as bright so it recedes.
The veins in the paint let my imagination think the painting is part of nature. It’s an illusion I like to make.
I didn’t see a plaque in the garden with the name of this variety of azaleas. Maybe I overlooked it. If it was up to me to name it I’d call it Candy Cane.
I’m waiting for my paint to dry on the azalea painting before I can finish it with the last color, pink. If I put the pink on before the other paint is dry, it might lift some white or gray and that would make the pink less bright. A couple weeks ago I bought a tube of fast drying white at Jerry’s Artarama because I knew Titanium white dries slowly. When I opened the tube it was dry in the tube! And I didn’t save the receipt. bummer.
While I wait for the paint to dry on the azaleas I decided to sketch the rhododendrons which are starting to bloom. This is Inktense pencils.
There’s a real pretty path through the rhododendrons. It’s covered with moss and has a bench and spotty sunlight. I’d like to do a painting of the path but that might be a project for next year because it could be complicated and I need to figure out a good plan for it and do sketches first.
After I did the underpainting and waited for that to dry I went over this a couple more times, background, leaves, stems, and flowers. The gray is the shadows on the azaleas. At first I had a warm gray for shadows but after looking at it for a couple days I decided to make the shadows slightly darker and cool, so I put a cool gray glaze over the warm gray. It looks like neutral gray in this photo. I’m not sure if you can see the layers of paint but you can see some veins in the paint which I like making. It gives the painting more variety of brush strokes and direction in the petals.
This azalea is past blooming but I have my sketches to go by and I’m pretty sure I can finish it at home. I think it will work out with the pink looking as bright as possible. I did some color roughs. I might do another one. I’ll continue with glazing pinks next. Then it will be finished.
I wasn’t going to show it at this stage because it’s almost done, but I thought if I just post a close up of this one section it won’t spoil the surprise.
First I had to paint the flowers with white because the pinks won’t show up bright enough on the dark tinted paper since they’re semi transparent colors. Also, I couldn’t see the flowers well enough until I painted them to tell if they look like a good arrangement.
The background texture is from my modified fan brush. I wanted to make a look of pine needles on the ground
The scary part is the pinks. I mixed my colors in plein air sitting next to the azaleas and I think I have the closest pink to what it actually is, but it’s not as bright on my palette as it is in reality. Flower petals allow a little light to go through. They’re not 100% opaque because of the cell structure, if you know what I mean. The sun on the pink petals makes a brighter pink than you can buy in a tube of paint.
I need to do a color rough and see if the pink will be brighter if I use glazes of the two pinks that I have straight out of the tube.
First I need to go over this again and decide where to have shadows and where to have spotty sunlight. Then wait for that to dry before painting the pinks. I’m excited I got this far with the painting and might be able to finish it next week. It can dry this weekend. I’m going to PA.
As I’m sketching the flowers, I pick up information that a photo won’t give you. It’s not always easy to see the petals as separate shapes. I’m sure a camera would blend them together. I might be the only one interested in drawing petals separately but it could help me decide which direction to drag my brush on the painting, where the edges are if I want to keep edges. I’ll probably simplify the painting but I need detailed drawings.
Another thing a photo won’t make you aware of is that the buds and flowers come in groups of three. The stems are in threes too. The stems don’t go straight vertical but have some curve. Some of the petals have smooth edges and some have zig zag edges.
Now I realize that other plein air artists don’t care about separate petals. They’d go to the garden and start right in with slapping down some paint and finish the painting in a day or maybe less. I need the sketching time to figure out a plan.
The more flowers I sketch the easier it gets. I might need more flower sketches but maybe these are enough.
The two big azalea bushes I was standing between are in a kind of U shape where I can step off the path and stand between the bushes to sketch. These are on the shady side. I looked at the sunny side of the bushes and the sun was too bright on my white paper. It was blinding! I use the white paper last because it’s not great for sketching in plein air. Also when looking at the side in the direct sun all the flowers were lit equally bright. When I sketched the shady side it was easier on the eyes. I didn’t feel like going back to the car for my sunglasses.
As I was standing there for around an hour and a half to fill each of these papers with flowers, some spotty light fell on a few flowers at a time and it was much nicer to see than the bright glare of direct light. I decided to do my painting with spotty light. I’ll have to fake it on the sunlight if I paint this at home, but that means I can put as much sunlight in as I want to, because if I go back to the garden to paint the flowers will be different and I don’t know exactly what time the sun fell on any flower to catch it at it’s best.
So, yeah, and hour and a half on each sketch paper. That means I have around six hours in it so far and haven’t started painting yet. That’s one reason I can’t get in with a plein air group. Also, I don’t want to pay to join a group, I mean $35 to get your name on an email list? But they don’t like this approach to painting. They don’t want to go back day after day and do a bunch of sketches. But it’s a whole different process and if I ever sell a painting I’ll ask a lot more for it than their fast one day paintings would go for. They want their art openings to be “cohesive” which means the artists must conform. If all the paintings for sale are asking $300 and someone enters a painting and they want $1000 for it, the juror would reject it because they don’t want an artist to think their painting is worth so much more that any of the others.
I traced my flowers from the sketch papers and cut them out to arrange them on the paper I tinted for this painting. This step will help me decide if I need to draw more flowers or if this is enough. I want to have some flowers in the background too. If I can come up with a good arrangement then I’ll try to decide how much sunlight to put into the painting and where. I decided I want the spotty light to make the composition more than the flower shapes. If I can make a good composition with the flowers and light, I hope the viewer’s eye will move around the whole painting.
This will be a busy week at the botanical garden because of the holiday and the weather is improving. Norfolk was on the edge of a freeze warning so I wondered if it would affect the azaleas which are starting to bloom but they look fine today.
I’m undecided how to paint them but I’ll get more sketches and paint at home. I have a good spot to sketch off the main path. I just don’t want to hang around if it gets crowded so I’m going when they open in the morning.
These are close to life size on my 11 x 14 paper which is the size I can stand and hold in one hand to sketch without using my easel.
I took my numbered color swatches that correspond with my Inkense pencils to make color notes. That’s my little color notes on the sketch. I might use my Inktense pencils for this or maybe oils with my brushes on a yardstick, which is fun.
The variegated ones are my favorites. oops, I smeared my charcoal. That’s ok, I need a lot more sketches but I can start planning my painting by starting to arrange them on a larger paper.
In wildlife news:
Crows, A crow was harassing me at the botanical garden when I painted the redbud last week, caw caw cawing over my head for a long time. Finally I thought he wants to steal something shiny from me and I covered my paintbrushes and everything else with any shine and he went away.
Canada geese. I pulled into a shopping center to get lunch and saw a goose sleeping in the parking lot. I wondered if he was sick, hoped he didn’t get hit by a car. Then I got my Kentucky fried chicken and parked to eat it. I saw the other goose sitting on a nest under a tree on one of the cement islands with mulch in the parking lot. 4 crows were constantly harassing the goose on the nest. The goose didn’t seem concerned about the cars but that would be bad with the crows harassing the geese all day. And they will have to walk a long way when the eggs hatch because there’s no pond anywhere near there. The babies will have to cross busy streets if the crows don’t manage to steal the eggs first. what a bad spot for a nest! I noticed some human had left a plastic bowl near the nest, probably with food or water.
Ospreys. I was happy to see the nesting pair back on top of the light pole out back. It’s over a little league field. The teams are back to playing their regular schedule. Sometimes it gets loud out there but it’s mostly quiet.
What I’m really looking for is Redbud trees. I thought it’s too early, then I saw a couple on my way home starting to bloom. They’re hard to spot if they’re not blooming because they’re small twisty trees. I’ll keep looking for the Redbuds but if I can’t find them I’ll draw other flowers.
This paper isn’t great for pastel. It has no tooth, meaning it’s too smooth. I can’t build up layers of pastel as well as on better pastel paper. It’s ok for sketches though, because I can save these and use them as reference sketches in a painting next spring if I get a good idea worked out by then for daffodils or azaleas. I also need to find the best view of the flowers, see what would work for a background, etc.
Meanwhile, this is drawing practice. It doesn’t matter what the subject is for practice. The more you keep at it the better your eye gets for things like color and contrast, directions of lines or shapes, sizes of subjects for a finished painting and another million things an artist decides while working on a project. You make a lot of decisions without much thought, but other things take more and more sketching to come to a good plan. The more flower studies I do in advance the better. Or I could just put these in the file and never use them. I don’t know for sure. It could be the first step of a painting or it could be nothing more than another sketch.