Friday, October 19, 2012

Painting white flowers

Aloha from Kealakekua Bay and more orchid painting. As students focus on completing one final painting for the workshop (after a very fun field trip to Pacific Orchid Farms at the other side of the island) I am sharing some of their studies created 2 days ago, when they worked on painting white flowers.

The first day of the workshop we worked on value studies and understanding the parts of the orchid, such as shown for the cultivar Bllra. Tahoma Glacier 'Sugar Sweet' as illustrated below:

When painting white flowers, such as this orchid or similar ones (like the one imaged below), an artist must think "white isn't really all white", and think of ways to show the orchid so that it isn't the floral equivalent of a picture of a snowman in a snowstorm!

The photograph above demonstrates one of the most spectacular ways to paint white flowers: make the background dark, such as the dark foliage in this image.

Robyn and Jane graciously allowed me to share their studies with you. First Robyn made some thumbnail sketches to decide what would be the most effective color to use as a background to her orchid painting:

She decided on the color she liked the best, carefully painted in the background around her full-sized pencil drawing of her orchid flower, and then painted the orchid. You can paint the orchid flower first, but it takes much longer, and if you make a mistake on the background painting it is really annoying (to say the least) to then have to repaint the more complicated orchid flower.

I think she chose a great color for the background, don't you? Here is her test strip juxtaposed with the painting, so you can think about what the other backgrounds might have looked like:

Jane decided on a color for her background, and experimented with varying the color in it a bit. For example she added the green in the lower right to balance with the green color in the stem and flower buds in the upper right. She also worked on differing the look of the flower in the background, where you see the back of the flower, with the flower in the foreground, where you see all of the detail of the orchid labellum (lower lip) and column (pistil and stamens fused together):

I think the upper flower really pops, and was impressed with how well the subtle painting of the back flower worked to create three dimmensionality.

Two other ways to paint white flowers are to outline in pen and ink, as in my image below:

Or, one can exaggerate the values of the flower, with white areas in the foreground tinted with warm colors such as yellow, and areas that recede tinted with cool colors such as blue. The trick here is that warm colors tend to move forward, and cool colors tend to recede.

All three methods of painting white flowers can be seen in my study of Calla Lily (which is of course not a flower, but a sheath-like spathe enclosing the spike of flowers, the spadix):

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