2018 Workshop Schedule. New workshops added! click here for details.
Visit my Patreon Page for more painting instruction

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Secret to Painting a Wildflower

'Clover and Lace'         12x16        pastel           ©Karen Margulis  Purchase Here $175
I had the nicest comment this week on one of my Queen Anne's Lace paintings.
" I've never seen anyone paint Queen Anne's Lace the way you do."  Not only did the comment make my day it also gt me thinking.  What do I do that is different than other artists? How did my style evolve? What is the secret for painting a Queen Anne's lace bloom?  Expanding on these questions I started thinking about how artists become known for a certain style or subject matter. How does one begin to master a certain subject?
I don't have all the answers but I do know what has worked for me. The secret for painting wildflowers for me is that I paint them often and with passion.  Paint what you love. Paint your truth. I have heard this advice many times.  Figure out what it is you are drawn to. What makes your heart race? What compels you to capture it on canvas or paper? For me it is wildflowers and probably Queen Anne's Lace as my most favorite subject. When I see them bobbing by the roadside my heart sings. When I paint them I try to paint them with the same excitement and passion. If you can paint something with passion and love than this will show in your work.
My secret for painting any subject well:
  • Paint what you love. Sure, you need to stretch and paint other things to help you learn and grow as an artist. But always make time to return to your favorite subjects.
  • Paint what you know....or really get to know your favorite subject. Study it and paint it over and over. I can't tell you how many variations on this same field of Queen Anne's Lace I have painted. I vary the technique,color palette, composition....and with each painting I get to know the flower even better. I never tire of painting them because they move me
  • Plan and then paint with Passion!  When I paint a field of Queen Anne's Lace I start with a plan so  that when I paint I can paint with passion and just intuitively respond to my painting. I don't want anything to slow me down like choosing colors and making composition decisions. 
What subject makes your heart sing?  How many times have you painted it? The more you paint it, the more you will make it your own and your own unique style will emerge. I think I will go paint some more Queen Anne's Lace!


Jennifer Edwards said...

I would have to agree with whoever made thst comment...I have always LOVED your Queen Anne's lace paintings!! They are the flower of my childhood in Boone and your paintings capture them in that dreamy, ethereal perfection of my memories of them. This one is particularly beautiful!

Sara Mathewson said...

hi Karen,

this is so true. I am kind of new to landscape painting as I have only been doing it for a couple of years. i struggle with it but also love it when it works out.I began painting in watercolor and i usually paint flowers in that medium. i love painting flowers especially irises and sunflowers. I've been struggling with the pastel landscape paintings lately and i think I need to do a couple flower paintings just to get my groove back:)

Paula Campbell said...

Karen, I think what makes your wildflower paintings so unique is your point of view--through the flowers, like you're lying in them while painting. Most artists do a view of looking down and across the field--your point of view is much more in-your-face and personal--a good thing! :)

robertsloan2art said...

This is so true! I've done the same thing with my study of cats and my cat. A few years ago I realized it didn't make sense for me to draw and paint well but still have problems with cat anatomy and getting a cat's likeness.

So I started doing gesture sketches of my cat when he was sleeping, starting with the easy poses when he doesn't move for minutes at a time. I painted him from photos. I've painted and sketched that same cat hundreds of times, maybe thousands by now.

Every time I do, I get better at painting any cat. To some extent better at any animal. Gone are the days when I got the direction of a quadruped's knees wrong or a cat's legs too long. My cats look like cats and their expressions are natural, you can tell the cat's personality and mood even in gesture sketches.

My first thought looking at your Queen Anne's Lace paintings is "You captured their scruffiness." Queen Anne's Lace is not a formal flower. It grows every which way, it's got those funny little leaflets in the flower head, it's always bushy and unkempt and lacy-yet-scruffy. You get that feeling of the meadow in them.

Reading that you do this out of love completely makes sense. You're not describing every stem and leaflet and floret perfectly like a botanical artist doing a species entry on an herbal. You've got them moving and swaying in the wind. I can practically smell them when I look at this painting.

So your article is spot on. You are 100% right. Painting what you love, over and over, is what gives art something more than accuracy and design. That passion comes through and it's shared with the viewer.

You've made me fonder of Queen Anne's Lace than I ever was, for that I thank you. Maybe someday I'll paint a cat tromping through it.

Donna T said...

Oh yes, you are the queen of Queen Anne's Lace, Karen! You paint them so they look alive, bending back and forth gently in the wind. They are never so detailed so that they appear stiff and without character. I can look up a scientific illustration of them to see stiff, lifeless detail (no thanks!)

Elizabeth said...

So lovely! A technical question, please:
Did you do an underpainting? If so, what colors did you use? Turquoise, perhaps?
Thank you.

Karen said...

Thank you all for the wonderful comments. I love reading them and usually try to answer each one but I got behind this weekend! I appreciate you all!!

@Elizabeth. Yes there is an alcohol wash underpainting in which i washed in shades of red and orange with rubbing alcohol