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Saturday, April 20, 2013

S is for Sunflowers..My Top 3 Painting Tips for Sunflowers

'Looking Up'          11x14          pastel         ©Karen Margulis
click here to purchase $165
I was on a Sunflower kick this week.  I decided to use sunflowers for my class demos on Edges last week so I bought some sunflowers to practice with.  I didn't realize that many of my students didn't enjoy painting flowers until I chose them for our subject.  I discovered that much of it has to do with the frustration from dealing with unfamiliar subject matter. (most of my students are landscape painters)

If you avoid flowers or would like to speed up the learning curve, here are three of my favorite tips for painting sunflowers or any yellow flower.


'Smiling Faces'          11x14             pastel    $165   click here
1.  Working with Yellow.  I find that yellow is a difficult color to work with in pastels.  It seems as though only the softest, most intensely pigmented sticks will make the thick juicy marks that I crave. I had good luck with my Diane Townsends on these paintings but often I struggle to get my yellows vibrant and not muddy.

TIP:  I always try to give yellow a boost....if I know my petals will be yellow I will underpaint or block in the flowers with some yellow. 

'Sunshine in a Vase'    9x12     pastel   $145 click here

2.  Building Up Petal Color.  Sunflower petals are not just bright yellow.  Observe them carefully and you will see oranges, reds, ochres and many variations of these warm colors.  I always like to decide what is the darkest color I see in the petals and lay in this color first. Often I start with a burnt orange and gradually add layers of color getting progressively to the brighter and more intense yellows.

TIP:  When you get to the final layers of yellow I like to mix a warm and a cool yellow. Also avoid using pale yellow (yellow with a lot of white) This will give you washed out flowers.

'Fresh as a Flower'               11x14        pastel   $145  click here
3. Petal Shapes.  If you have ever painted a flower and it looks like a child did it you are not alone!  This is probably the biggest challenge we have in painting flowers. Try as we might, our flowers seem to morph into the childhood symbols we have for a flower (you know, the daisy with a yellow center surrounded by perfect even white petals)  I'll address this in a future post!

TIP: To avoid this you need to turn off your auto pilot and look carefully at your flower reference.  The petals are rarely perfect.....vary the shapes and sizes and positioning and you will have a more interesting and natural flower.

'Sunflowers in Red Vase'  2.5 x 3.5  pastel   $15


'Sunny Delight'    2.5x3.5  pastel    $15

2 comments:

Shelley Whiting said...

The flowers are very lively and beautiful.

Hilje van Beijnum said...

Great article and beautiful sunflowers, Karen!!