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Monday, May 13, 2013

Fast and Loose...Ideas for Painting Fresh Flowers


'Grandmother's Garden'          8x10        pastel        ©Karen Margulis
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 I like my flowers fast and loose.  I don't have the patience to paint every petal. So my flowers tend to be more of an impression of the flower and not photo realistic.  I certainly admire artists who are able to paint flowers and have them look lifelike but I know that it is not a style that fits me. So I embrace what comes natural to me and try to improve it with every painting.

Flowers are the perfect subject to practice being loose and painterly. They can be quite complicated with all of the petals and tangle of foliage. It is all too easy to get caught up with all of this detail and end up with muddy overworked flowers.  Here are some of the things I try to keep my flowers fresh:



  • Start with a wet underpainting.  I love doing a drippy watercolor underpainting for a flower pastel. Because it is a bit uncontrolled and unpredictable it forces me to react to this underpainting rather than getting too fussy and dissecting my reference photo.  In a wet underpainting the flowers and foliage are already impressions or suggestions....it is my job to refine them a little. My goal is to leave as much as the underpainting showing as possible....I will often use only one thin layer of pastel over the underpainting. In this painting I glazed a light blue over the green background and left it alone.




  • Count your strokes.  See how few strokes it takes to paint a blossom. A great exercise to try is to paint small single flowers and count the strokes. See how few it takes to suggest the flower. Don't try to make a painting...just practice!  
  • For the Hollyhocks I started with the darkest color I saw in the bloom and I added three or four more colors on top of the dark.I used the side of my pastel to make fat juicy marks. 
  • Put a stroke down and try to leave it alone. Muddy looking flowers often come from too many layers and too much fussing. Again....do some practice flowers!

1 comment:

pattisjarrett said...

Thanks for encouraging "practice." It's easier to be less critical of our work.