|'Grandmother's Garden' 8x10 pastel ©Karen Margulis|
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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!