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Monday, November 14, 2016

A Tip for Painting Wildflowers in a Meadow

'Meadows of Blue'                   9x12               pastel                ©Karen Margulis
available $165

Meadows filled with wildflowers make my heart sing. It doesn't matter what kind of flower it is. I love the way flowers add interest and color to an otherwise bland and uninviting field of grass. Flowers are like the accessories to a well put together outfit. Flowers are like the pillows on a couch or decorations on a mantle. They add the finishing touch. They are the spice that pull the look together. They make the field sing!

But how do we effectively paint a meadow filled with flowers without it looking overdone or even too sweet?

The trick is restraint and remembering to add them at the end of a painting. 

Build the painting first with big simple shapes. The flowers are the accessories. Like the earring or the scarf ...they go on last.

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Tips for Adding Flowers to a Meadow
  • Save them for last. Build up the painting with big simple shapes. Restrain from putting in a single flower until the end!
  • Make sure the flowers will have a structure to hold on to otherwise they will appear to float in the grass. Consider laying in a dark 'dirt' shape in the underpainting. (see above)
  • Think Masses! Mass in shapes of flowers using the general color of the flower. Remember that atmospheric perspective will change the size, color and value of the masses as they go back.
  • After the masses are in place, pull a few single blooms out from the mass. Use colors and shapes that suggest the type of flower. These single blooms will allow the viewer to fill in the blanks and understand that the masses are just flowers. You don't have to paint every flower!
  • SLOW down and think carefully where you will place each bloom. You want the viewer's eye to move around the painting and the flowers can help give direction if they are well placed.
  • Every flower should have a purpose so no polka dot meadows! Make a mark and step back to evaluate. Less is more!
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1 comment:

robertsloan2art said...

I love this! Thank you for a clear and helpful lesson. It used to drive me nuts putting flowers in paintings - and yet I always felt the need for them. I'm impressed with wildflowers in nature and spring's my favorite season for painting. Especially around here when spring has the most blooms. You've got it right, and this is one of the hardest things to learn.

One of the most compelling things in your paintings is how you'll actually capture the identity of the wildflowers in masses like this. I'm interested in the actual flowers, don't want them to just look like blobs of yellow or pink or blue. Yet in some paintings it'd work to just do masses. It's better to look at what's actually there though, because the patterns those masses make are ways to identify them at a distance just as much as leaf shape or number of petals when you're close up.

This area has primroses, something I had never seen before moving here. I wasn't ever even sure what primrose hue was, till I actually saw blooming masses of them. They contrast with the yellow patches of other wildflowers and are a lot paler than I'd imagined before I saw the actual flowers.

This is the big thing I took away from your lesson - that I can make them identifiable when rendering them this way, not just when I pick out a single bloom or spray to do a portrait of it. Even if I did, the masses of others around in the scene would give it veracity if they're true to how the scene looks in life... to what else blooms at the same time and place. It's a reason to do studies of one area year round and get used to it. And maybe yeah do some studies of individual blooms before doing the flowers in their scenery, so that I know what I'm doing in the one or two marks that make the individual blooms.

I can see waiting till the end too. If I'm looking at something wild, be that autumn foliage or wildflowers, it's not arranged as well in nature as I'll want it to be in the painting. I might just skip several boring trees and put the patch of orange lilies nearer the yellow daisy form ones to get them both in the picture and put them nearer the better looking tree - and manage to convey climate, locality, season well without it being nailed to exactly what that patch looked like in life. There's interpretation in landscape painting. The mountain may be more or less the same shape but the primrose patch may be larger or move a bit to the left next year or have some clover come up in it... no one's going to be checking whether there's five clumps or eight. Painting isn't photography. It's capturing the feel of a place and rendering it for the heart.