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Thursday, October 04, 2012

How to Paint a Daisy

'Summer Buzz'      5x7      pastel     ©Karen Margulis  sold

 "My daisies look like a 5 year old painted them"   I hear this all of the time when I teach my wildflower workshop.  There is actually a very good reason why this can be true for many artists.  It has to do with how well we really look at the daisies when we paint them.  The problem is that often we don't observe these flowers as well as we should. Why not?

A Collage of Available Daisy Paintings
We often don't spend enough time observing the daisy because it is such a familiar flower to us. We think we know just how they look. We know they are white with yellow centers and that there are petals surrounding this center.  We probably drew daisy-like flowers as children whenever we had to draw a flower.  Our brains have developed the daisy into a symbol.

This is the daisy that we drew as children. The yellow circle surrounded by white petals.  Now as mature artists we often revert to this symbol without even being aware that we are doing it.  Our brain jumps in and helps us by supplying the symbol for a daisy and as a result we don't take the time to study the daisy and see that it isn't like our symbol!   The result: child-like daisies!

How can we paint more painterly mature daisies?  Here are some tips:

  • Take the time to really look at the daisies you are painting whether it be from photos or from life. Notice the colors and the way the petals are not always perfect and regular. Notice the direction of the petals. Are they pointing up or down?  What about a variety in the stages of the flowers? Are some not quite in bloom or maybe on their way out?
  • Color is important!  We typically think of the local colors of the daisy as being white petals with yellow centers.  But painting them this way will give them a sterile look. Add some colors to the petals and the centers. 
  • Pay attention to the light source and it will help you choose colors to make your daisies come alive.  Paint the petals in the shade with cooler colors...pale blues and lavenders.  Paint the sunlit petals with warm pale lights....pale yellows and peaches work well. Rarely do I ever use pure white.
  • Stems and leaves: Try not to paint every stem and leaf. Hint at some and the viewer will fill in the rest. Be especially careful not to make stems too thick and regular. You don't want them to look like balloons on sticks. I like to vary the thickness and pressure when I paint stems.

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