Monday, January 28, 2008

The genesis of a sunflower painting, ala prima

It's been awhile since I posted here. I've been so busy trying to keep up with my other work, that I let this one slide. I've been wondering what it is I'd like to write about so I asked myself what I talk about the most. That's easy. My business - the art business that is. And I love to teach. So here it is, my very first on-line teaching snippet.

I did an quick ala prima (that means "all at once") painting today that I posted on my
Daily Painting blog and I'm going to show interested parties - whoever you are - how I painted it.

So...first comes a picture of the actual setup I use. As you can see here, I use a back drop made of cardboard with some plain black, non reflective, wool clipped to it. I've arranged it next to a north facing window to bring cool north light onto the set up.

I prepared a piece of 8" x 10" unstretched canvas which I then taped to a piece of board. If this were a larger more detailed or finished piece, I would actually prime the canvas with a thin layer of burnt umber oil color and then lift out the highlights. But here I just toned the piece with a little red ochre gesso.

Next, I did a quick indication with a few lines of umber oil paint where I wanted the bouquet to fall. I figured I only had an 8" x 10" format within which to make a statement and I wanted the flowers to take full stage, so I made them a bit larger and reduced just slightly the size of the green glass vase. The cloth is just the stage on which it all sits here, so I minimalized it in the block in.

Below you can see the actual color block in. This was done with thin color. I use local color here - that's the obvious color of the actual object - green, blue, etc. I had some premixed violet and purple from my last Hyacinth painting left and figured it would work well with the yellow blooms. That's because violet is a compliment to yellow and helps to set off the yellow and make it appear more vibrant. As you can see, the flowers are not actually painted in here. I save them

for last. There's no highlights or detail yet either. More detail is added in the next phase.

Here you can see the details starting to come to life. I've added the petals and refined the vase a bit. I've worked on the background here too by making some areas darker and others lighter.

In the final phase of the painting, I've refined the petals by adding some darks to the inside edges, put in more highlights with some pretty thick paint and added brights to the cloth. The vase is more refined as well. Viola "Shinshine on a Winter's Day". Once dry, the canvas will be trimmed and mounted on board.

You can bid on this painting starting at $39 on EBay.
Click here to bid.


nathalie said...

Hi Susan, I appreciated and enjoyed seeing how you painted "Sunshine on a Winter Day". I hope you do more of these. I am striving to become a daily painter myself. I think I do a decent portrait and still life - as long as it is not of flowers. I love them, but painting them really intimidates me. Same with landscapes - love them, would love to paint them - but just get completely lost and overwhelmed. I hope to over come this handicap, so thanks for sharing.

nathalie said...

I am not sure what I am doing here - but I would give you my blog and website in case you are curious. and

This computer stuff sure eats up a lot of time - I keep hoping the learning curve will flatten a bit!

Anonymous said...

Dear Susan:
Thank you for doing this wonderfull piece. I love it, really takes centre stage wherever I put it, the colours are so rich and you feel you can reach out and grab the vase right out of the painting. This now has a home in Sydney Australia and I love looking at it constantly. Big congrats from my part