Recently I decided to try out some watercolor crayons I’d bought for my grandchildren. I had in mind to use some bold colors and make a really bright and cheery mushroom. Mushroom 1 above is the result. It looks kind of like a child’s drawing which could be the result of making art with children – or – it could be the medium.
So for Mushroom 2 below, I tried using local color for a more natural look but I didn’t like the texture created by the watercolor crayons on the rough paper.
Both of these paintings were done from the same mushroom photo which I found on a copyright free site called Pixabay. I highly recommend it as a resource for images.
Recently, while visiting family out of town, I decided to take a break from painting and do some detailed pencil drawing. I was inspired by several objects lying around the house that would lend themselves to some interesting value studies – aka chiaroscuro. The Minnie in the Box was the first one. I worked under a sky light with a Paper Mate® mechanical pencil which has a nice soft lead.
This is actually a child’s boot but I made the toe a bit too sharp so it may just look like a lady’s boot with a really wide top.
I was fascinated with the curves and hollows on this picture frame but decided there were too many of them to do the whole thing – hence the interesting composition. ☺
This portrait was an exercise in expressive color. It was done from an old black and white photo which is good to work from if you want to experiment with color.
Expressive color is also known as arbitrary color. It’s not meant to be realistic – which is local color – but colors are chosen for their emotional or aesthetic qualities.
The art movement in which expressive color first appeared in full force was Fauvism. Artists of the time – late 19th and early 20th centuries – were already moving away from the Renaissance notion of painting realistic spacial depth. The Fauves (French for “wild beasts”) took it a step further and eliminated realistic color in favor of expressionistic color. Click here to see a famous portrait by the movement’s leader, Henri Matisse.
These are the final zinnias in this series. Like the one in the previous post, the top one’s concentric rows of petals get darker in value as they progress outward. The rows in the bottom one do the opposite, getting darker toward the center.
Neither of these are painted from actual models. After painting the blooms over and over I’ve gotten familiar enough with them to take some liberties and experiment a bit.
Today’s zinnia is a burst of sunshine like its namesake, Madison. It’s painterly and textured like the ones in the previous post. Also like Zinnia 8 “Jo”, this one has multiple rows of petals that change in value as they go outward. The rest of the zinnia studies will be like this.
These zinnia studies are experiments with dry brushing, layering and different handling of edges. For example, the top bloom has more expressionistic brushstrokes where as the bottom one has clearly defined petals. Both have all the leaves radiating out from the bloom as in the previous post but their edges are less defined and more integrated with the background. I also made an effort to layer the colors, especially in the leaves and background.
To see an example of a masterpiece with orange zinnias, check out Vincent Van Gogh’s beautiful Vase with Zinnias.
Ever since I can remember, my mother’s favorite color was blue. Then suddenly – in her 60’s I think – she fell in love with yellow and still prefers it to this day. So I wanted to name one of these yellow zinnias after her.
I think this one has the best composition so far. I limited the leaves to those that radiated out from the bloom instead of including bits of foliage from surrounding flowers. That will be standard procedure from here on.
So far, my zinnias have been done in a painterly (with visible brushstrokes) style. Click on the link below to see a photo-realistic yellow zinnia by contemporary realist John Stuart Ingle.
Here are Zinnias 3 and 4, aka Karen Sue and Cissy. I feel that these show improvement in the both the petals and the foliage. The yellow one’s petals still look a bit too outlined but the pattern in the leaves is much more natural than in the previous one Zinnia 2.
The white bloom below is simpler because it only has a single row of petals. I left off any suggestion of vein pattern in the leaves on this one and concentrated on getting a good variety of greens. I also worked on getting some more livelier brushwork into the background.
These paintings are the first in my series of zinnia studies. I think the pink one looks more natural than the orange one, except for the leaves which are a bit too decorative.
While planning this series of paintings, I looked at the work of some other artists to see how they approached the subject. My first thought was Walter Anderson. The zinnia was his favorite flower and he included them in many of his works. His famous “Little Room” has a giant decorative zinnia painted around the light bulb in the ceiling. By the way if you love nature and beautiful watercolors, The Walter Anderson Museum in Ocean Springs is a must see.
In an earlier post, I included a portrait of a zinnia as an example of expressive brushwork. That painting was done on impulse with no model or photo reference, but I liked it well enough to try to paint some more. So I pulled up some photos of zinnias I took a couple of summers ago and did eleven more small paintings from them. So far, I’ve not been able to achieve the freshness of that first painting.
The painting at the top is actually number six in the series but I’m posting it first because it’s named after my Aunt Bonnie Mae. Here’s why: some of my earliest memories are of the colorful zinnia blooms her yard. Ever since then zinnias have been my favorite flower. I’ve planted them in my yard when I could and I’ve always loved to see them included in the work of other artists. The next few posts will showcase my efforts to capture the zinnia and will also include links to some famous zinnia paintings.