I’m working on a series of small paintings of flowers from life at the moment.
Trying to break some habits.
And hopefully get closer to what makes a painting me. Or mine. Or something.
To move forwards with it, anyway.
Here is what I set up:
Here’s a wider view, so you can see how it was set up.
What I liked about this set up, what drew me to want to paint it, was the glow of the roses. Particularly, the way the rose on the left stands out so beautifully and sharply, whilst the one on the right is receding into shadow.
And the low chroma of the set up, the softness of the light, the calm and beauty.
I had an idea, too, that I would bring that out more by painting it with softness. No hard edges. As if everything was disappearing into or emerging from a haze of light.
So I chose all hog bristle brushes – another break in habit, since I usually paint flowers with soft, flat, semi-synthetics.
This is the painting I made.
Now, I really enjoyed painting this. The freedom. I was in the flow. I was quite pleased with it.
Until the next day.
When I looked at it and realised I’d captured none of the light. None of the idea that I’d had when I started it. In fact the only thing I liked were the edges.
Well, I think I know: I’d forgotten to simplify.
I’d forgotten to reduce the subject down to blocks of light and shadow. And because of that, I’d lost the relationships.
I’d lost the light.
So I did it again.
This time, I made myself focus only on blocks of light and shadow, shapes that ran across form, that were about the light and not the things.
And I started with value only to make the focus come more easily.
Here it is in a few stages.
I was keeping the colours VERY simple at this point, and being very careful of the values.
So why am I telling you all this?
Well, the second version came a lot closer to my idea. It also has more light and depth than the first. And the rose on the left glows as it should.
I got there by simplifying. By being very strict with myself and repeatedly checking the relative values of the main value blocks.
It’s an easy thing to say. Simplify. And everyone knows we need to do it.
Ironically, I just finished teaching a live workshop about it.
And I still forgot to do it on the first one.
Hopefully this serves to illustrate the fact that this approach works.
That simplifying and generalising and then – crucially – making sure all the relationships between those value blocks are good makes for a painting.
At least, if you like this kind of painting, anyway. Broad, expressive painting without losing the realism.
And also that if you forget it, your painting can fall apart.
Thanks for reading.