Friday, August 19, 2011

Sunflower Study

I have always enjoyed sunflowers.   They have so much character.
Fresh, lively, tall and strong, sunflowers are full of energy rich seeds for birds and other wildlife.  And I love the artsy, withered petals that remain as the seed heads mature.  Their twisted shapes are intriguing, and full of subtle colors--maroon, violet, gold, burnt sienna, yellow ochra, thin veils of purple, and deeper shades of purple in the shadows.  After enjoying a stroll through a sunflower field at Seven Islands Wildlife Refuge, a favorite natural area near my east Tennessee home, I have a collection of images of sunflowers of all sizes, shapes and maturity levels, giving me plenty of inspiration and reference for painting.
Flowers are perfect subjects for practice and for playing around with different ways to interpret color and light in watercolor.  Above you see that I taped the paper to a backboard and set it on a table easel.  I also printed both a color and a black and white image of the subject.  The black and white image often allows you to see the values more clearly and encourages the use of your imagination in defining areas of light.  
To create the background, I wet the paper with brush strokes of clear water, and brushed on a wash of Winsor Newton New gamboge, Arylide yellow and Cerulean blue.  As I worked, I allowed these colors to blend naturally as they moved on the paper.  After this initial wash dried completely, I added color to the sunflower,working around the petals and the leaves, letting colors blend wet in wet.
I added color to the butterfly early in the painting so I could see how it looked with the background and all that rich sunflower yellow.  When I saw the butterfly on the sunflower in the field, I thought its pale under wings would not show up well enough to create a nice center of interest in a painting.  But, I was pleasantly surprised as the butterfly began to take shape in this study.  

Above you see I have lightly scrubbed the outer edge of the butterfly's wing to allow it to blend more with the background.  I have also lightened the area along the top of the butterfly's wing and the tip to give the impression of light.
What we generally refer to as the bloom on a sunflower is really a large inflorescence or sunflower head that contains 1,000 to 2,000 individual flowers joined together at a receptacle base.

Links and resources:

The watercolor study, "American Lady and Sunflower", is available for purchase in my online shop.
Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) information
About the American Lady at Butterflies and Moths of North America
Scrubbing in watercolor
Posts with paintings of butterflies and flowers, the most recent post will be first.

4 comments:

  1. I think the butterfly looks alive. Good job.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This is simply gorgeous, Vickie!! I love everything about it!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Oh, I really like what you've done with this study, Vickie -- capturing the "sun" essence of the flower and its butterfly. I like the way you focused on the glow and the light without giving too much attention to details of seed -- and then giving the amazingly fine detail of the butterfly's legs & antennae. I also like the boldness of the edges of petals and leaves, and the way the blue-green enhances the richness of the golds & browns.

    ReplyDelete

Welcome! I am glad to hear your comments, questions and feedback! Vickie

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