Monday, February 22, 2016

How to Paint Alla Prima Flowers

I've had these Amaryllis bulbs for years. They were at the house in Florida that we moved to three weeks before my son was born. Then they made the move to Alabama with us. They are a part of our late winter / early spring experience every year.

They have multiplied like crazy over the years and most of my gardener friends have some of their babies. I've never painted them. I guess because flower paintings aren't really my thing. Maybe I'm just being contrary. It seems like women are expected to paint flowers, so meh...I've just not been interested. Don't get me wrong I love other artist's paintings of flowers. And admire people that do them really well. 

But I wanted to do a figure painting featuring Amaryllis and realized I needed to do a couple studies. It turned out to be super fun. And you know if I had to pick a favorite color, it'd be red, so it wasn't like it was torture. So here's how it went.

Of course, I like a little dramatic lighting so I moved the flowers into the studio. 

I started working with Burnt Umber, Rembrandt, thinned a bit with Gamsol, odorless mineral spirits. I was working on a 20x16 RayMar panel. I used a large fan brush and a #2 filbert for some drawing. I did a rub out with a T-Shirt rag. 

I immediately, while everything was still wet, began laying in the colors. I worked from the background to the foreground and from darks to lights. It's important to work while everything is wet so you can get those really soft edges. 

Scarlet in Winter, 20x16, oil
Reds can be tricky to paint. Many people add white and then they have a pink flower. It's best to avoid white but change the pigments you are using. I used mostly Rembrandts like Scarlet, adding Permanent Madder Deep and other transparent dark colors like Ultramarine Blue Deep, Viridian, or Thalo Greens to darken and adding various Cadmium Reds in the light areas. There might also be some Pyrolene Reds too.

I was mostly using a large fan brush. I used a Ruby Satin Filbert at times on the edges where I wanted it even smoother like the flower stalks.

I used thinner paint in the shadows and heavier paint in the light. This really gives a sculptural quality to the painting. Also,  I was very careful to keep the values close and in a dark range in the shadow. That way they just fall away the right amount.

The next day, I came back and added a few of the more orange-red heavy paint details.

This painting is all dressed up for a new forever home. Email me at if you're interested in inviting her into your home. She is available for $1900, framed and free shipping in the continental US. 


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