Glowing Sunflowers

As we approach the end of summer, I’m making the most out of painting flowers! Sharing with you here are a vase of sunflowers I painted during my interactive art-classes on Zoom with my Japanese painting class. It turned out quite beautifully, but towards the end I didn’t like it anymore. Disappointed, I made a little diversion and decided to do my own thing. Realistic painting is great practice and I am keen on improving technically but I’m afraid it is not my style at all. I prefer to add some originality to my work, and this is a good example of what I’ve done!

Pastel Sketch on Black Background

It all started well. First we paint our background black, and in my case, I went for an A4-size canvas board. It’s my first time to use this substrate so was curious to see what it would be like to work with it and how it would turn out. I must say so far, so good. Unlike paper, no warping and curling and unlike framed canvas, easy storage and doesn’t take up space. Our tutor, Sugawara-sensei, sent us a photograph of another painting depicting a glass vase of sunflowers sitting on a table next to a curtain. After having painted the background and letting it dry, we went about sketching our subject with pastel pencils. This lesson taught me quite a bit about how sunflowers actually look like; big center with a further darker one in the middle with elongated teardrop shaped petals. And not to be confused with chrysanthemums! Drawing the round vase symmetrically was also another challenge…

Painting the Flowers

Lesson 1: Amsterdam acrylic paints were used for coloring in the flowers It took two lessons to nearly complete the painting. We worked on the flowers first rather than the background. With the petals a bright yellow and some white to show some dimension, the center was a mixture of yellow and brown, leaving the black center as is. So far so pretty!

Lesson 2: I already took the liberty of doing my own thing by adding some crystal granules in the brown centers to give some texture! The petals were then glazed with some orange which I must admit I was disappointed with. Personally, I would have liked to leave the petals a pastel-shade and not warm it up. It’s just my own taste, but I prefer my flowers vivid colored! I then waited to see if thing would improve when we paint the background. Once that was done, I was further not sure anymore. The painting was not yet complete of course, but for the next lesson, I was unable to attend because of an urgent dentist’s appointment. And hence, this painting was left uncompleted for a few weeks also with the summer holidays and no classes thereafter.

Modifying it to My Style

So few weeks later, I picked up the painting and asked myself what I could do to rev it up. First thing I did was to get rid of the white bits in the background by painting over it in black. The pink cloth I left behind. A fluorescent yellow acrylic ink was then re-glazed on the petals to brighten them up more. Following that, I also glazed the leaves with some Emerald Green acrylic ink for the same reason. The glass of the vase was then enhanced by using some white soft pastel and marking pencil. That white marking pencil also came handy for outlining the vase and drawing in the veins of the leaves. And now the pink cloth! I came up with this bright idea of a layered collage using torn bits of pink wrapping tissue. What a great idea that was! Now the cloth shows some real texture and dimension. Then the black center of the flower was firstly filled in with some Payne’s Grey ink and once dried, dotted in with some gold gel pen. And now! Much more “me”, don’t you think?

I was afraid that my tutor would be offended by what I had done. Both of us being Japanese, I even apologized to him for taking the liberty for this detour! He was surprisingly cool about it. When I emailed him the photo of the finished result, he even expressed awe. He especially loved the pink cloth effect! Well that’s a true artist for you, and a wonderful teacher. It’s important, he once said to the class, to develop your own style whilst improving technically. He is right! The key to being creative is to speak your mind and express what you feel is right for you. There is no right and wrong in fact. As the saying goes, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder!”

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