Dogwood is one of my absolute favorite trees. I grew up in Maryland where dogwood trees were commonly found in bloom along the roadsides in the early spring. It was always so delightful to see their white petals, so delicate and bright in the new warm sunshine. It was a special time of year for me which still is alive in my heart.
Painting flowers can be a tough thing, but painting white flowers…well that is a whole other realm of complex! I have in no way mastered painting flowers, painting Dogwood blooms or painting anything white for that matter. But! I have learned a few things, that is the reason for this blog! Today when I set up to paint these blooms I felt that I needed a new approach. My Dogwood blooms in the past have looked like they were bogged down, platic and stiff to be kind. My goal today was to simply paint an image that moved and did not look like it was made of lead. I was hopeful for petals that moved and that was it. If I had these two things when I got up from the table, I promised myself that I would be happy. I am happy!
So here is what I learned. I started out with a very loose sketch of the blossoms, my sketch made the blooms appear almost like eggs. I did not spend time working out each petal or any detail. I simply found the center of the flowers and placed a circle around each to indicate where the petals as a whole would go. If you look really closely at the next two photos you will likely see this under drawing. Note how lightly and minimally I sketched. My whole point of making this sketch is placement. I wanted to simply make sure that everything had it’s place (so I did not loose room for any of the good stuff!).
Second, I refined my sketch so that the petals were loosely determined, I like to still leave myself room for adjustments. I painted in the centers and I let them dry. I chose to do the centers first so that I had a strong set of visual anchors to help keep me grounded as I moved into the next stage.
Third, I chose a charcoal color to start cutting in the Dogwood. This is my new approach. Typically I would have continued painting the blossoms and then I would have added the background a bit later. I chose charcoal because it is a very agreeable color. I knew that I could add greens and reds to it and create a warm and pleasing background atmosphere.
Also, Note that I did allow some of the background paint to flow into where I knew the blossoms were because it would be found there through reflections.
After this stage, I added some color and more structure. I cut out the petals by pulling some of the back grounds negative space into the foreground. This gave the painting a cohesive feeling.
You might notice that the painting really started taking shape when the back ground became a part of the foreground. It was a way to draw with paint. It gave a strong foundation for the colors as they were introduced.
From here, it was a bunch of flicks of the wrist. I do firmly believe that a paintings success is determined in the choices we make in the first few moments. It is in our set up that we choose our success. When a painting is built on a strong foundation, it becomes very forgiving. We can use wrong colors, it can usually withstand a few stray lines and poor choices. When we do not start with a strong foundation or vision our painting can suffer no stray lines and we often can not move the idea past a single poor color choice. Even worse, when we do not build our painting on a solid foundation, we will compound our poor choices, one on top of another in attempt to correct it. We can not fix foundation issues with surface solutions!
So, is this a great painting…no not really. It is great in that I was able to create something pleasing. I was able to accomplish my goals and learn a new approach. I like to think that this painting is great because it is what will make the next attempt that much more pleasing. This sketch is important, it has confirmed to me that I am on the right track.