Painting Flower Study #4: Yellow Rose

The 4th of a 5 part study series, Yellow Rose, came together very quickly. The gallery above shows the progression as well as the varied contrast in painting compositional styles. If you have a favorite thus far please make a comment and let me know.  

Before diving into the details of the composition on the next page, I thought the history of the “Yellow Rose of Texas” and the song lyrics were really interesting to read in tandem. I typically haven’t looked into the history of my painting subjects, but having done it with something as innocuous as this yellow rose, I found it to be a curiously motivating way to start a project. I think I’ll add it to my painting process and see if it unlocks some additional artistic mojo in future compositions. And yes, I’ll try not to bore y’all along the way. 

Flowers: A Poppy Wrestling Match

Last week I decided to create a large flower inspired abstract painting for the house. It’s going to take a lot of practice, though, so I’ve committed to a dozen small studies of various flowers until I find what will work both aesthetically and still be within my sphere of skills. 

The first study was essentially a wrestling match with poppies. The white poppy was first, followed by a pause of a couple days before tackling the blue flower. The goal wasn’t to create a beautiful piece of artwork, but rather test drive a few approaches, various brushes types and sizes, and play around with values to create convincing petals. 

Flower Study 1
Flower Study – White Poppy & Blue Hybrid

I used a small 5×7 canvas panel, which is fine for the initial studies, but I’ll need to switch to a gesso board or more refined canvass surface. A toothy surface like this canvas panel is great for many subjects, but it’s not going to work for flowers. Also worth noting is the blue flower isn’t a poppy at all and had nothing to do with the reference photo. I wanted to try something with more complexity in terms of petals, and thus created some kind of cross breed never before seen by humankind. 

This is a good start and got me excited to pursue more flowers. Next up will be hydrangeas with a more earnest attempt at realism. 

Zip’s Flowers

Zip’s Flowers: 20″x16″, oil on canvass

Sometimes art is very cathartic, but at times it can be maddening. However, I’ve learned over the years to rethink the frustration and consider those pull-my-hair-out-of-my-head moments as learning experiences, and more often than not it works. When I just can’t get a piece to work, either compositionally or from a technical skills perspective, if I focus on what I need to learn to fix it rather than become irritated at my shortcomings, I tend to get back that Zen painting zone.

Zip’s Flowers has been a long learning experience! Wars have taken less time to finish. That said, it’s chock full of newly acquired knowledge, of which I’m very excited about. There’s also some personal interest in terms of the background of this photo. This flower shop is a few blocks down the street from where I lived one summer in San Francisco. We lived in a great neighborhood along the border of the Mission and Castro districts, on 18th between Hartford and Noe. This flower shop, now called Urban Flowers, was along the way to the dog park. My wife would take the dogs at least once a day to the dog park. One day, the 1 year old puppy, Zip, decided smelling the flowers was no longer satisfying, so she opted to taste them. As the story goes, she reached out and grabbed a dangling flower from one of the pots and proceeded to knock the whole thing over! I wasn’t there, but my wife said the people at the shop were very friendly and weren’t concerned about Zip’s flower chomping. Of course I had to see this for myself, and a few days later I was walking Zip past this flower shop and sure enough, she tried to gobble down a basket of roses as we walked by.

The composition itself was probably the hardest hurdle to overcome, which I took license to adjust reality to make things work. The reference photo shows a wide variation of building colors and construction materials, so some adjustments had to be made on various fronts to make it look less contrived – ironically, the reality in the photo was too hard to believe in a painting. The values also had to be exaggerated to give depth and a sense of place, whereas the photo was very flat. Finally, the amount of tissue papered flowers was overwhelming and a bit distracting, so that was scaled back significantly.

My favorite part of this painting is the right foreground. First, the flowers in white paper came out much better than I had anticipated and they really frame that side of the painting. I also like the realism they add to the scene. Secondly, I’m very happy with the tall yellow sunflowers going up the stairs. These two elements combine to draw the viewer into the painting (hopefully) and consider wandering through the rest of the composition.

The sheer multitude of color is initially distracting for me, but once I stepped away from it for a day and returned to the completed piece, the colors were more welcoming and a source of excitement.

Do you like this piece? I’m guessing people either love it or hate it, given the colors and somewhat busy nature of the scene. Suggestions and observations are welcome.

Daily Sketch #8: Magnolia flower meal plan


Always fun to try and sketch something white using black graphite. This white magnolia flower is from my backyard last summer. The bees were having a field day. I decided to add them into the sketch last minute and I’m glad they did. I just wanted to see how hard it would be to include a few bees, but they ended up adding improved depth to the sketch. After sketching this flower I’ve decided to add it to my painting lineup, probably using a painting knife to add cool texture.

The darker shading was done using a 2B with light pressure. Everything else is an HB.