“In order for the light to shine so brightly, the darkness must be present.” – Frances Bacon
In order to see white we must have dark values to provide contrast. It sounds pretty simple but white subjects can seem daunting to some artists. It is really just a way of seeing and changing your perspective. You must train your eyes to see the negative shapes surrounding a white subject and once you begin to see those shapes, you will never unsee them! Some things to consider when painting white flowers…
When Traveling Use Your GPS! Choosing a Great Reference Photo
It always starts with inspiration, a great idea and then research. Every meaningful painting started with an awe-inspiring moment I have seen or a creative idea I have imagined. Then my own photo to back it up–which I call research. Sometimes we make the mistake of not spending the time to research or take the photo. Other times we pick great photos someone else took of subjects we have never met or photos with no light source or shadows. Working from a bad reference is like driving your car to an amazing vacation spot with no map! So use your GPS and select a great photo to work with.
A Strong Foundation Makes For Beautiful Beginning
If you think of your painting like a home you are constructing, then choosing beautiful analogous collage papers will create a strong foundation for your painting. Selecting the right gel printed sheets to collage will form a harmonious color palette, which will hold all of the parts of your painting together. In addition, when selecting your color palette, you need to consider the colors that will be in your shadows. Shadows are never colorless, they are actually full of color! When dealing with a white subject it is important to understand that everything is being reflected into the shadows and bouncing off the surface. Again, a great reference photo will make this selection process easier.
A Sturdy Frame Makes For A Strong Painting
If choosing great collage papers will creates strong foundation, then a detailed drawing will be like the sturdy framework that will prevent your home from falling down! The better the drawing the more information you have to begin painting. Be sure to take your time with this part of the process because all of this texture and color will sometimes be overwhelming. Therefore, it makes sense that the more information you have to guide you the easier the painting process.
A Glass Half-Full or Half-Empty? Training Your Eyes to See Negative
I consider myself to be a glass half-full kind of gal, but when painting white you must consider the negative shapes: the values, colors, and textures surrounding your positive object. It is a process where you train your eyes to see what is around the white flower. The white flower is the positive area. It might be difficult at first, but considering negative spaces will strengthen your compositions in all future art projects.
Drama, Drama, Drama! Strengthening Values to Finish
For this painting, you will need to build up your values. The stronger the value and contrast, the more drama you will have in your painting and the greater the impact. I typically paint about 3 to 4 layers to build up my values for a dramatic painting. You will know you are finished when you have a value range of about 1 to 5. Value #1 would be your white or lightest value and Value #5 would be your black or darkest value.
I Have Always Been a Party Girl!
I am always asking, “Where’s the party?” because I love a great party! As an artist, I always think of my time creating as one big party! In Chapter 7 of Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, the author, Betty Edwards, refers to the concept of seeing negative shapes as, “a stretch for some, a joy for others”. My desire is that I make this process of seeing negative shapes, colors in shadows, and painting white like a joy-filled party!
Winnie and I hope you enjoy her appearance in the background of part of my video.
Wishing you a happy, creative day!
Supplies for Step 1
- Gel Press 8″ x 10“, 12″ x 14″, or 12″ x 12″ plate
- Golden Open Acrylics–various yellows, oranges, & reds (or you can use whatever acrylics you have)
- Stencils from Trish McKinney’s designs featured through StencilGirl Products (Stencils available for sale online at https://www.stencilgirlproducts.com/category-s/1953.htm)
- “Mysterious Wisteria”,
- “Ribbons & Swirls”,
- Spanish Moss, &/or
- Beach Grass Collections
- Print substrates: tissue paper and/or deli paper
- Various Texture/Mark-Making Tools: such as Catalyst Blades, various stamps, string, etc…
Pull several prints in analogous “neighboring” color schemes using tissue and deli paper. Examples of color schemes: I used analogous sheets in these colors: yellows + oranges + reds. Vary and play with printing light and dark values within the color schemes.-Use stencils, stamps and other mark-making tools to create textural effects and masks. Be creative!
Supplies for Step 2
- Golden Fluid Acrylics – various colors
- Small Sponge Roller, 1” width or smaller
- Synthetic Brushes –golden or white taklon –2” -½” flats, #14 & #8 rounds
- 1 sheet watercolor paper, cut whatever size you wish. I used Strathmore, 400 series watercolor paper (140 lb.). You can use Arches 140 lb. cold press or any 140 lb. watercolor paper you prefer.
- a strong reference photo of a white flower with a very simple composition and with strong lighting (important)
- Select several interesting gel prints in analogous colors in yellows, oranges and reds. For this project I like to use prints with very soft textures. I especially like to use my “ghost prints”, the prints from my 2nd and 3rd pulls which are typically softer with less texture and not as strong color as the initial print pulls. Once I select the sheets I think might work, on my paper I layout the gel prints and position them on the paper to plan out light and dark passages. Tear edges so the edges are soft when overlapping. For this color scheme, yellows are typically represent light value, oranges are mid-value, and reds are darker value, but sometimes this varies.
- Using matte medium, collage papers onto the watercolor paper and let dry.
- Once the page is dry, sometimes I might soften the color using a dry sponge roller and white gesso over the areas where the lighter values will be. Make sure to use gesso lightly. The sponge roller will help soften the gesso application. Do not use a brush for this step as the application will be too strong.
- Draw out your flower once the collage is dry.
- Begin by painting the negative shapes: the shapes surrounding the white flower. Allow the lightest value on the flower to be the original collaged surface.
- Build up darker values of shadow areas by applying paint in 3 to 4 layers.
Then finish and sign!
To find out more about Trish, including information about workshops she is teaching, please visit her bio page.