Keep on Keepin’ On

When you begin a painting, you generally will have a vague idea of where you are going. You may, if you are lucky, have a purpose. In this case, I needed an image for a class I’m teaching, and I wanted something bright and lively, easy for a beginning student, and definitely eye-catching. Beyond that, I hadn’t a clue.

So, I looked for photos of sunflowers. I remembered several things: (1) The center lays deep within the flower, tiny seeds not ripe enough to plant, but definitely growing and waiting. (2) The outer ring is full of seed pods. Pulling them out will yield some seeds you can throw to the winds and wait for Mother Nature to take them where She will. (3) The petals themselves are layered, over and over, in rings, so that you can seldom ascertain where one row ends and another begins. Sort of life the cycles of our lives.

So, I began. First, the underpainting in blue. Of course, it will look great with the yellow-gold flower to follow.

Next, begin putting yellow petals, around and around, overlapping and trying not to make the shapes all the same. Remember, no two snowflakes (or sunflowers) are alike!

Adding first petals

Next, using a mixture of cad yellow medium and cad right light, add more petals.

Adding brighter oranges to the petals

Take your time and work around and around, adding more shades of yellow and more petals. Be careful that each shape is individual and that you don’t get the same strokes on every petal. That’s an easy trap to fall into!

Adding seeds

Now the fun begins! Using burnt sienna full strength, load your brush and holding it upright, begin dotting paint around and around, over and over, heavily laying bits of paint, but reserving the space in the center for a different texture and color.

Heading for the center

Add yellow and cad red light to your brown mixture, and paint centers of the flowers with a smoother motion. You want to feel a difference in the textures of the seed pods.

Finishing up

Go back over your burnt sienna outer circle with dots of orange mix, adding dabs of undiluted burnt sienna where petals join outer circle. Using Cad Yellow Light, add a few more petals to increase three dimensional effect.

Now for some leaves:


Using Hooker’s Green, add suggestions of leaves, shading with a bit of yellow mixed with the green. Sign and sell this painting. You are done!

Or maybe you want to play with a red hot background. Be my guest, and get creative!

Going a little crazy

I call this OH HOT HAPPY DAY!


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