Sunday, August 17, 2014

How to Paint From Life and Provence Violet Sunflowers - Flower Paintings by Nancy Medina

 Provence Violet Sunflowers
by Nancy Medina
Oil on Archival Panel

Provence Violet Sunflowers was one of seven class demonstrations this weekend in my North Texas workshop. My class demos are created from fresh flowers under a strong directional light, and yes it's a bit of a challenge to always find excellent fresh flowers for classes, and yes it is a financial sacrifice to bring in enough fresh flowers for classes of 14 to 18 students to paint from, and yes, there is the transport, the water buckets, the vases, the TLC that goes into transporting and preserving these delicate flowers through three to four days of painting. But it's worth it. 

Why paint from life? Why not save a few pennies and just print out a bunch of photos at the OfficeMart down the street and use those? Here's why.

You cannot hide your true self and your true style 

when you paint from life.

In my classes, even though everyone has an identical live flower setup, every student creates a unique work of art. Some students imbue their work with strong graphic lines and bold abstract colors. Some create soft washes of color accented by strong lavenders and greens. Copying from master painters and working from one dimensional reference photos is a wonderful way to build your confidence. It's exactly how I was first taught to paint. But moving to the next level involves working with setups with fresh flowers, and with good directional light. What is true for landscape painting, and plein air work, is also true for studio work. Fresh flowers and good light is a wonderful way to continue your art journey, and discover the colors, nuances, and unique beauty of your own voice and palette.

What's a great way to transition from photos to painting from life if you've always painted from photos in the past? Buy fresh flowers, even if it's just a few flowers from the bargain bin at your local market. Put a good light source on them - you can find all sorts of great clip on lights at Home Depot. Take a photo of your fresh flower setup using your phone or tablet. Set up your tablet or phone next to your live flowers near your easel. You can now use that one dimensional photo on your tablet as your photo reference, your transition tool, until at some point your eye convinces you the bright flower a few inches away in living color is a better source of information. Give it time. Eventually you won't even glance at photos or flat references any more. Someday you'll reach that point when you won't want any photos at all anymore. What a joy each of these chapters is in our growth as artists. Every true artist is a lifetime practitioner, if we are truly passionate about art, we are passionate about growth and learning. As long as we are living and breathing, the art journey never stops, it's like an excellent story that never ends. What a gift it is to be an artist!

 Connie making sunflowers bloom!

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