Floral Still Life | Demonstration in Oil

by Christopher Pierce

Opulence, with its 40 carnations and five Victorian receptacles, required thorough planning, not only because of the complexity of the setup, but also because I was racing against time; those flowers would eventually wilt, and I wanted to paint them from life.

 

1. Create a Charcoal Drawing

After setting up the entire still life, I created a vine charcoal drawing on paper that was the same size as my 30×36 canvas.

 

2. Transfer the Drawing

Once I’d painted the background and tabletop on my canvas, I was ready to transfer the drawing. To do this, I rubbed white pastel on the backside of my drawing and then placed the drawing, face up, on the canvas. By redrawing the lines with a thick pencil, I transferred my drawing onto the canvas in white pastel. With a white pastel pencil, I then wrote in a color abbreviation for each flower to remind me of its placement.

 

3. Block Color and Value

After blocking in the color and value of the vases and part of the red cloth, I started painting the flowers. Because I paint wet-into-wet, I finished each blossom completely before I started another.

 

4. Focus on the Flowers

At this point I worked solely on the flowers. Even though I could complete only one or two flowers per painting session, I positioned small groups together in my setup so I could see the relationship of one flower to another. I stored in my refrigerator any carnations not “posing” on a particular day.

 

5. Enhance the Rhythm

I continued painting the flowers, at times slightly changing the location of a blossom to enhance the rhythm of the piece.

 

6. Paint the Ferns

When all the flowers were painted, I finished and refined the vases and red cloth. Once I was satisfied with these, I began painting the ferns.

 

7. Add Finishing Touches

I finished the ferns and tabletop, keeping the highlights in balance with the rest of the painting. I also added one more purple blossom in the tallest vase to enhance the rhythm of the composition, thus completing Opulence (oil, 30×36).

 


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