Glazing in Oils: A Flower Demo

Growing & Pruning & Glazing Garden of Joy: Eleven Steps and Several Diversions

Jane Jones writes out a step-by-step demonstration of how to paint her stunning, large-scale work, Garden of Joy (scroll to the bottom to see the completed piece.) In these 11 steps, she demonstrates glazing in oils, using Photoshop, editing composition and much more! Make sure you pick up the issue to read the full article and see everything else The Artist’s Magazine’s October 2015 issue has to offer!

1. Taking Reference Photos

I photographed the setup and then each of the flowers individually in the orientation I wanted for the final composition.

In the photo (above) the red tulip in the vase on the right is nodding, and when I photographed it, I knew that I would want it to be more upright, so when I was taking the detail photos, I held it up in my hand the way that I wanted it to be in the painting (below).

Step 1B for Glazing in Oils

I was pleased with the information that I’d captured in the photos, but they were just a starting point. There were some holes in the composition. A few days later I found a couple of other tulips I liked, so I photographed them separately, knowing that I could add them to the composition as well. The key to making this work is to have consistent lighting on everything.

2. Cutting and Pasting

Step 2 for Glazing in Oils

I do not possess great skills with Photoshop or any other computer program that would allow me to bring the whole composition together. I can either work on my art or learn those computer skills, and I have chosen to make my art. Before Photoshop and computers there was “cut and paste,” and I do have those skills!

Using tape rather than paste, I assembled and combined the photos of individual flowers I liked to create the final composition. This is how I did it: I started with a 20×30-inch photo of the overall composition printed at Costco, so I would have a large photo to work on. Then I resized the photos on my computer to sizes that I thought would work best, printed them out, and began placing them on the large photo. This part of the process was fun because it required a lot of creativity. I got to place each tulip exactly where I wanted it—and I could adjust the sizes of everything, so that each of the elements would work together perfectly.

If you look at the original photo (Step 1) and the photo with the new tulips placed in it (Step 2), you can see that the tulips are all a bit larger in the new composition, which makes them more important and in better proportion to the vases. Working this way—cutting, pasting, assembling—allows me to make changes in sizes and position that will make a better painting.

3. Drawing

Step 3 for Glazing in Oils

From the new photo (2) I created my large master drawing. The painting would be 42×63; I sketched in the proportions and placements on the master drawing. Then I used those measurements to draw each vase and flower individually. I taped those individual elements to the master drawing. As a result, I didn’t have to deal with the very large paper. The drawing took me about three weeks. It was exciting to see the composition coming together the way I’d imagined it so many months ago. Every time I added a new element to the drawing the idea that was the impetus came more alive for me!

4. Planning for Harmony

Step 4 for Glazing in Oils

I chose a red and yellow drape for the table because those colors show up in so many of the flowers, the stripes visually connect all of the vases, and the stripes also repeat the alterations of the ribs in the vases. Finally, the stripes are close to the colors of the three red and white tulips, where the red markings are stripes on the white petals. These repetitions create harmony, which will be necessary in unifying this painting that has so many different colors in it. It would be very easy to create chaos with so many different flowers in a composition of this size. It helps that they are all the same kind of flower (except for the iris) and have similar shapes. And the vases all have the same ribbed quality, which connects them visually.

5. Beginning the Painting

Step 5 for Glazing in Oils

I always begin a painting by setting the stage— painting the background and tabletop areas first. Here the tabletop was covered with that wonderful red and gold striped fabric on which the shadows of the vases and flowers broke up the stripes in interesting ways. I rearranged the position of the vases slightly, so that the shadows would be as interesting as possible.

I wanted each flower to be luminous, so I painted a white undercoat of oil paint onto the background so that the delicate colors of the first layer of paint on each flower would not be subdued or dulled by the background’s showing through. This white undercoat gives a reflective foundation for each flower (see Philosophy of the Underpainting, below).

6. Tackling the Vases

Step 6 for Glazing in Oils

I knew that painting the vases would be the most difficult part of this painting, so I decided to do them next. I used the background and drapery colors as well as the various greens for the leaves. The flowers are not reflected in the glass.

7. Maintaining Color Harmonies

Step 7 for Glazing in Oils

Because there’s a large variety of tulip colors and shapes in this painting, it would have been easy to lose color harmony. The elements looked all right together in the photo, but I wanted to make sure that they would work together in the painting, so I decided to use a limited number of underpainting mixtures. Whenever I can use the same underpainting for more than one flower, I do. The same colors will then appear throughout the painting. For instance, I’ll use the same reds for the red tulip as for the red and white tulips and the same violet mixtures for the two violet tulips and the white and violet one.

For this painting I used a lot more tube colors than I usually do; I prefer a limited palette to create color harmony. This painting, however, has so many other motifs that repeat that I wasn’t worried about using too many colors. I also wanted to use as few different color mixtures as possible to exercise some restraint.

What I learned about the blues: Winsor & Newton French ultramarine is not the same as Williamsburg’s, which is a bit more blue violet and a bit duller. I realized this when I used the Williamsburg brand to mix the greens for the underpainting. I liked the duller mixes (from Williamsburg) a lot; they just didn’t have the range of intensities that I was accustomed to. I remedied this problem by creating two mixtures: one with the Williamsburg French ultramarine and one with the Winsor & Newton French ultramarine blue.

8. Applying Glazes to Flowers

Step 8A for Glazing in Oils

Step 8A (2) for Glazing in Oils

As I got the first few tulips glazed with their first layer of transparent color (below), they contrasted with the other flowers that didn’t have glaze (above): they seemed to be alive with light and color. It was truly like painting with stained glass!

I was also glad that I’d painted them with dull colors (in the underpainting), because I could use really bright colors for the glazes and the flowers wouldn’t become too bright and garish. (The lesson: Use the underpainting to control any tendency to paint too brightly; know that if you get it wrong, you can create another underpainting with corrections that will allow the flower to turn out more beautifully.)

In this first layer of glazing my goals are to add color, even just a little bit, to the lightest areas; develop the color in the midvalue areas and finally, begin to develop the darker areas so that the color is rich and colorful, even though it’s dark. The shadow areas also need to be developed to sculpt the dimensionality of the forms. I keep in mind that it’s best to use multiple layers of glaze rather than trying to create the color with one or two heavy layers of glaze. Lighter, multiple layers are more luminous than heavy layers.

Step 8B for Glazing in Oils

Step 8B (2) for Glazing in Oils

Glazing the peach tulip to the right of the iris As I did with the underpainting colors for the peach tulips, I created a series of glazes that I used for all the peach tulips. The mixtures contained Indian yellow and permanent carmine. One was all yellow; the others had yellow with increasing amounts of permanent carmine. For the darker areas I created mixtures of permanent carmine, perylene red and French ultramarine blue. For the very delicate peach glazes, I used mixtures of rose dore and transparent yellow.

For the duller mixtures, I mixed, with my brush, Winsor violet into the colors that leaned more toward yellow; I brushed blue onto the colors that leaned more toward red.

Glazing the iris (8B): I used mixtures of Gamblin Payne’s gray, because it’s the most transparent Payne’s gray, and Williamsburg French ultramarine blue, because it’s more of a blue violet and a little bit dull.

9. Applying Subsequent Glazes of Flowers

Step 9A for Glazing in Oils

Step 9A (2) for Glazing in Oils

In the second layer my goal was to add more color in light and medium value areas. Sometimes if the light areas are very light then a second layer of glaze is not necessary. I also wanted to darken and perhaps dull and cool the shadow areas. These areas usually need the most layers of glaze to get the color dark but still colorful; I did this by alternating colors in the glaze layers, usually warm and cool aspects of how I want those areas to be in the finished painting. The darks also usually need more glazing to continue to develop the dimensionality of the form.

In the third layer I re-established some of the light areas. I may have had them too dark in the underpainting layer, or I might have put too much glaze on at first; somehow, they got lost. This sometimes happens to the light edges and in the shiny areas of the flowers: those spots are easy to lose. I also lost the light left petal of the peach tulip in the left vase. It was too dark and the glaze on the yellow part was way off. So I repainted most of that petal with the original underpainting colors.

Step 9B for Glazing in Oils

Step 9B (2) for Glazing in Oils

I always keep the underpainting and glaze colors until the painting is complete and varnished. I spend a lot of time mixing the colors exactly the way I want them to be, and so it is a time-saver to keep all mixes until the painting is safely varnished. I keep each palette in a Masterson Palette Seal in a freezer. I usually have several palettes for any painting, but since this one has so many different colors and palettes that needed to be in the freezer, we had to eat some of the food in our chest freezer!

10. Glazing the Drapery and Glass

Step 10 for Glazing in Oils

I started adding dark green glaze (sap green and French ultramarine blue) to some of the stems in the vase on the left. Here it started to become a lot more interesting. I created more value contrast than existed in the reference photo, which made everything more engaging. On the day I took the reference photos there was a bit of haze in front of the sun, so there wasn’t as much contrast in any of the vases, but I changed that now.

For the drapery I wanted to use a glaze to darken the shadows that would also unify the shadows into shapes so that they’d read not just as stripes but also as shadows. When I have an object that shows multiple colors, I try to use a single color glaze in the shadow areas to unify the colors. Violet works well for the shadows in red and yellow objects because usually both colors contain violet.

I started to glaze this area with just the violet but decided that it was too warm, so I added some of the Williamsburg French ultramarine blue to the violet. I quickly found out that the violet is a lot more powerful than the blue, so I changed my approach and added some of the violet to the blue, which made a perfect glaze for the shadow areas, making them cooler, darker and duller.

11. More Glazes and Details

Step 11 for Glazing in Oils

The completed painting has several more layers of glaze on the flowers, vases and drapery. Glazing is like watching a Polaroid photograph develop r e a l l y s l o w l y. When the glazes were completed, I went through the entire painting—adding and correcting some details and painting titanium white on the most prominent shines and reflections on the glass. Tip: When you do this on your paintings, be sure that all of the final lights and darks are not the same value or size. Garden of Joy (oil on panel, 46×63) is the biggest painting challenge I’ve taken on, and it makes me want to paint others that are this large and have this degree of complexity— just not right away.

Palette for the setting

for the background: Payne’s gray and ivory black with titanium white to create values; violet in the shadows of both stripes so they read as shadows

reds: cadmium red deep and French ultramarine blue to dull and darken the mixtures golds: cadmium yellow and Winsor violet to dull the yellow, and then white added to that mixture to create lighter values. For the dark shadow colors, I mixed the same yellow and violet together to create darker, duller yellows (browns).

Palette for Glass

Since glass is transparent and has no color of its own, I used the surrounding colors of the glass and drapery, as well as mixtures of cadmium lemon  and both French ultramarine blues to create the greens.

Underpainting the Flowers

for the tulips that are peach, pink, and yellow: mixtures of permanent carmine and cadmium yellow. Starting with a mixture that was yellow-orange, I mixed more permanent carmine into it to create orange, red-orange, a pink that was dulled with French ultramarine blue, and then subsequent mixtures with more blue added to the pink. Then I added white to each mixture to create lighter values. When I needed a duller version of any of these colors, I mixed, with my brush, French ultramarine blue to the color and then added white.

for the brighter pinks: mixtures of Winsor red and titanium white

for the warmer pinks: mixtures of Winsor red and cadmium yellow pale, plus titanium white for lighter values

for the iris: mixtures of permanent carmine, French ultramarine blue and Payne’s gray with titanium white for lighter values

Palette for the Second Glaze of Flowers

for the peach tulip to the right of the iris: the same glaze colors as in the previous layer but with emphasis on the darker areas

for the iris: mixtures of French ultramarine blue (WN), Payne’s gray (Gamblin) and quinacridone rose on the left lower petal to create a light violet blush

Palette for the Third Glaze of Flowers

for the peach tulip: just a few touches to the darkest areas

for the iris: mixtures of French ultramarine blue (WN)) and Payne’s gray (Gamblin) in the darkest areas.

To restore light on the left petal and the left side of the middle upright petal, titanium white and white again along some of the petal edges to show their thickness and add some contrast

for the yellow beard: cadmium yellow pale and Winsor violet to dull the yellow; then titanium white added for the lighter values; quinacridone rose on the left lower petal to create a light violet blush

Philosophy of the Underpainting

I have several goals when I am painting the underpainting:

1. Start with an opaque layer with a lot of white and some color. The more white there is in the underpainting the more reflective the surface will be, creating a more luminous painting.

2. Develop the dimensional form of the objects, using greater value contrasts between light and dark than are in the reference material. It’s very easy to lose these contrasts during the process of glazing, so I prefer to overstate them in the underpainting so that they’re more likely to survive the glazing process.

3. Paint as many of the details as possible in the underpainting, which will make it easier to do the glazing later. This first layer is the foundation for all the other layers, so the better it is, the easier the next steps will be.

I have a tendency to paint flowers just a little too bright, and I certainly don’t want that to happen with these. Thus, in addition to making the flowers quite a bit lighter than the finished flowers would be, I used colors that seemed dull on the palette. Once I’d started painting and had several flowers completed, the dull colors seemed bright and beautiful. The dark gray background made the colors seem brighter.

4. Keep the underpainting light. Usually the underpainting has a pasty or chalky look to it, with dark areas that are much too light. It’s better for the colors to be too light, as they can always be darkened with glazes. The underpainting at this point looks like a garden of pastel flowers, and I’m frequently tempted to leave the painting this way. Years of experience, however, tell me that continuing on with layers of transparent glazes will really make the picture come to life.


Meet Jane Jones: Among Jane Jones’s many awards is the 2011 Award of Excellence in Blossoms II: Art of Flowers, an international competition and exhibition. The author of Classic Still Life Painting (Watson-Guptill), she teaches at the Art Students League of Denver. Sugarman-Peterson Gallery (Santa Fe, N.M.) and Bonner David Galleries (Scottsdale, Ariz.) represent her work. Learn more at janejonesartist.com.

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