Saturday, October 20, 2012

Cactus Flowers

You never know where you will be when you come across something to paint. I walk my dog everyday and with rare exceptions its usually the same route. I like my route because it doesn't require a great deal of thought.

One day, several weeks ago, one of the huge cactus plants in a side yard we pass often was blooming. The lighting, the bees, everything was just perfect except I didn't have my camera. Then I remembered I had just received my iPhone 5 and the camera was supposed to be much better than my old 3Gs. So I took out the phone and took a few shots. Continuing my walk, I forgot about the photos until I synced my phone. There they were and in such detail I was stunned. You could even see the pollen!

Looking for a painting to do in my class I decided to give the flowering cactus a try. The print was beautiful but I thought it would be too difficult to paint because of the complexity. So many lines and shades of green. I was surprised by the very pink cast of the cactus. In fact I was amazed at the amount of pink there was.

I started the under-painting using a black and pink background on archival polyester canvas. The outlines of the cactus and dark spaces were black and then I filled it in with pink. It looked like something a child might paint. It was awful. On top of that mess, I had decided to use only DecoArt Americana craft acrylic paints, something I don't do often with paintings as I find acrylics dry to fast. You don't have much time to blend. With SO many colors DecoArt makes it far to easy to become obsessed with colors. I like the idea of mixing paints and soon realized that is what I would have to do if I didn't want to spend all my time finding the "right" color.

If anything, as much as I like my classes in Las Vegas, this obsession of teachers using 10 colors when you could mix a little of this and that, bothers me. Where is the creativity? And, as everyone knows, while we may paint the same subject, no two paintings are ever the same. Never! Ever!

This painting took me longer than usual, probably nine hours. I built up the cactus first, then when the background and the cactus were right I added the flowers that had to float over everything else. This took awhile as it required first a greenish petal, then layers of white, accenting again with green and finally the wash of alizarin red for many of the tips. The centers also required layers. Green, then white and yellows, even a few strands of beige all to create the variety of color the flowers had. I have learned to love the Americana paints and enjoy that it is easy to build up layers as the one before is dry so quickly. I especially like the idea of taking home a dry painting. I guess, I will have to try the DecoArts Traditions paints as they are supposed to be much closer to professional paints and they have a wonderful feeling when painting them.

I think this turned out quite well. Especially for a grab shot while walking my dog. I urge all artists to keep an eye out for that scene that has potential! Considering that just about everyone has a cell phone today and that well over 50% of all photos are now taken with them, you will never have an excuse NOT to capture that perfect painting!


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