Hollyhocks grew all along the side of my studio in Rye Colorado. It was love at first sight when we moved into our home there, and I have visited hollyhocks in different settings for the last 27 years.
What is it about hollyhocks that could cause such a lasting affair? They’re twisted of course.
Not like Jafar from Aladdin – like aspen trees, they twist and turn and offer endless combinations of movement for intriguing compositions.
A few days ago we added ‘At Home on the Range’ to the Master Oil Painting Monthly Membership, and it details my full process for developing a particular hollyhock scene. It’s almost 5 hours long, and if you want the full brushstroke by brushstroke explanation you’ll have to check out the Monthly Membership.
But for both members and our ‘not yet members’ I wanted to share some images from the video that follow the painting’s creation from block-in to refined finish. I’ve always been a fan of process pictures, so I hope these, along with the explanations and the video that follows, are helpful to you as well!
Here are Your 10 Steps to a Hollyhock Masterpiece:
The major planes are the first thing I lay in with a thin walnut oil wash. Sometimes I leave the quickly done brushwork, but in this case I rubbed the paint into the texture of the panel to leave just an overall color field in each of the larger shapes of sky hills and foreground.
Then I began to establish the shadow pattern, especially where the bulk of the leaves will reside. I use a combination of Ultramarine Blue, Alizarin Crimson, Transparent Oxide (or Earth) Red and Phthalo or Sap Green to make most of my darker shadow colors.
Then the real fun begins as I decide where to place the leaves and flowers. I try to keep a constant awareness of my light source and direction so my shadows and highlights are consistent.
I keep mixing into and expanding the piles of color on my palette to help with harmony throughout the painting’s progression. For instance, I will mix up a large area of green color and then cool the temperature with blues or warm the mixture with yellows and reds, using opposite sides of the original pile of paint, so I can keep a fun juxtaposing of warm and cool color temperatures throughout. I will also often have one side of the mixture lighter and one side darker in value.
Once I have the leaves mostly composed of large and small shapes I do the same thing with the flowers. With a solid structure of light and dark established I begin to refine the flowers and leaves with stronger contrast and warm and cool color temperatures.
At this point the flowers and leaves start to feel more 3 dimensional and pull away from the background. Notice the development of leaves in shadow.
Now the flowers are really taking shape and receiving their individual identities. The leaves also get a few more peaks and valleys.
Now it’s time to do something about all the other spaces by resolving the sky and hills and adding some rocks and grass to keep the flowers company and give interest to the foreground. The background transitioned from hills to trees and back to hills again, with some light wispy clouds for movement in the sky.
The foreground rocks and grasses were kept simple so they wouldn’t draw too much attention from the hollyhocks, while refining some of the grass stalks enough that they could be used to guide the viewer up and through the painting to the more important hollyhocks.
The final image kept the shadows under the leaves dark, yet softened by the grasses going in and out of the diffused light of a slightly overcast day.
In case you’re not a Monthly Member yet, here is the YouTube fast motion version to enjoy, with fun tidbits of instruction mixed throughout.
I hope this helps simplify the process for you.
I love these magnificent, twisting, flowers and am excited to see the masterpiece you create to honor their beauty!
Here are a few more of my own from the archives…
I hope you enjoyed this, and as always, Happy Painting!
P.S. Was this type of post, with the painting broken down into steps, useful to you? Would you like to see more like this in the future?