What is it about roses that has beguiled artists since the early Blue Bird Fresco created almost 4000 years ago?
If you feel compelled to craft your own rose masterpiece and some poor misguided soul seeks to dampen your enthusiasm with a statement such as ‘it’s already been done’ – look them in the eye, and with a twinkle in your own, cheerfully proclaim that with tens of thousands of species on this grand planet – not likely!
Do you ever dream of a summer sanctuary during the frosty winter months – roses cascading over cleverly trellised archways and arbors, fragrantly filling your thoughts with smiles of remembrance? We artists weave magic with our painted tapestries – a magic powerful enough to transport the weary soul to that welcomed sanctuary.
Each of these rose paintings was inspired by roses Kristie and I have grown around our home. Each year we try to plant some new flower that’s a bit different from anything we’ve planted before. One flower remains consistent – roses. I finally purchased some gloves this Spring for pruning those prickly bushes (they’re made of goat skin and are undeniably incredible – I gritted my teeth, grabbed a stem and squeezed as strong as I could – nothing – I can’t believe I went all these years without them).
I think it’s safe to say I’m a little bit obsessed with roses, both outside and on the canvas. I know I’m not alone in my passion for this flower, but so many artists still fear painting them. In fact, we recently published a 2.5 hour instructional video featuring these Peach Roses and dozens of artists commented on how grateful they were because they have had such a difficult time mastering this particular flower. Let’s break down the steps and demystify the process a little, and hopefully you’ll feel comfortable creating your own rose masterpiece.
Ready to get started?
5 Steps to Your Own Peach Roses
The background washes were accomplished in two basic steps – start with a lighter, cooler layer of blue and tan and then add some quick free-flowing brushstrokes that mimic leaves and ambiguous distant plants.
The cool blues and greens are a stark contrast to the painting completed several years ago, with the dark warm burnt sienna hues. These new colors and values were an experiment to see if the subtle value differences were enough between the roses and background colors to allow ample separation. My hope was that the harmony of blues and greens to the peach and darker reddish orange hues would achieve that separation of elements.
When my background is created with abandon, focusing on fun rhythmic movement of shapes and textures with thinner transparent brush strokes, and meant to be done in one application and then left, I am much more careful with the initial drawing and hesitant to make major changes because of the complexity of recreating the spontaneous feeling that is created in those loose layers.
Unfortunately, this was a case of ‘the best laid plans of mice and men’. I soon realized I had placed the roses too close to the left side which threw off the compositional balance, and would have left an uncomfortable tangent between a future frame and the farthest petal edge of my left-side rose.
So, using my paper towel I said a tearful goodbye to those roses and commenced to move them over to the right a bit.
Fortunately, most of the initial petals are shaped with single manipulated brushstrokes – placing a flower petal or leaf in quickly. I’m concentrating much more on visually exciting shapes than on making stereotypical roses or leaves. Using Flats for my paint brushes allows me to travel from a sharp point on the tip of a leaf to the widened center area and back to the tapered stem in one fluid stroke.
The rose colors are created primarily from a mix of cad yellow medium and quinacridone red in the more saturated darker middle value hues.
Notice at this stage that I am also playing with my darkest accents and my brightest highlights to establish my overall value range. I also begin adding a variety of stems, leaves and branches to increase the visual energy and movement in the painting.
Using much thicker paint to increase the textural appeal of the painting, I begin to cut back into and shape the roses to increase the delicate appeal of the petals, and to successfully separate one rose from the other.
One of the obvious and very attractive differences between oil paint and watercolor is the ability to correct mistakes. Oil painting does not require nearly extent of preplanning that watercolor does – it is much easier to follow spur of the moment inspiration and ideas.
Once the major shapes and colors are worked out, the rest of the painting is simply a matter of playing with lines, accents and highlights until the entire setting feels natural and engaging.
I love using a small pointed round or the thin edge of a flat brush to draw in wispy stems and tiny accents of strong colors like a splash of crimson to give the painting sparkle and depth.
How much we add or leave out is left up to the instincts and whimsy of the artist – there is no right or wrong – we all have unique personalities and interests. Go with your gut and have fun with it all.
Now let’s see the entire process from start to finish in a fast motion video to bring it all together:
If you’re a current Master Oil Painting Monthly Member you can view the full 2.5 hour art instructional video by logging in here:
If you’re not a Monthly Member and would like to view this video, along with the entire monthly training library, you can learn more here:
What’s your favorite flower to paint?