When I looked back to find the photos of the initial stages of this painting, I was shocked to see that I began working on it 5 months ago. Now, this doesn't mean that I've taken 5 months to compete the painting! No. In fact, it's still not quite finished, but another few hours on the background will do it. In between bouts at the easel, I have been very busy illustrating and photographing my book, as well as doing lots of teaching. I am trying to finish the painting in time for the book launch - I love a deadline!
I took the reference photo several years ago, just before Christmas in a florist in Lisburn. It was snowing outside, but the light caught the flowers beautifully. I don't often paint flowers - but it was painting light and colour that I was interested in, and in spite of the complex nature of the subject, I was happy to tackle it.
I always enjoy the blocking-in stage - it's all to play for, and the true magnitude of the task in hand hasn't quite hit home yet... After toning the background, I did a rough layer of colour over the whole canvas. This should be as close as possible to the final colours and tones, but it acts as a good base for the final colour layer to sit upon. I worked one flower at a time.
I usually do my cropping at the photographing stage, but in this case I altered the composition slightly on the right hand side, removing a chrysanthemum from top right which I felt disrupted the strength of the patterns created by the tallest daisy.
At this point, I went through a phase of getting paint everywhere, including my computer keyboard, which is... not helpful! So I decided to try working with gloves. I wasn't sure if I'd like it - but I do! Just about everything we use for oil painting is toxic to some degree, so it's sensible to protect the hands.
I began the second layer by painting one flower at a time once more - when you know are going to have long gaps between visits to the easel, it's great to have small areas to 'complete' as you go along. The second layer gives a richness to the painitng. Remember, oil paint is transparent, so the more layers, the more 'solid' and secure the painting will be. The background at the top is an ornamental cabbage, which currently looks like draped fabric!
It was somewhere between the photo above and the photo below that my camera stopped functioning. It just couldn't focus - the flower on the right, below, is blurred. (In reality, the flower is soft but not as soft as the photo!) Oh no!!
Above - the second layer on the flowers is complete. As you can see, the flower at the top is blurred - this, again, is the camera. For the photo below, which is the whole painting complete apart from the top background, I had to use the 'selfie' camera, so the quality isn't good, but hopefully you get the gist.
The camera I've been using is the one in my iPhone. I consider myself VERY lucky. I used it to take every photograph in my book (over 500 shots printed), and the quality is excellent. The repair shop replaced it with a new camera, hoorah! But sadly, it still doesn't focus, which means, apparently, that it's 'a phone problem'. I suspect that I've used up my picture allowance.
I've had the phone just 18 months. I think the time has come to buy a little digital camera again, and not rely on the phone for photographs. Gone are the days of repairing our belongings, it seems. But an 18 month life-span isn't long enough for me! This consumer is looking elsewhere...
Next up: oil painting workshop, Belfast. For info email firstname.lastname@example.org
BOOK LAUNCH and display of student drawings and paintings, Sunday 2nd April, The Engine Room Gallery, Belfast. All welcome!