Sunday, June 26, 2011
How To Paint Bougainvilleas, Part 1
Bougainvilleas are a favorite subject of mine. I'm attracted to the color possibilities and the detailing one can go crazy with. I would admit that part of the reason I started painting it was because of the challenge. It looked so intimidating to paint that I felt compelled to unravel the mystery.
Whenever I find myself facing an insurmountable task or project, my first course of action is to chop things up into manageable pieces. If something looks complicated, I try to simplify. It also has to do with a learning limitation I have. I have difficulty with memorization. But I'm good with concepts and once I get the rationale behind something, my recall is good. That's part of the reason why I take so long to do things the first time. For plants and flowers, I go nerdy and do surgery. I like to see how things work or how things are put together. Seems excessive just to draw a flower. Time consuming, yes. But I think of it as time well spent because it helps make successive paintings using the same subject easier. If you've heard of the story of how an old master taught his students to paint by making them traverse five flights of stairs between their easels and their subject matter, then you might realize it is not really about memorizing the details but getting the concepts that should help them recreate something. If you do the stair challenge yourself, you'll find that any detail you've tried committing to memory will have evaporated by the time you reach second floor. Trying to catch your breath and keeping an image is a hard feat. The objective is not to develop a photographic memory but to exercise the ability to synthesize the essence of something. So for the bougainvillea lessons, I'll be familiarizing you with how the flower is put together in nature and at the same time will be posting the step by step of the painting process. Hopefully, I succeed in imparting the essence of it. Mine is just one way to tackle the bougainvillea, I hope it helps make it easier and fun for you too.
This is the basic unit of a bougainvillea cluster. You have three modified leaves (often mistaken as bougainvillea petals because they are colored brightly like a flower's) that have mini flowers on elongated thingies. One mini flower per colored leaf. When formed well, the flowers' bases are erect and plumped up with a slightly cinched middle and hard ridged edges. The ones that look like spent matchsticks are flower bases that have sustained damage and twisted as they developed. The three leaves are joined at the base by their attachment to a single stem. That will be shown on the next demo.
If you're interested in the colors I used for this demo, they are rose madder genuine, permanent sap green, winsor lemon, cerulean blue, permanent rose and permanent alizarin crimson. (Winsor and Newton). You may use other color substitutes. I only picked them because I happen to have small leftovers of the colors from past paintings. For serious paintings, I always use a clean palette and fresh colors but I save leftovers from finished paintings for practicing with.
The ridges of the leaves are yellow in color but because yellow and pencil marks are a no-no, I left the areas where I picture the ridges to be blank. Any yellow over pencil marks would make the pencil mark almost impossible to erase. A phenomena observed by most artist. So as a rule, using yellow for mapping is to be avoided if you intend to erase your guides later on.
I applied the rose madder genuine to the pink areas using mostly the tip of a no.6 round brush. As if I'm dabbing spots on and leaving spaces in between. The pink defines the areas but because they were applied unevenly and spottily, it will help with the illusion of convex textures on the modified leaves' surfaces.
When you've finished putting the second layer on, your three leaves should more or less look like this. Notice specially how on the leftmost leaf, the convex textures are almost forming itself.
If this is a painting with a background, my next step would be on how to integrate the bougainvillea into the background. We'll get to that in future demos.
I hope you enjoyed this one. Thank you for looking.