At the beginning of the year, I decided to make more art. Spending the holidays with my family spurred this decision. Paintings, drawings, and prints I’ve done over the years fill the homes of my parents and sister. When I saw these, I remembered that my art is more important than my scholarship to a lot of the people in my life. So I decided to do more with it.
Over the past few months, then, I’ve been dedicating more time to painting. I’ve created abstractions on doors, continued my observations of local animals on the walls, and ventured into canvas paintings. Last week, I continued my canvas work by completing two paintings depicting some floral sketches I did earlier this spring. Let’s take a look!
Magnolias: A Longtime Sketching Interest
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’ve been sketching magnolias ever since we moved to Virginia. Initially, I drew these flowers because they weren’t from New Mexico. They reminded me that we had moved to a new place with its own flora and fauna. In the years since then, I’ve come to love these flowers for their distinctive scent and luminous, sculptural petals.
Every year, I try to find a flower that’s been knocked down from a tree to sketch at home. Last year I wasn’t able to find any, so this year I’ve been especially vigilant about it, scouring all the trees I know in town for any blossoms that got knocked to the ground. And it’s been quite the harvest. There have been so many flowers this year that I’ve had to start getting creative.
A Serendipitous Sketching Opportunity
This past spring Brandon and I visited Sweethaven Lavender Farm, located in Williamsburg. We wanted to see how this place compared to another lavendar farm we know and love, Los Poblanos in Albuquerque. Not surprisingly, perhaps, it was pretty damn idyllic. We spent the evening picking culinary lavender as well as wildflowers for me to sketch later that weekend.
The following day, I went for a walk in New Town. As I set out, I found a magnolia blossom on the ground. Knowing about the flowers I’d missed last year, I didn’t want to pass it up. At the same time, I didn’t want my wildflowers to wilt, as I knew they’d be equally ephemeral.
Instead of choosing one or the other, then, I combined them into one transient still life. Over the next couple of days, I completed as many sketches as I could, rendering my observations as the petals slowly sagged and fell away. Remembering that I had a pair of blank 12″ x 12″ canvases, I decided to take the two best sketches and render them into paintings.
My Changing Relationship with Painting
My relationship with painting has changed over the years. For the longest time, I didn’t consider myself a painter at all. My strength was drawing, and my paintings were at best imitations of paintings. I know, it’s weird, but you can rationalize a lot of bizarre things when you’re insecure about yourself.
That started changing after I took a workshop in Roswell, but I’ve really only gotten more comfortable with painting since being in Williamsburg. Between years of painting abstractions and a sketching practice that’s increasingly favored brushwork over linework, painting has become a regular part of my life. So it only made sense to put these sketches to canvas.
Painting Magnolia and Wildflowers
I originally painted my sketches on a white background, but for these paintings, I opted for blue and green to suggest the landscape where I first picked the wildflowers. First I outlined the magnolias, then painted in the background with dark blue and green. I covered the dark background with lighter hues to brighten the compositions while still letting the deeper tones resonate.
I painted the magnolias before the wildflowers. As I’ve done for the past few years, I first rendered them in yellow, using purple and brown for the modeling. Next, I covered the flowers in a layer of white, letting the yellow underneath suggest the creamy color of the petals. After I completed the flowers with additional hightlights or shadows as needed, I moved onto the wildflowers.
All in all, each painting took a few days.
Future Projects with Magnolias
Overall, I’m happy with how these turned out. I’m still perfecting my magnolia technique, but I feel like glazes and scumbles of yellow and white most effectively capture that luminous tone I find so compelling. I also liked juxpatosing the creamy, almost white magnolia blooms with the bright, saturated hues of the wildflowers surrounding them. In the future, I might try thinning my glazes to enhance the translucent, luminous effect.
Most importantly though, I’m happy to have completed a project. Sometimes I can take years to follow through on a sketch, but I finished these within a couple of months. I have plans for more magnolia painting in the future, but for now, I’m satisfied with carrying out my initial idea.