Cap­tur­ing the Lu­mi­nos­ity of White Flow­ers

Michele Van Mau­rik shares her in­sights on the im­por­tance of colour when paint­ing white flow­ers

International Artist - - Contents - Michele Van Mau­rik

Michele Van Mau­rik shares her in­sights on the im­por­tance of colour when paint­ing white flow­ers

In this demon­stra­tion, I will be re­veal­ing my tech­nique of cap­tur­ing the bril­liance and lu­mi­nos­ity of white flo­rals. I have dis­cov­ered over time that white flow­ers are any­thing but white! I start off by pho­tograph­ing my sub­ject in­doors by a win­dow to­ward the end of the day when the light is golden and pro­duces dra­matic shad­ows and con­trasts. This avoids any sort of breeze from mov­ing the flower around, and it al­lows me to shoot at var­i­ous an­gles, etc., un­til I am sat­is­fied with the com­po­si­tion. Work­ing with both a photographic ref­er­ence and the lily, I be­gin my process by ren­der­ing the lily onto my can­vas us­ing a mid-tone grey pas­tel pen­cil and em­ploy­ing the grid method to en­large my draw­ing onto a 30-by-30-inch can­vas.

I then in­vest some time in ex­plor­ing my colour palette for this par­tic­u­lar paint­ing. White flow­ers re­flect and ab­sorb colours around them. The sta­mens in the lily will def­i­nitely cast sub­tle shades of both green and brown onto the lily petals. I re­serve

White Peonies, oil on can­vas, 40 x 30" (102 x 76 cm)

us­ing pure white in my paint­ings; I pre­fer to add a hint of Naples yel­low to my ti­ta­nium white in or­der to pro­duce a warmer, more pleas­ing white. Us­ing op­po­site colours on the colour wheel, such as burnt si­enna and ul­tra­ma­rine blue with the ad­di­tion of white, pro­duces a va­ri­ety of lively cool and warm greys in the petals as op­posed to us­ing black and white. The shift be­tween the warm and cool avoids cre­at­ing a “dead” look to the many grey val­ues found in the folds and tex­ture of the lily petals. I use a white card to mix var­i­ous colour com­bi­na­tions on so I can de­ci­pher which shades are in my photo ref­er­ence. This is very help­ful as colours and val­ues can be­come quite con­fus­ing when placed in ad­ja­cent ar­eas on the paint­ing.

I be­gin by paint­ing the lily’s petals us­ing the var­i­ous greys, which I have mixed from com­ple­men­tary colours. Once I have all the petals com­plete, I am ex­cited to move on to the sta­mens and work with the beau­ti­ful greens and rusty browns, which are a wel­come change from the petals. I pay close at­ten­tion to where the colours from them are cast onto the petals of the lily and ap­ply it spar­ingly as to not overdo it. Once most of the de­tail of the lily is on my can­vas,

I am ready to start my back­ground. I pre­fer to keep my back­grounds very sub­tle and un­der­stated, so it will not com­pete with the flower it­self, as I want the lily to be the fo­cus of my paint­ing. In or­der for the lily to ap­pear di­men­sional, I use var­i­ous shades of dark green, yel­low ochre and diox­azine pur­ple to cre­ate a sug­ges­tion of out of fo­cus fo­liage. Af­ter ap­ply­ing a first ini­tial layer, I can quickly as­sess my paint­ing and ac­cu­rately judge the val­ues and colours of the lily, and I can make any nec­es­sary ad­just­ments or cor­rec­tions. Once dry, a sec­ond layer is added to the back­ground. Us­ing a soft, large hake brush, I am able to blend and soften my back­ground as well as soften or sharpen any edges of the lily, as it blends with the back­ground cre­at­ing at­mo­spheric per­spec­tive and giv­ing the paint­ing a sense of depth.

Wild Daises, oil on can­vas, 30 x 40" (76 x 102 cm) Op­po­site page: In Full Bloom, oil on can­vas, 40 x 30" (102 x 76 cm)

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