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Magenta Peony

My process with the 8"x8" floral portrait series is layered and time-consuming, but less so than the "Flemish Method" I learned at the Sadie Valerie Atelier (see "Green Bottle"). I start by either finding or taking a reference photo that inspires me. I use photos because the method I use is so detailed and time-consuming and flowers change shape hourly! I then sketch a composition that pleases me, cropping, editing, adding elements from other photos, until it feels right to me. I then create a graphite drawing and transfer it onto my canvas, sealed with a thin layer of varnish. This is my first layer.

My second layer is the underpainting. This is the deepest layers of the flower, the mysterious depths. I love painting this layer, as it usually has the richest, warmest colors due to all the petals bouncing light and color against each other in there. (Very symbolic!) The center is always darker, warmer and richer, and the depths become cooler as they move outward. I'll also paint the background and basic shadow shapes so the entire canvas is covered, to get basic values and tones established. At this stage everything is left very loose and brushy with no edges at all, and I work quickly so that the underpainting is done in a day.

The second layer is when the flower begins to emerge from the depths. This is when I paint the petals, from deepest on up, trying to capture the shift of color, value and edge of every petal. I paint the flower section by section, usually finishing about a palm-size section of painting per day. 

In my third and final layer, I make subtle adjustments. This step is usually glazing, softening or crisping up edges, and highlights - all final touches to make sure the artwork has expressed the delicacy, gesture, "personality", beauty and emotional resonance of that flower. If it does, then I'm done.

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