why i love flowers

in the middle of all this study i unexpectedly did a painting i really loved, a painting that took days to complete, a painting of sunflowers.

the vase and the flowers were simply the reason for painting: i began to paint it without any conscious choice. i have to paint that — i now know that compulsion always makes me do my best.

i discovered that a painting is actually many paintings in one.

first painting, the sunflower blossoms. this was a near disaster. the black centers were fine but the yellows were wrong, all pale and greenish. i had to talk to myself and figure out what i wanted to become as a human being. pale and feeble? nooo, thanks. glazing more color, and changing the hues as i mixed, at least made these blossoms acceptable.

second painting, the stems and leaves. this turned out better. true, the colors were all washed and pale, but at least this time it was intentional (going with my weaknesses). also i was focusing on the tracery, the patterns, the masses and balance. fixing the blossoms taught me that i could glaze and adjust the colors later.

third painting, the vase and table. OK, i laid on rich colors of violet, sienna and green, built up patterns, and tried painting the reflections on the surface as patches of lighter color. i fell in love. my passions surfaced. my guts got all glowy. yes, i got a watercolor woodie. i shaped and improvised as i went. i had patti smith on the stereo and she was yellin' "HORSES!" i started to see paintings in the future. most of all, i let the painting go whatever direction it wanted. i felt completely free.

my brain stem was so charged up that i went straight into a wash of cadmium scarlet and indian yellow for the table. this was the best of all. i got a tight, precise edge to the wash around the vase, darkening color along the edge for visual emphasis, and a lovely random delicate variation of value throughout the area. i was swimming in color ...

then i stopped for a week or two. i had already done three paintings and hadn't even finished one. is every painting this much work?

the fourth painting, air background. i did a collection of cool and warm blues, laid on as tiny spots of color diffused by a steep wash to make them look like tiny celestial currents, fragrance swirling around the perfect flowers.

fifth painting, the details. i went back into the jungle of stems to solidify and brighten every leaf and petal, to contour every stem, and to fill out the smaller pink flowers with subtle rose washes.

and then i looked at the painting and thought, "oh, it's why i love flowers, isn't it?"

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