When Peonies Bloom

When peonies bloom, rain nearly always follows. And so it was that I lost my subject. Still, I am pleased to have June’s most elegant flower in the pages of my sketchbook, a few cut flowers on my table, and pink and white petals littering the garden.

Tips and Techniques-
What you don’t see on this page are all the test sheets of greens that I’ve been working on this week: blue and yellow combinations, “convenience” green combinations (sap green, phthalo green, green gold), greens with browns, and greens with reds. I’m looking for highly transparent mixes that offer a good range of light to dark values. The trick is that when I’m working on a negative painting like this, I want to let some of the colors mix right on the page—and some greens are just too garish for that. What I (mostly) ended up with here is phthalo blue, nickel azo yellow, and a touch of quin magenta. If you struggle with greens, I highly recommend doing color tests of your own. You’ll quickly discover lots of combinations that don’t work and many that do. And you’ll gain confidence in your colors that will serve you well in your future paintings.

If you have go-to green combinations that you especially like, leave a comment so we can learn from each other!

25 Comments on “When Peonies Bloom

  1. There’s such delicacy and transparency in your layered greens! All your experimenting clearly shows. The touches of magenta in the greens are especially lovely — adding a touch of the unexpected to the shadows, yet bringing harmony to the piece. I so want to take a class with you some day. Will continue watching your website in hopes that I can make a trip out in the future. Thank you for your inspiring work and generous sharing of your skills!

    • Thanks so much! Finding a limited palette that provides harmonious combinations can make a big difference in a painting. I would welcome a chance to meet you someday– until then, feel free to ask questions here and enjoy!

  2. My go-to green is often Ultramarine Blue and Azo Yellow (M. Graham…they aren’t all the same). But I mostly paint desert plants and flower in AZ so that might make a difference!

  3. I remember being told once that it’s a hood idea to add a bit of the flower colour to the green mix, obviously with yellow glowers there is no need but I find adding a touch of whatever red/pink or purple I’m using makes the green more harmonious.

    • Interesting suggestion Mair. I suppose you could get into trouble with some reds/oranges going too brown. But purples can definitely compliment greens well.

  4. Beautiful. With Father’s Day just over, I can imagine how much my late father would have loved this. Peonies were his favorite and the pride and joy of his flower beds. Thanks for the nice memories.

  5. I too began a painting of our peony in bloom this week. Then the rains came and I was unable to finish. I should have taken a picture so I could return to my unfinished painting but I did not….too much in a hurry to run inside with paints, brushes and water jar.
    Your negative painting of intertwining leaves is beautifully done. Thank you for sharing.
    Thanks too for suggesting color tests. Wish you had shown the ones you used for this peony study. I have just started using sap green. I’ll take your advice and do some color studies to use as reference when painting greens.

    • Some here- I didn’t snap a photo so the main bloom is a little less sharp than I would like. I had cut flowers to reference, but lost the specific bloom, lighting, etc. As for greens, there is a lifetime to explore. I like sap green; different brands have different pigment makeups and I’ve settled on Daniel Smith. Your color studies will be useful!

  6. That’s a saying? I never heard it, and hate to say it but it hasn’t worked too well here. 🙂 They’re blooming in gardens but we’re not getting rain. Oh well! They are truly beautiful, I’ve loved them since growing up with a small bed of them in the back yard of my childhood home in Syracuse. I like your buds, with that delicate edging….

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