The Promise of Yellow

Sometimes, we just need yellow. Like when we’re waiting for spring greens to arrive after winter browns, or when the world has been turned upside down and we need a promise of hope. That’s when a burst of yellow forsythia or daffodils are just exactly right.
Click any image here to view larger.
Tips and Techniques– I love the way petals of forsythia blossoms seem to dance. There is a movement to them that is really fun to draw. But to draw every bloom could be too much. You want the burst of yellow, without so much crowding that you lose the dance. In this case, a spatter of paint added a touch of loose, uncontrolled color that complemented the flowers without overwhelming them.

  • A hard shake of a wet watercolor brush yields big drops (top left);
  • A stiff craft brush or old toothbrush flicked with your thumb results in a tighter concentration of marks (bottom);
  • An drop from an eye dropper about 10 inches above the paper gives big splashy drops.

If you don’t already use spatter in your painting, try it next time you want to enliven your subject or to achieve an effect that a controlled brush can’t.

And here’s more yellow just in case you need it.

19 thoughts on “The Promise of Yellow

  1. Yes! This is JUST what I need! I love the freshness of forsythia in spring. You hit the nail on the head. These are beautiful! Thank you.

    • I’m not sure. My spring and summer workshops have been canceled, so I’ve been thinking about it. I may decide to take an online class first to see how best to set up. I don’t have any equipment. Have you taken an online class?

      • Hi Nancy- Thanks for the encouragement. The Cornell class is no longer free, but it looks good and very professionally done (as you would expect from Cornell). There are so many online offers now that it seems like a pretty saturated space. To be honest, what I love about teaching is being able to get to know my students and interact with them personally. This enables me to tailor lessons and gently push boundaries. Much of the growth happens during smaller moments and 1:1 interactions that you just can’t get online. I’ll continue to think about it though.

  2. Cheerful Forsythia is everywhere and on a gloomy day like this it really stands out. Your painting is lovely but frankly I enjoyed looking over your splatter tutorial almost as much. So interesting.

    • Hi Dawn- I wondered for a long time how people got different types of spatter, so now that I know, I thought I’d share it. It is really quite handy for all sorts of subjects (my favorites: bird eggs, exuberant flowers, old wood.)

  3. Oh Jean, I was so happy to see this post. Of course, I love it, but I was beginning to get worried about you, not having seen a new post for a while. Not that you should take this as any kind of pressure – no one needs that, especially right now. Just know that I’m so glad you’re in a painting kind of mood again.
    And the advice about different kinds of spatter is very helpful.

    • Thanks for checking in Melissa. I have mostly painted daffodils in the last week, a subject which continues to elude me. Getting the shadows and depth without losing the freshness of the yellow defeats me each year. April also tends to be a low month for my sketch motivation. Even I get tired of the same old broken weed stalks in the field. Hoping we turn the corner this week!

      • Did you get the snow that my cousin in NH reported? If you could fly, I’d tell you to take a plane out to the Skagit Valley – the tulips are blooming & the trees are full of baby leaves.

      • We did get snow, but it didn’t stick. Enjoy those tulips and blooming trees for me! We’ll get there…the next few weeks are typically when things open up. But for today, flurries, overcast, 36-degrees.

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