For two weeks now, poppies have been opening each day in our garden. Light and airy as ballet dancers, their moment center stage is short, but oh so lovely. I started this page when the first pink flower bloomed and added more as they opened— plant after plant, all pink. And then, a single red blossom opened. Outstanding in its singularity, it seemed the perfect punctuation to a page—and to a garden in need of a bit of diversity to really make it shine.

I did this second painting of poppies while visiting the garden at Olana State Historic Site. These bold, frilly-edged perennial poppies were in full late-day sun, which forced me to work quickly. I like the resulting freshness and fullness of this one.  

Tips and Techniques– Notice the treatment of foliage in these two pieces. In the pink annual poppies, I decided to leave out the leaves to to showcase the simple grace of the stems and flowers. In contrast, putting in a suggestion of gray-green foliage offers a useful compliment to the red poppies at Olana. Remember that as an artist, you are also an editor. Just because it’s there, doesn’t mean you have to paint it. Make choices about what’s in front of you to simplify and hone in on what you want to convey.

14 Comments on “Poppies

  1. These are lovely, Jean! Olana looks like an inspiring place to visit and paint! Thank you for your tips and artist advice! I signed up for your July workshops and can’t wait!

  2. Oh! how I love Poppies!! I have just never planted them. I think you said a while back that yours are from seed. Perennial orange ones were here when we moved in and continue to bring me joy every year. I like to take the dried pods and spread the seed around to encourage more.
    I just saw a red Poppy like the one in your painting while walking this morning and you have captured that flower perfectly. I DO love the pink ones and yours are gorgeous. No matter what I do next year, I MUST plant some poppies.

    • Hi Dawn– Mine are from seed. I planted some last year and didn’t thin them and they turned out weak and small. I saved seeds and planted again this year and some of last years reseeded. They are well spaced and robust with beautiful blooms. I love the delicate pinks ones, but the reds are quite stunning. I planted perennial ones last year but they didn’t bloom this year– hopefully they will next year when they are better established. Make space for them next year!

  3. These are both lovely in their own way. I like what you say about being also an editor! I’m afraid that I find that difficult but have been told it gets easier as you continually practise.

    • I think it does get easier– with practice and with reminders that you can do it. I used to think I had to paint just what was in front of me. Now I eliminate or move things around– it’s very freeing.

  4. I love these – especially the red one. Reds are hard for me! But you gave it depth & variety. Gorgeous.

    • Reds are hard for me too Melissa. What is it about apples and red flowers!!?? Always a challenge. I find getting the darks and shadows to be especially hard with reds. I hope there will be more red blooms in the coming week to test me.

  5. Perfectly timed post! I have been trying paint my orangey red poppies for a week now, but having difficulty capturing the “glow”. These sketches might give me the help I need! Maybe a workshop with you would be even better!

    • Hi Denise- I found it challenging to get a range of values with both reds and pinks and did a lot of color testing. One thing to try is to start much lighter than you think you should. Do a light wash to start and let it dry, then start to build medium and dark values. This will help the poppies take shape. If you go too dark with reds, it’s very hard to lift them. Good luck and enjoy!

  6. You really did capture the moment in the second painting – there’s a real sense of scale there, and late-day sunlight. Who doesn’t love poppies? 🙂

    • Hi Alison– I glued a thin magnet to the bottom of the pans. It works fairly well except that it gets wet and paint slimely around the pans and sometimes the magnets come unglued. That said, this solution enables me to swap in new colors with ease.

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