Acrylic and oil paints are often discussed as though they were in direct competition with one another, or as though one required superior skill in handling. Acrylic paints should be celebrated in their own right, and are masterful in the right hands. It is possible to glaze acrylics and create a vibrancy of color that rivals any other medium, and being a water based paint, there are no toxic chemicals to contend with.
Tulips (part of the lily family) are the subject of this painting lesson. There are over 150 species of tulip world-wide, so no shortage from which to choose. The word is reported to derive from the Persian word for turban, making reference to the flowers' shape. As tulips typically only stay in bloom for 3-7 days, they are a flower best painted in one or two sittings. The bulbs can be encouraged to bloom by storing them in a cold place for 3-4 months.
The artist Lorraine Vatcher caught the creative bug from childhood, working in oils, watercolor and acrylics. This art lesson uses chalk as an underdrawing, much like an oil painter might use charcoal. As well as demonstrating the painting of flowers, this lesson looks at reflections and crystal glass, trying to capture some of the rainbow colors with a liner brush.
So many times I have heard people comment on the fact that they could always spot an oil painting because of the vibrancy of colours. These are comments as they are standing and looking at my paintings. When I tell them that these are painted in acrylics, they stand in awe. If there is no vibrancy in the colours, it is because the artist has done it that way. In my opinion, as long as they have not been muddied by over-mixing, the acrylic paint out of the tube has the same potential of striking colour as oil paint.
This is a painting for medium to experienced painters, however, if you are a beginner, there is no better way to learn than to just jump in! Reflections of Pink and Green will require a good bit of time because you will have to build up the layers gradually. Each layer is fairly thin(a glaze) because the paint colour is mixed with a small bit of water to make it flow more evenly.If you would rather use flow medium, that is acceptable also. Each layer of glaze must dry before the next goes on. Much of the time, you will be working more than one area of the picture at a time because you will have to let areas dry before you put on another glaze. Have patience! It is worth the time to get this technique right.
Block in the background in shades of Payne’s Grey, Ultramarine Blue on the top two-thirds of the canvas and Burnt Umber mixed with Paynes’s Grey on the bottom two-thirds. Let this dry; it won’t take long.
Draw the outline of the picture with chalk onto the background of the canvas. Chalk is very forgiving. You can draw and erase loads of times and as long as you don’t over-wet the surface, it will not hurt the painting underneath.
Paint Titanium White on the top petal and its reflection on the left side and paint the tulip on the right and its reflection of the tulip also with Titanium White.Then paint a layer of Permanent Rose onto these white areas. Start to colour in the form of the bottom petal and its reflection on the left( there is no white underneath right now).
As you continue to build up layers of paint, look at the form of the tulip and the reflections of the flower petals. Each petal has a highlight and shadow areas. In the shadows, blend in just a dab of Payne’s Grey. Then layer thin Permanent Rose paint on it keeping it smooth. Keep the brush strokes going in the directions that the lines of the petals follow naturally. Even the Payne’s Grey requires layering because it is partially transparent, as is Permanent Rose. The areas which will be the highlighted will have to be underpainted with Titanium White again.
Paint the ends of the loose petals with Titanium White first and then some Cadmium Yellow mixed with a hint of Sap Green. Do the same with the center bowl of the main tulip where the stamens will form. Keep glazing the petals in Permanent Rose. You will see as the process continues that the Titanium White will shine through all the glazes and you will be able to control your colour with the number of layers you use. While doing this, start laying in some Hooker’s Green on the area which will be the leaves.
When you feel that the colours you have used have acquired the richness you wish, it is time to glaze over the reflections with Payne’s Grey. Up until now you have painted the reflections with the same detail as the flower and loose petals. Glaze over the entire area below the actual leaves. Remember that the reflections will not be nearly as vivid as the actual flower and petals. If they were, they would command too much attention from the main subjects. After that layer dries, blend in another glaze although not as high as the first layer, and so on until the reflection gradually becomes darker as your sight pulls away from your subjects. Now you should show some depth in the lower section of the painting.
Paint in some horizontal lines of burnt umber mixed with a little Cadmium Yellow and Titanium White around the bottom of the vase and in between the lose petals and the flower. These lines will be the bands of sunshine on the surface of the wood and hitting the top single petal on the left, the tulip and the crystal vase.
Draw in the shapes for the crystal vase with chalk. It is simply a large, skinny X with a line going through from top to bottom, a water line, and a few arcs on the lower part of the vase.
Don’t panic at this time…It is not as hard to paint glass as you most people think!!!
Use Hooker’s Green, Sap Green, Burnt Umber, Yellow Ocher, Cadmium Yellow, and Titanium White to give shape and form to the stems. Do not fill in that area completely as one large shape. There will be long colours. Remember that glass will distort but cut crystal will distort more. Shapes will be cut off and seeming to start from nothing. So paint in some stems which will follow the normal ideas of being tubes(round in shape) and otherwise let the colours of stems follow the lines cut or molded into the glass.
Draw the outline of the vase and all the shapes inside the vase over the top of the chalk with a liner brush and very diluted Titanium White with a hint of Sap Green and a dotted line. Make it very light…you want it only for reference and to give an idea where the glass has variations of shapes. When you know it is dry, rub off the chalk. Now you have the shapes in front of you to continue.
Use Yellow Ocher with a hint of Cadmium Orange to bring up the colour of the stamens. The background will be darker with Hooker’s Green and Sap Green in toward the centre. Make certain you give the stamens a rounded look by highlighting with Titanium White and shading with a little Payne’s Grey diluted. After the shading and highlighting are done, glaze with diluted Yellow Ocher and Cadmium Orange mixed together.
In the background area of the inside of the vase (where there are no other real shapes) add a few colours surrounding the area. These will be Ultramarine Blue, Yellow Ocher, Permanent Rose, etc.. Do not make any real shapes, just a hint of colour here and there because glass always picks up the surrounding colours. Then it does not look like such a “clear” area. Do not cover all the original background colour. Continue to build up the colours of the stems, both inside and outside the vase. As well, since you are working with the greens, don’t forget the leaves of the tulip. These colours will eventually shine out of the background colour but because they were painted over the dark colour, the will not overpower the focal points in the painting. Highlight with Sap Green mixed with Cadmium Yellow and shadow with Hooker’s Green mixed with Cadmium Red. Save the pure Titanium White for the brightest light on the glass, on the left hand side. I put a sparkle on the side because that is where the light hit straight on. Although I used white on the tulip petals and on the leaves, I went over them with a small bit of Sap Green mixed with Titanium White so they would not compete with the brightness of the glass.
If you were to look directly and closely at a piece of Pinwheel crystal or any other piece of cut glass, you would be amazed at the kaleidoscope of colours that are reflecting off it. It will also splice the light into the colours of the rainbow if a strong light is shone directly through it. The lines, especially, of the crystal will pick up and reflect.. Look carefully at the painting. I have, no doubt, exaggerated the colours but I did not imagine them. It would be impossible to tell you every brush stroke I did here, however, try to duplicate by letting the colours that are in the stems, in the flowers and shades of the background follow the lines that are cut and formed in the glass. Much of this work is done with a liner brush, and there will be small dots of colours in random areas too. For the straight lines, use a liner brush and Titanium White mixed with just a hint of Sap Green, watered down so that it will be a very light streak on the glass.
In foreground, smudge some of the greens and yellows which were in the stems of the vase to form the reflections on the wooden surface. With Payne’s Grey and White mixed, use a round brush to put in the semi-rectangular forms directly under the vase.
"Reflections of Pink and Green" Acrylic, 16"x20" By Lorraine Vatcher
Congratulations if you did this painting; you do have lots of patience. If this is a new method for you, you will now know the satisfaction of learning something you will be able to apply to many of your future paintings.