The sketch is the first step in any painting project for me. My photograph is cropped in real close to show only the petals on the yellow rose of friendship bloom. The way the light changes the yellow into gold is magnetic. However, it really doesn’t speak to me so I end up adding a long stem and another bud on the left to give your eyes a place to journey. I’m beginning to see some action in the layout with the addition of the foliage and bud, and am ready to proceed now.
With this beautiful yellow rose sketch I carefully recreated the petals from the photograph, and then lay it out on the table right next to where I begin to paint. I also have the actual flower in front of me as I begin to paint so I can get the colors right but the first part is usually dark areas taken from the dark values in the B&W print. My goal is to get the soft light to yellow fading (wet on wet) on each petal surface first and then add in shadow.
I am not going to use resist or mastic to reserve the whites, and instead be careful to reserve these light areas of paper. These first three images show the desk setup with the reference materials, paint pallet with brushes. Working on the first three petals establishes which colors seem to work best. After wetting the petal area, I fill my brush with Aureolin Yellow and drag along the darker edge to the center leaving a puddle of color at the center, this one lets other colors wash over it. Using a darker orange yellow named, New Gamboge, to drop in color where more brilliance in the yellow is desired.
This watercolor in process recreates how the flowers look when they are rinsed and spread across a kitchen table, while stringing leis.
Notice the yellow centered white plumerias have a brilliant center fading out to white edges and tip. To accomplish this I wet the entire petal area so I can do a wet-on-wet process with the paint. Fill a brush with Aurolean yellow. Begin applying by pulling from the tip on the outside edge of the petal to the interior in the center and lifting the brush. This leaves a wonderful puddle of light yellow bleeding out evenly and gradually to the outer edges of the petal. Do the other side of the petal.
The next shade is New Gambouge, which is a kind of orangish yellow. Same brush loaded with color, then pulling from about 3/4 or 1/2 of the petal length to the inside and lifting again at the center to produce that darker orange tint in the center. Do both sides of petal. In the image below, you can see how the New Gambouge further defines the radiance of that center area and push it into the distance.
Darkening the Center
Apply using light touch with a smaller brush of Daniel Smith Quinacridone Gold or an orange brown to your liking, to emphasize edges and the center even more. I notice a darker shadow right under the edges of where the petal folds up on the sides remaining white. This underneath surface of the petal is where I apply the darker color sparingly.
Finally, with same small brush I drop a little pool drop of Dioxazine Purple right in the middle where you would insert your needle to string a lei. Purples are a perfect “shadow maker” for yellows. The wet surface lets the purple bleed naturally out into the petal making an incredibly believable shadow and depth. I also use this same purple in very light washes to create drop shadows where the flowers overlap each other, edge outlines and stems peek out from behind.
Reds and Pinks
The same steps are taken with the red plumeria sing the wet-on-wet process. Using a light wash of Alizarin Crimson, adding Purple Lake, touching with Vermillion then more Alizarin Crimson in the middle. Last is that drop of Dioxazine Purple in the center. For the pink the same steps but what I noticed is that there is almost a stripe effect with the different colors on each petal. I start with an Alizarin Chrimson, adding Vermillion, adding Pyrrol Orange, then Cadmium Yellow Pale in stripes that I let bleed into each other. Again, the last is that drop of Dioxazine Purple in the center.
Painting PLUMERIA memories can be accomplished if you have enough memories stored away to work from in your mind. Lately, I’ve been doing watercolor paintings of flowers that I used to make lei’s of where I grew up in Kaneohe (Kahalu’u), Hawaii. It is funny cause I start from looking at various photographs from the client and before I know it, I am just painting the colors and textures that I remember. I can almost see and smell a flower in my hands and these memories seem to guide my brush.
Right after I finished my client’s piece, I started on my own plumeria memories for a favorite family member’s birthday coming up. She and I made many lei’s together. Starting with multiple sketches of flowers until I arrive at an arrangement that suits me.
The plumeria tree has big pointed dark green leaves, and produces a thick stem that branches out to multiple pods, creating a bunch of blossoms. The plumeria is a 5 petal flower with pointed ends spreading out in an equal circular fashion. It has a sturdy tube constructed from it’s petals-creating an easy to string tube stem that begins as a cone shape coming down from the blossom consolidating into a smaller diameter to where it anchors onto the tree. While picking, you have to take care to keep the milky sap off of yourself. It really is poisonous but honestly, I have never known anyone stupid (lo lo) enough to eat that yucky tasting stuff. I remember doing the “wash your hands” thing right after picking or lei making cause it was so sticky and tasted quite vile (pilau) if you ate something and licked your fingers.
Youth FULL OF Lei Making
In elementary school the designs were fun and simple, but in high school serious designs were done to enter the May Day Lei Making contest at the state capitol. Lei making is truly an art and many Hawaiians excell at creating gorgeous and fragrant creations that are a joy to see and wear. My favorite lei is still the puakinikini for it’s wonderful sweet fragrance, it is almost a magical entrancing aroma.
We had large plumeria trees lining the dirt road in the front of our house and people used to come and knock on our door to ask permission to pick. Those trees provided the whole neighborhood with an abundance of blooming treasures to create with and me with a lifetime of painting plumerias from memory.
There was a great big one that had thick white petals with bright yellow centers and a truly heavenly perfume and the thick petals allowed it to last the longest in a lei. Right next to it was a established old tree with blossoms that had a more slender and thinner type of petal with brilliant pinks and the yellow center, it had not so sweet or heavy of a fragrance and didn’t last quite as long.
The only color missing was the dark red, at our house so I got a branch from a friend to plant in the back yard. With careful planting, watering and care, it took off and grew into a beautiful tree right in the guava orchard in the back yard. It took a couple of years before it was big enough to supply “a grocery sack-full” of flowers to work with, but even with little amounts of the dark reds some really interesting patterns and designs in our lei making came from them.
More posts like this are under the category of “Watercolors“.