Blue Hydrangeas in Blue Willow, 14 x 18 inches

Still Life of Hydrangeas
Blue Hydrangeas in Blue Willow

This is the third composition of the commission.

From the two previous paintings I learned a lot about what I appreciated most about the beauty of hydrangeas, and taking that knowledge I set out to create a painting that was just focused on the flowers. I did not want anything else to get in the way of my attention.

So I zoomed in and painted the flowers in a darkened background, this way the lace-like effect that is created by how the individual flowers of the flowerheads catch light was emphasized. In general I am drawn to pattern and variety of texture and with hydrangeas some petals pick up an edge of light and others fall into shadow, making for an amazing display of interest and complexity.

This painting was the collector’s choice of the three compositions, they wanted a painting that was just about the hydrangeas, a bouquet that could be found in a dining room. And with their encouragement I made this painting more full and lush than I had originally conceived.

Framed Painting: SOLD
{18″ x 14″ (45.7 x 35.6 cm) – oil on linen}
{24″ x 20″ (61 x 50.8 cm) with frame}

Here are some progress photos.

20140916-049 WIP1
{end of first day}

Another aspect that I love about this painting is that I found a painting where I could use my blue willow soup tureen. I have been trying to find the right place for the tureen in a painting since the day I purchased it a little over five years ago, and finally I found the correct scale of flowers for it to be displayed in.

20140916-049 WIP2
{end of second day}

20140916-049 WIP3
{a few days later}

20140916-049 WIP4
{almost finished}

20140916-049 WIP5
{closer to the finish line}

20140916-049 WIP6

This painting was painted in a series of marathon days dedicated to time behind the easel, I was just motivated and enthralled with it. Compositionally this painting is about a hierarchy of textures and patterns, all reinforcing and supporting the others.

Though, the hydrangeas were the most important of course.

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Ode to Fantin Latour, 18 x 14 inches

Ode to Fantin Latour
Ode to Fantin Latour

This is the second painting completed for the commission.

With this painting I selected a dark background and was inspired by the floral compositions of Henri Fantin Latour.

My goal was to highlight the blues of the hydrangeas by incorporating flowers and objects that were both complementary colors and analogous colors. So throughout the painting I included other blue, green and purple color notes that were then punctuated with the warm colors of yellow, orange, and red.

When painting this piece, I was in love with all the richness of color, texture, and light. It was such a joy to paint and explore.

Framed Painting: SOLD
{18″ x 14″ (45.7 x 35.6 cm) – oil on linen}
{24″ x 20″ (61 x 50.8 cm) with frame}

Here are some progress photos…

20140828-048 WIP1
{end of the first day}

20140828-048 WIP2
{a few days later}

20140828-048 WIP3
{end of the next day}

20140828-048 WIP4
{end of the next day}

20140828-048 WIP5
{almost finished}

20140828-048 WIP6

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Mid-Summer Hydrangeas, 14 x 18 inches

Still Life with Cherries and Hydrangeas Mid-Summer Hydrangeas

This painting was the first composition of the commission.

And I wanted to emphasize the blue of the flowers by surrounding it with warm tones and lighter values.

This painting is also a testament to my life since I moved to the mid-Atlantic region. The background is a remnant of the sandy-hued silk taffeta my wedding dress was made up from (yes, I never get rid of fabric, I never know when that scrap or not-so-small piece will come in handy), the tablecloth may have been the first one purchased after I became enthralled with still life, the transferware bowl is a recent purchase, and the hydrangeas came from my garden.

In a way, this painting documents my life in so many little ways, even the Rainer cherries are meaningful to me, as they remind me of my high school and undergraduate years in Washington State, and going out to cherry orchards and picking buckets of Rainer cherries. YUM!

This incorporating of meaningful and beautiful objects into a composition is what makes the still-life genre so special to me. In a painting, I can present a soothing scene that may appeal to many people, while also sharing pieces of my life.

Framed Painting: $1,400
{14″ x 18″ (35.6 x 45.7 cm) – oil on linen}
{20″ x 24″ (50.8 x 61 cm) with frame}
Available for purchase, please email me}

Here are some work-in-progress photos of this painting.

20140716-045-cherries-and-hydrangeas1 WIP1

{the first pass – maybe at the end of the 2nd day… }

I had to work fast to capture the flowers in their peak.  As a whole I do not work from photograph, so it is important to get the flowers down first and leave the parts that will not age with time to later times.

20140716-045-cherries-and-hydrangeas1 WIP2

{a few days later}

See how the upper hydrangeas had already wilted, losing some of their volume and shape. Time is very important when working with flowers…

20140716-045-cherries-and-hydrangeas1 WIP3

{almost finished}

20140716-045-cherries-and-hydrangeas1 WIP4{finished}


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My Still-life Commission Process

Sometimes I am asked if I ever complete commissions, and my answer is “yes, I do!” and then I go on to explain how I approach commissions, as my process is not typical… this is because when I work on a commission, I paint three different compositions of the subject matter, and my client gets to select their favorite of the three.

The reason for my process is because I really enjoy exploring a single subject matter from various points of view. In my mind, creating artwork is more than just recording something visually accurate, it is about capturing the essence and meaning of the subject.

And I am an artist who loves to share my sense of beauty and often this is something that cannot be pinpointed but instead is felt and made aware of by experiencing. And by investigating a single topic (or object) in multiple ways, I begin to really understand it and thus am better able to express what makes it so special and beautiful.

This summer I was asked to create a still-life painting of blue hydrangeas, and now I want to share my process and how I created the three different compositions.

The first thing I did after accepting this project was to brainstorm about ideas, thinking about color schemes and potential schematic diagrams of the big geometric shapes and breakdown of compositional space. If you know me in person, you know I am always toting around my “idea book”, a spiral sketchbook where I write down EVERYTHING.

Being a colorist, before I ever began to investigate the compositional formats, I thought about how I wanted to emphasize the blue of the hydrangeas. Often I will amplify the visual impact of a color by paring it with its complementary color and color temperature. So being that I was going to be painting blue hydrangeas, in my mind’s eye I wanted to surround the flowers with warm oranges, peaches and reds.

sketchbook-hydrangea commission{composition doodles}

From my compositional thumbnails and sketches, I became interested in pursuing two trains of thought, one was where the hydrangeas were centered and the central focus of the composition, and the second was where the hydrangeas were part of an entire scene, visually interacting with the other objects in the painting.

Still Life with Cherries and Hydrangeas{1st painting :: Mid-Summer Hydrangeas}

With this first composition I explored utilizing color as a way to emphasize the blues in the hydrangea flowerheads. These hydrangeas were from my garden, so I also got to incorporate the flowerheads at different levels of maturity, the older blooms had larger individual flowers in a lighter dusty blue where the flowerheads that were just beyond being a bud were variegated in color from a pale green shifting into cream in some flowers and in other flowers with deep blue tips.

Ode to Fantin Latour{2nd painting :: Ode to Fantin Latour}

For the second composition, I wanted to explore a vertical format while incorporating a variety of flowers into the bouquet. This painting is also an ode to the French artist Henri Fantin Latour, because I think he is the master of all floral still lifes and is an artist I really look up to. I wanted to create a sense of mystery while also emphasizing the blue of the hydrangea blooms by including notes of orange, yellows, and roses throughout the composition.

During all this time when I was working on these commission paintings, I was constantly looking at other artist’s interpretations of hydrangeas and it was through the process of painting hydrangeas and viewing other paintings with hydrangeas in them that my own opinion about what makes hydrangeas so captivating as a flower crystallized in my mind. To me it is the lace-like quality that comes from the individual flowers of the flowerheads catching light, and of the other individual flowers falling into shadow. The overall round form of the flower heads are punctuated with the delicate edges and details of the individual flowers.

Still Life of Hydrangeas{3rd painting :: Blue Hydrangeas in Blue Willow}

So when I began the third painting, I really strove to focus on the effects of light and shadow, allowing my earlier explorations of color complementaries to take a backseat and to expressly investigate the way the light fell across a bouquet of hydrangeas. Texture and the lace-like qualities were my focus, so I zoomed in and made it a painting about the flowers.

2014 hydrangea commission

All of these paintings were fun to paint and I learned so much from this process. And the client selected the third painting.

And one of the great side effects was that I learned how to paint hydrangeas, which to me, hydrangeas are some of the most difficult flowers to capture, especially as I paint from life, and if the flowers wilt, I am in deep water if the painting is not complete…

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Still Life with Currants, Bleu Cheese, and Wine, 4 x 6 inches

Still Life with Red Currants, Bleu Cheese, and Wine
Still Life with Currants, Bleu Cheese, and Wine

I am drawn sometimes to paint the scenes that mark important and festive times, and to me a cheese and fruit board accompanied by wine is one of my favorite ways to celebrate a big milestone.

What do you do?

Available for Sale at the Principle Gallery
Framed Painting: $300
{4″ x 6″ – oil on linen panel}
{8″ x 10″ with frame}

Leave a comment Filed under Artwork, available paintings, Principle Gallery