I love sunflowers with their bright, happy faces always facing towards the warm light of summer. They are also one of my favorite flowers to paint. Because I enjoy experimenting and trying different techniques with my watercolors I thought I would share a few of those creative approaches while showcasing my favorite subject.
Watercolor - 11x15
I painted Sun Dance using the traditional method of painting with watercolors. I began with a light sketch and then wet the paper so that the blue paint could mix and mingle on the wet surface. I tried to save some white areas in the background and then placed shades of yellow and green for the sunflowers and leaves. When all was dry, I added more color to the petals and used negative painting to define them. Adding a hint of veins to the leaves I then darkened the centers of the flowers and called it finished.
Watercolor & Stamping - 11x15
I began Sunflower Glow in a traditional way by randomly applying rich shades of yellow, orange and mauve to wet 140 lb watercolor paper. After it all dried, I sketched in the sunflowers, stems and leaves and began painting the negative space around the flowers to pull them out from the background. I moved on to the flowers where I added darks to define the petals and flower centers.
I decided at this point to shake things up a bit and used bubble wrap and corrugated cardboard to stamp wet watercolor paint here and there over the entire composition. Then, I used white gesso to stamp the words for added design interest and to lighten things up a bit.
Watercolor on Gesso - 11x14
The majority of the time I use 140 lb Arches watercolor paper so that the paint can soak in to the paper and can be easily layered to create definition and depth. Sometimes it is fun to first apply several coats of white acrylic gesso to the watercolor paper (a great way to use old paintings that you don't like) to provide a slick surface for the paints. Instead of soaking in to the paper the watercolors sit on top which allows for a more spontaneous, drippy, painterly approach. I painted Summer Fun on gessoed paper and loved how quick and loose it was!
Watercolor on Yupo - 11x17
Sunflower Fun was painted on Yupo paper, a synthetic plastic paper that is used for printing. I first used a pale, yellow oil pastel to draw the sunflowers and leaves and to act as a resist for the watercolor paint. Then, I applied strong, bold color all over the paper and used plastic wrap for texture in the back ground. The yupo paper is similar to the gessoed surface in that it allows the paint to sit on top and creates rich, bright colors.
Watercolor Collage - 15x22
The final creative experiment with Sunflower Barn was to combine watercolor with collage. I began by wetting 300 lb watercolor paper so that I could apply the colors for the blue sky, the barn, sunflowers and leaves to create a map of sorts for the placement of the collage papers. I used some patterned tissue paper that I found at the store - green holly leaves and leopard spots - and then I also painted white tissue paper with different shades of yellow and orange watercolor to use on the flower petals. Using acrylic matte medium I glued on torn pieces of paper to the flower centers, petals and leaves, layering to build color and texture throughout the composition. Then, I used a brush and paint to further define the barn and flowers.
I hope you have enjoyed seeing these five different ways to approach one subject using watercolor in creative ways as much as I loved painting them. I invite you to see all of my sunflower paintings in my Etsy Shop .