“Summer Flame”


I’ve been working on this painting off and on for 9 months and I can finally say it is finished.  Some things are worth waiting for, don’t you agree?  Now that it is complete I will take you through the step by step process.

First the reference photo of the flowers.  The light is coming from several votive candles placed on the table near the flower arrangement, creating dramatic lighting and color.

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I started by sketching out the drawing on 14 x 20 140lb cold press Arches paper.  The white highlights on the vase were then masked out so I could put a yellow wash on the entire sheet of paper.   This would allow a warm yellow glow to come through the rest of the painting.


After wetting the entire paper I applied a light wash of  Golden Indian Yellow Hue.



Now the fun begins.  I started by fleshing out the beautiful gerber daisy that is the focal point using Gamboge, Quinacridone Gold, Pyrrole Red and Transparent PyrroleOrange.


Then I moved on to some of the surrounding sunflowers using the same colors. And then using a mix of Phthalo Blue, Violet Oxide and some Burnt Sienna I started putting down some of the background color.  You can see Charlie’s legs sticking out from under the table … always wants to be in the picture.


Next I started to work on filling out the sunflowers on the right and getting more of the background color down.  With the dark areas filled in I can get a better sense of how bright to make the flowers.   Each layer is built up gradually until I reach the intensity that I am looking for.  For the green I used Cobalt Blue and Gamboge adding Dioxazine  Purple or Burnt Sienna to darken it.  For the very dark greens I added the Phthalo Blue, Violet Oxide and Burnt Sienna to the mix.


I also started filling in the leaves behind the gerber daisy.  This is very time consuming because I can’t really see them in the photo.  I use photoshop to lighten the photo as much as possible to get an idea of what is hiding back there.  I’ve been asked why I take the time to paint are area that is obviously going to be painted over and unseen but I feel it gives the painting more depth.  I could easily just paint it black and be finished much faster but then the painting would feel very flat.  I want you to “feel” it as much as see it, you know there is something back there but you just can’t quite see it.


From here I begin the process of fine tuning, pushing leaves and petals back into the background by darken them with purple washes over the sunflower leaves and the black mixture over the greens above the gerber daisy.  Where I lost some of my white paper I discovered this wonderful product by Daniel Smith – Watercolor Ground.  I use it almost like paint, it is much closer in color to the white of the paper than any white paint I have found.  I only use this in very small areas ….. where I forget what I am doing and accidentally paint over an area that was meant to stay white.


Tah-Dah!!  It’s finished.


3 Comments and 0 Replies

  1. 1
    Susan Auchincloss says:

    Thanks for sharing. It must have been a wonderful journey with lots of ups and downs. I am also going to explore the watercolor ground.Beautiful, beautiful painting

  2. 2
    Jane Freeman says:

    Bitsy I just love the drama you have created here with the lights and darks…this is really a stunner of a painting!!

  3. 3

    The colors in the painting are very vivid and striking. Beautiful and excellently executed work.