We started the session by printing a black and white version of the photograph and realised that the flower looked better upside down than the way it had been photographed. Therefore instead of it facing down, it was looking up towards the sky. We used Tracedown to get it on to our Saunders Waterford rough paper and then tweaked it to add the stem and any additional features.
Next, using a palette knife, we applied a small amount of Pebeo Modelling Paste, a new product which I had only just been introduced to and I was eager to see how it would react with watercolours. I was anticipating that this would simulate the folds in the petals which are what give sunflowers their personality.
When this was completely dry (after a cup of tea and a chat), we used masking fluid, applied with a ruling pen, a stiff brush and a toothbrush to reserve the petals, the centre, and anything else we decided was going to be important. I prefer the pink Frisk masking fluid but any of the thin versions of the product work well.
It was the background to tackle next and I was determined that we would put some movement and atmosphere in to it, that way we would hopefully avoid the flower looking too much like a cardboard cut out. Placing our boards on easels, we dribbled and poured our choice of colours down the paper, trying hard not to interfere too much with how the paint settled, and left them to dry over a leisurely lunch.
Although we were all now really eager to get to the petals and give the subject an injection of colour, we carefully removed the masking fluid with a Maskaway eraser and began filling in the centre of the flower with a strong colour and the leafy parts that attach the flower to the stem.
Now it was the bit that we were all itching to get to! We discussed the various ways of getting colour on to the petals and what equipment was going to be the best to use. We settled on continuing with watercolour, with the addition of some Dr. P. H. Martins Bombay inks for any parts that we thought needed a bright highlight.
As this was an experimental day, who could resist adding a little gold to the tips of the petals? The Schminke aqua powders were dissolved in a little water and carefully brushed on, just to give the petals some final pizazz.
When to stop painting is always a constant discussion in the studio, but today we put up our work and helped each other to decided what, if anything, needed to be done to complete them. My piece needed a little extra negative painting with a dark to contrast against the texture of the petals.
A conscious decision was made to stop from 'faffing' about with it and we were all pretty pleased with our efforts. Working alongside people as they paint is always tremendous fun and the constant swapping of ideas, discussion about what to do next and generally helping each other out is the reason I teach. A very astute observation was made that it was unlike me to paint in these colours as I usually paint in a much colder palette, perhaps this is the reason I have avoided sunflowers until now but I can feel a yellow period coming on...