Monday Art: Painting the cosmos

Cosmos painting

Painted cosmos

In last week’s watercolor class, we had several potential subjects to choose from: adorably bumpy cucumbers and fat red tomatoes from someone’s garden, red-gold apples from Cyndi’s road trip through Washington, and a tall bouquet of cosmos waving delicate fronds on long stems. At first I tried a tomato, but after my previous paintings of pears and apples, the rounded fruit just seemed too much like the others. So I selected a frilly bloom and began painstakingly (I typed “paintstakingly” at first) reproducing the petals as well as I could.

 

Cosmos close-up

Cosmos close-up

I wasn’t satisfied with the flower while I was painting it, but after I got home and Erik exclaimed, “That’s really good!” I decided it wasn’t bad after all. This isn’t modesty; watercolors look quite different wet versus dry. One of my classmates said she’s heard that the colors fade 40% while they dry, and that seems about right (though how anyone could calculate this out, I don’t know). What looks like a garishly bright smear of wet paint can dry to a subtle pastel!

 

Annette also showed us how to do edge shading (that gradation of color you see in the background at left), and then after watching me try it on my Strathmore paper, suggested I use Arches paper instead. The handmade paper really does hold up to the liquid better. At $3.65 a sheet (big sheet, 19″ x 24″ or something), it’s not cheap, but I suspect this is going to be one of those “I can’t go back” situations. The paper changes the painting experience completely!

Floral fripperies

Floral fripperies

In a strange coincidence, Annette asked us to draw these cosmos flowers a couple of days after I’d made a set of floral brooches/hair adornments. (Click the image to view other photos on flickr.) I’m not really sure what painting has to do with sewing, but I felt more inclined to manipulate the fabric itself this time — usually I work on it by embroidering or embellishing — and in my mind it felt the same as when I’m watercoloring. When I saw Annette bring out that vase of cosmos, I wondered whether the sewing would also influence the way I painted, but no, it had no impact at all that I can tell!

 

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