Saturday, November 23, 2019

Sunflower Quartet

This painting is still available click to view the auction.

I bought these mini sunflowers at the supermarket, I was surprised that they're available in the middle of November. Apparently they're generally available all year. That's probably one of the reasons why they’re so popular.


Actually, sunflowers are so popular that I sometimes hesitate to paint them. They’re featured on hand bags, coffee mugs, posters, and advertisements. Plus they’ve been painted by famous artists such as Monet and Van Gogh. I can’t really pay attention to thoughts like that because every subject has been thoroughly explored by other artists.

I tried smelling them in the store but I couldn’t detect anything. That's probably because the flowers are located near the cheese section which has an overpowering odor.

However, when I was photographing the flowers at home, I left the room to fetch a lens and when I returned I was surprised that I noticed a slight scent. They don’t really have a flowery smell, but they kind of smell like leaves. Or maybe it’s more of a nutty scent. Whichever it is, it’s much more subtle than the scent of other flowers.

"Sunflower Quartet"
Acrylic on canvas
8"x10"
Sunflowers are one of my favorite flowers. I think that’s partly because of the way they look but also because I like eating the seeds.

When I was younger, I had a rule that I wouldn’t grow anything in my garden unless you could eat it–I guess I'm pragmatic in that respect.

So sunflowers were one of the few flowers that I grew. The first time that I tried growing them I planted them too close to the house. The large seed heads would bang up against the side of the house whenever it was windy out.

This was a little disconcerting at night when you hear banging on the side of the house, until you realize it’s just the sunflowers swaying in the breeze.

My plans of growing flowers that produced something you can eat was overruled by the local birds, because they ate them before I had a chance. I've heard that you can protect them by covering the heads with cheesecloth but I never tried it.

In case you're wondering, the other flowers that you can eat are nasturtiums which have a spicy flavor that’s similar to radishes. The inner part of the petals are crunchy and the bright colors look great in a salad.

Chives produce purple flowers that are edible. They’re easy to grow and once you plant them they return every year. The green stems have a mild onion flavor which is what most people grow them for. Chives go well with baked potatoes and as a salad topper.

Anyway, I’ve always liked Édouard Manet flower paintings. This Manet painting of white lilacs is one of my favorite paintings.

The brushstrokes in Manet’s lilacs are allowed to show but the painting still accurate in terms of the colors and the shapes.

That’s the look that I was going for when I painted these sunflowers. I wanted to get the colors and the drawing accurate, but I didn't want the painting to look like I labored over it.

So, I would put the color down and leave it without fussing with it too much. Sometimes you have to spread the color around on the canvas but it’s often best to figure out where it’s supposed to go and just lay it down without blending it.

Remember, if you want to plant sunflowers, make sure you plant them at least a few feet away from the house. Unless you enjoy hearing banging sounds against your house in the middle of the night!

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