Detail of Summer Flowers in a Vase

Summer Flowers In A Vase…Or…The Case Of The Disappearing Coaster!

Visiting my Mum and Dad last weekend, I was struck by the light and colour of summer flowers in a vase on the living room table. The thing that really got my attention though was the way the red coaster was visible beside the vase but disappeared behind it even though the vase was transparent. It then ‘appeared’ in two other places ‘on’ the vase. Well I wasn’t about to figure out why and how that happened but I did become interested in capturing the effect. This painting was so much about painting what you see, not what you know! So let me take you through the process.

Because of timing, I couldn’t work from life. So instead, I worked from a photograph. See what I mean about the coaster?

 

Reference photo for Summer Flowers In A Vase

 

First step was a quick thumbnail sketch. I used an HB pencil, an uncommon medium for me to use for these types of feeling-it-out sketches (I usually grab a pen). The whole thing was predominantly mid-value with some lights and a few darks.

1. Thumbnail sketch in HB pencil - for Summer Flowers in a Vase

1. Thumbnail sketch in HB pencil. After doing this, I decided to include more of the flowers and background.

 

Then into the painting!

 

2. Sketched up the design using vine charcoal on UART 400 grade paper - Summer Flowers in a Vase

2. Sketched up the design using vine charcoal on UART 400 grade paper

 

3. Rather than put down colours for the three value shapes. I decided to do something different. I started with a few colours aware of the value areas but seeing colour and placing it very broadly. Summer Flowers in a vase

3. Rather than my usual practice of putting down three colours for the three value shapes, I decided to do something different. I started applying a few colours as I saw them in the subject (but still stayed aware of the value areas).

 

4. Added the darkest darks and began to refine some shapes - e.g. one of the daisies - using negative space. Summer Flowers in a Vase

4. Added the darkest darks and began to refine some shapes – e.g. one of the daisies – using negative space

 

5. Clarifying shapes. Originally I had thought to make the background abstract but as I worked I began to like the idea of the couch and cushion so worked with that idea instead. Summer Flowers in a Vase

5. Clarifying the shapes. Originally I had thought to make the background abstract but as I worked I began to like the idea of the couch and cushion so worked with that idea instead.

 

5a. The same image above in black and white. I always like to check in on my values and see how closely I am sticking to my thumbnail map. I can see I will need to lighten parts of the coach and also the main daisy (but I know when I get to the highlights that will happen). Summer Flowers in a Vase

5a. The same image above in black and white. I always like to check in on my values this way. I can see how closely I’m sticking to my thumbnail map and also if that’s working! Here I notice I’ll need to lighten parts of the couch and also the main daisy.

 

6. Worked on the table - shadow and light areas. Then added highlights especially on vase! My favourite part. Look and add then don't fuss I tell myself! Summer Flowers in a Vase

6. Worked on the shadow and light areas of the table. Then added highlights especially on the vase. This is my favourite part of any painting. “Look, then add, then don’t fuss” I tell myself!

 

Gail Sibley, "Summer Flowers in a Vase," Unison pastels on UART 400 grade paper, 12 x 9 in. Final detailing particularly on flowers, and darkened area left of the pillow.

Gail Sibley, “Summer Flowers in a Vase,” Unison pastels on UART 400 grade paper, 12 x 9 in. Final detailing particularly on flowers. Notice too that I darkened the area left of the pillow.

 

And just because, the final in black and white. Gail Sibley, "Summer Flowers in a Vase," Unison pastels on UART 400 grade paper, 12 x 9 in.

And just because, here’s the final in black and white. Gail Sibley, “Summer Flowers in a Vase,” Unison pastels on UART 400 grade paper, 12 x 9 in. You can see how the lighting values have changed from the black and white image above.

 

And here are the pastels I used:

Summer Flowers in a Vase - pastels used

The 17 Unison pastels I used to create “Summer Flowers in a Vase”

 

After deciding what to paint and playing around with various thumbnails, the actual painting took about one and a half hours. I was thinking I’d come back to it after a break but I realized it had the feel of a plein air or alla prima painting – done in a single sitting – and felt it worked as is. So decided to say the painting is finished (except I still have to sign it!).

This was a bit of experiment for me as I decided not to do my usual three-value dry underpainting and instead, started applying various colours immediately. I was still cognizant of the three-value structure while I worked though.

I also chose colours from my larger collection of Unison pastels rather than being confined to their starter set. As you know, I’m always trying to show what can be achieved with a limited selection of colours in a pre-selected kit. This time though, I wanted to do something just for me! Still, I thought you’d be interested in seeing the process and how I found my way through the ugly stage to the end.

 

Until next time (when I can’t wait to introduce this month’s guest blogger!),

~ Gail

 

 

34 thoughts on “Summer Flowers In A Vase…Or…The Case Of The Disappearing Coaster!

  1. Christine

    Hi Gail love your composition it’s not just a vase of flowers the included background works perfectly with the arrangement all extra interest.
    I paint flowers but I haven’t worked much with pastel I’ve a lot to learn not yet confident with them have purchased a set of unison pastels and I’ve joined your group so hope to make progress.

    Reply
    1. Gail Sibley Post author

      Glad you like it and think the whole thing works Christine. Look forward to seeing your pastel flowers in the Facebook group! Unison pastels are wonderful 🙂

      Reply
  2. Ruth Greenslade

    This post is very helpful to me–it’s so kind of you to share the stages of the painting and point out in each one what you’ve done. And the “ugly stage” post may have been written just for me! I have a whole drawer full of pieces that I quit on in the middle. I’ll have to take another look. Gail, I had a really hard time reading this blog post. There seemed less contrast than usual, and the type is quite small anyway. The “ugly stage” post was a bit easier to read. Maybe it’s just my eyes. Anyway, thank you for the wealth of instruction!

    Reply
    1. Gail Sibley Post author

      I’m so glad to hear this post AND ‘the ugly stage’ are helpful Ruth. Yes, get in that drawer and pull something out and work on it. You can’t lose can you? It may take off or it may bomb but that’s better than a collection of unfinished pieces in the drawer. Let us here what happens!

      Sorry to hear you had a hard time reading this post. I think it’s because I put much of the description in the captions and they tend to be smaller font than the main text. Perhaps there is a way you can zoom in?

      Reply
  3. Linda McCann

    Hi Gail, I liked your pastel! I have been painting Pastel for three years. Still struggle. I am in Sierra Pastel Society. I love your color and enjoyed your demo. I have a page on FBook, but am losing interest in it because they have changed so many things. I need to get a new Web site instead. My page is Inspirations by Linda McCann on Facebook. I used to paint in watercolor, oil, and acrylic. I love the pastel the best. Looking forward to your blogs.

    Reply
    1. Gail Sibley Post author

      Thanks Linda! So glad you have discovered and now love pastels 😀
      I hear you about Facebook Page – it’s difficult to get traction there now for sure. Really the best place to put your time and energy is your website – it’s yours and represents you. Facebook can always change the rules (as it does!) which means you have no control. You have that control on your website so I encourage you to put your efforts there.

      Reply
  4. Lela McKee Friel

    Thank You Gail for sharing your process on this lovely rendition. I always get so much out of seeing the different steps you take to get to the finished piece. I still consider my self a beginner and this is something that was never taught to me the layering and working with values to make a drawing or painting sing with life and movement. You really capture this in all of your work that I see here. Love that red coaster and how it pops up in 3 places too! I hope your parents get to see this one!

    Reply
    1. Gail Sibley Post author

      Thanks so much Lela! I’m glad the step-by-step is helpful. I myself am always amazed as I look back at the progress and see how the mess comes together as a painting. I have an online beginner course coming out soon that might be helpful. Also, I had thought I would create a course next on values so thank you for the reminder.
      I know! That red coaster is quite something isn’t it?!
      And since my parents are subscribers, they will eventually see the painting 😀

      Reply
  5. Nancy Merolle

    Like the way you cropped the photograph and enjoyed watching your process. You were right to keep the couch in the background, the composition is great. Love the suggestions of the flowers without all the details.

    Reply
    1. Gail Sibley Post author

      Thanks Nancy for the vote of confidence around keeping the couch. Funny how you can move along in a painting and then find the original idea morphs into something else.

      Reply
  6. Cheryl

    I really like this fresh looking finished pastel. Your color choices were lovely. I found the step by steps very useful – especially, how you developed and defined the daisies. You were bold to include the couch rather than going with an abstract background, and it totally worked. I love painting flowers. I am just learning how to do this with pastels, and this is the kind of look I’m drawn to. Thanks so much for this lesson.

    Reply
    1. Gail Sibley Post author

      You are so welcome Cheryl! It really makes my day to know that a post has been helpful. Funny about the whole couch thing but now I am glad that I kept it. Look forward to seeing your flower paintings in pastels. Hope you will share them in the Facebook group.

      Reply
  7. Elaine Benevides

    Gail – thanks for this! I’m always attracted to paint flowers in a vase, but have never actually done it because it has seemed so overwhelming. Breaking it down like you have makes it feel more doable to me. Now, to find those flowers in a vase! They’re never around when you want them to be.

    Reply
    1. Gail Sibley Post author

      Elaine, you are so right – a vase of flowers can seem overwhelming! Values and simplification are always key. Also, look at paintings others do of flowers. Study how they paint shapes, colour, value structure. Look forward to seeing your flower paintings 🙂

      Reply
  8. Jan Clark

    Really useful to see the progression from start to finish Gail – would love to see more examples like this. I have a photograph of a nice vase of flowers (no coaster!) which I’ve hesitated to attempt but I might give it a go now. Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Gail Sibley Post author

      That’s great to hear Jan and thanks for saying you want more like this – that’s helpful!
      I hope you jumped in and painted those flowers 🙂

      Reply
  9. Cliff Riviere

    Interesting subject. The “disappearing ” red coaster might be the differences in refractive index of the water, air and glass. If my memory of high school physics is correct (it’s been a long while) a subject will not be “seen” if the refractive indecies of the medium(e.g. air,water, glass) are the same. But enough. I like the way you handled the point of interest, while subduing the rest of the floral arrangement. The yellow of the couch is a good compliment to the violet understated flowers. Even though a photo was your reference, the painting has a certain plein air quality ( to my eyes, anyway).. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    1. Gail Sibley Post author

      Hah hah Cliff – trust you to come up with some of the physics aspect! Glad you liked the piece and a huge compliment that you think it has a plein air quality! Thank you!

      Reply
  10. Kylia Eastwell

    Do you know, I think this is one of the loveliest flowers-in-a-vase paintings I have ever seen. It has a wonderful freshness and energy, and just the right degree of detail to leave something to the imagination. You have inspired me to try something similar and to boldly block in the local colour as you have done before fine-tuning the values. As someone who mainly does animal portraits, I am now ready to branch out!

    Reply

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