Thursday, October 1, 2009

Orchid study and playing with gesso

Last year I tried to paint this orchid, a vibrant pink-purple Cattleya orchid given to me by a friend.  I was not happy with the result, partly due to the elusive nature of the fluorescent pink undertones.  It's starting to bloom again now, so I should have plenty of time to practice!  One of my artist friends on Flickr, Sigrid Frensen, suggested that I try a color called Opera Rose, and so far I think I'm on the right track.  I did some color trials (below left), and settled on Opera Rose, Quinacridone Pink, and Ultramarine Blue.  I tried these out on a three-quarter view and a top view of one of the blooms.

The colors didn't scan exactly the same as the original, but I think you'll get the idea.  Below is a larger image of the three-quarter view.  These are painted in transparent watercolor on Arches hot-press paper, 90 lb.

Then I tried something completely different.  I've been wanting to try painting over  gesso on watercolor paper.  This was inspired by one of Cathy Johnson's small paintings here.  I had already prepared two pieces of cold-pressed watercolor paper with a single coat of loosely brushed clear gesso made by Liquitex.  I waited until it was completely dry, then I did a VERY loose painting based on the same orchids.

Wow!  I moved from almost total control with the hot-press paper to almost none with the dampened gesso-coated paper.  Next time, I'll try dry-brushing instead of dampening my paper.  But I have to say that I was intrigued by the unpredicability of free-flowing color over the gesso.  I was able to lift and push around pigment in some places, which allowed for interesting effects. 

The gesso on watercolor paper is something I'll remember for the future.  it would be great for moody or atmospheric pieces, and especially nice for collage elements.