Thursday, February 2, 2012

Work in Progress: Island Beauty - White Plumeria

...I know, I know, the plan was to paint roses for the days in February before the important Valentines... But life never quite go as how it was planned, was it? ;-P...

What happened was this reference photo caught my eyes when I was flipping through a deck of white rose photos and could not decide which one to pick and paint. The photo of the white plumeria poses an interesting challenge in the following aspects:

To vividly capture the value contrast of light and shadow on a white flower on a sunny day, I have deliberately decreased the exposure time, which made the dark green foliage way to dark to resolve on the photo. However, I really love the beautiful blue-grey shadow patterns on the flower pedals. As a partially solution, I end up adjust the brightness and contrast of the photo to make the leaves in shade more interesting to paint;

After adjust photo brightness, the foliages still look way too grey and it was very hard to tell the hues and temperatures between one leaf and another. I had to increase the saturation of the reference photo in photoshop to make the nuances in color differences more distinguishable;

Since the entire foliage shape is in shadow and their local colors are also much darker than the flower, in the reference photo the entire flower appears as a light shape while the background foliage appears as a dark shape, which makes the flower look slightly cut-and-paste and out of place. I had to try very hard to exaggerate the value difference between different leaf shapes, to make the value patterns in this image more interesting.

I liked these challenges from an interesting but not perfect photo, and decided to give it a try. Since I had to think through many things and do quite a few adjustment of the reference material before putting the brush to paper, I did not get very far in the actual painting:

Island Beauty - White Plumeria,  
Watercolor on Fabriano Artistico 140# Cold Press Paper , 6"h x 6"w, WIP 1

I did the first layer of shadows on the flower with mainly Cobalt Blue, and started to block in the foliages with very exaggerated intense colors -- Peacock Blue, Alizarin Crimson -- to indicate the color temperature difference to myself. Then I washed various greens -- mixed from blue, yellow and some tube greens -- over the underpainting, which created interesting, more muted leaf colors. I am also constantly looking through a piece of red plastic to check to value pattern of the painting, to make sure it's interesting enough, and there are enough value gradations in the foliage. It's really a challenge to paint from a reference photo but not so literally, but I am enjoying the process!


  1. Thanks for explaining your process. The drawing is perfect and I love the way it is developing. Will be watching to see it finished.

  2. It is developing very well, you kept a splendid light on the leaves. Will keep an eye on the progress :-))

  3. your work is spectacular and your explanation of your process is not only incredibly helpful and interesting but very well written! i'm hooked! you work is incredible!


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