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Flower Painting with a Limited Palette

This is a series of floral studies I painted in oil from living flowers. Flowers are very complex and move, albeit slowly, almost constantly. This makes them a challenge to paint, so I find ways to simplify the process. It helps to use a limited palette of just a few colors, and work on a toned background.

Alla prima oil painting of peonies flowers by Sadie Valeri

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A few days before I started painting the living flowers, I copied a detail from a 1749 Jan Van Huysum flower painting. This helped me warm up and gain some knowledge from a master of flower painting.

I used a very limited palette of white, dark brown, and three primaries, on a panel I toned a few days earlier with raw umber and let it fully dry. Titanium White

Cadmium Yellow Light

Quinacridone Red

Ultramarine Blue

Raw Umber Especially with white or light flowers, it's easier to start on a toned panel:

Some days I worked all day on one bloom, and then the next day added additional blooms.

As the flowers opened, bloomed, and then faded I followed their progress over the days.

The fun thing about single-session "alla prima" painting from living subjects is the challenge becomes addictive. Every day I woke up excited to try again to catch the spirit of the opening blooms.

Here is a short video of my process:

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