It’s not often I get a chance to paint something for myself… so I set aside some time, and instead of painting just a vase full of dahlias, I painted the whole field so I can have ALL the dahlias! 😆
I visited this gorgeous field of dahlias many times in the late summer to paint en plein air and pick flowers at Andrews Scenic Acres. It’s one of my favourite views, and wanted to paint something for my home that I would find interesting to look at, but also restful.
Starting off on a bright blue canvas means it will have flecks of blue mixed in with the field of flowers when it’s done.
I worked on composition, and then adding in the clouds. I’m in a bit of a habit of painting the clouds first. Partially because they are the thing furthest away, and the trees & hills layer on top of them. But also because, when I paint outside, the clouds are often blowing away and changing quickly! So I paint them first, and quickly, to capture their movement & light before they are gone.
On the second day I touched up the clouds a bit, and focused on the tree line… getting the dark silhouettes of the trees in. I tend to paint with acrylic like I do with oil paints… from dark to light, thin paint to thick caked on paint. So the trees start off with dark & thin paint like watercolours.
Day 3 : Watch the time-lapse reel on Instagram here.
I spent a bit of time finishing up the trees on the third day, then launched into the flowers. With so many flowers in the photo, to give it that random feel, I focused on the groupings of the flowers… whether they were lonely flowers, or hanging out in a group. Adding new buds, cut off stems, and withered old flowers by contrast makes the flowers at their peak of colour & freshness look even more colourful and fresh.
Enjoying the flowers & greenery… deciding which ones to paint, which to leave out. I reckon part of what makes a picture unexpected are the parts where it is unfinished, so I tried to be thoughtful of not over working certain areas of the painting. I like to brush the excess paint off of my brush (rather than rinse it off), both to not waste it, and also to build up interesting colours and textures… those bits add interest to the undone parts of the painting.
Close to finished, I spent most of my time considering where things felt unfinished and needed more detail… and where I wanted to leave them loose and painterly.
My last painting session was with a limited palette, as all that was needed was some darker details & highlights. (Notice the black dot that is a squirrel nest in the bare branched tree? Very Ontario!)
And that’s it… all done! It’s now up in my living area… a needed improvement over my current view outside the window!
I’ve set aside time over the next two months to paint at this larger size again.. want to revisit some of the views in Algonquin Park that I haven’t had a chance to paint. So check back, or follow me on Instagram @heather_castles_illustration to see my work as it is coming together.