In my acrylic painting class, I created a lesson on how to paint a sunflower.
I had two focuses. The first was to encourage the painters to use large paint brushes and the second was to get the painters comfortable with their paintings being UGLY in the first few stages.
Using larger paintbrushes forces the painter to not be able to paint in the details. In turn, the artist gets a looser more impressionistic painting. With the cameras we all own, it’s my opinion that us painters need to offer a different perspective than complete realism.
Next, was allowing the painting to be ugly. I feel like so many beginning painters try as hard as they can to tackle the subject matter in one layer, as best they can, for fear of judgement on how ugly the painting might be. The ego needs practice allowing for a painting to look strange and in bad colors. However, all those ugly layers create a wonderful foundation, so my mission was to get them to let the painting be. This is why I called this lesson the yellow lollipop. When their paintings were finished, I said remember the ugly yellow lollipop?
This was my tutorial and the sunflower starts off looking like a yellow lollipop. As the steps progress, artists use a negative painting technique to create the flower petals. This means instead of painting each petal with yellow paint, they simply have a large section of yellow on the canvas to which dark green is painted to create where the flower petals would be. Look in the tutorial. The sunflower looks like a lollipop until the green background color begins to define the petals.
I always do a complete painting at home and then I do the painting again in the class with the students. Doing the painting before my class allows me to jot down any ideas or observations that come up which I think makes for a better teacher. Doing the first painting before class also allows me to make the tutorial of the stages of a painting. I know when I started out, I loved looking at painting stages. It helped me understand the process.
The left painting was the first painting and the right was during class. There is something about doing a painting the second time that I love. It’s like, as an artist, you get to synthesize all your discoveries and reapply them differently. It’s the same subject matter but totally a different experience. I always wind up loving the second painting more. I’ts like catharsis. I got a do-over and made the changes I wanted to see.
I say it over and over again to my students. I tell them go home and try it again. Not many do. But occasionally a student will take me up on it and the results are phenomenal.
As we speak, my sunflowers are a mere 3 feet. It won’t be for another month until I can start painting my own sunflowers :)