Monday, July 30, 2012

Forget all the Roses

"Inner Peace" 8x8 oil on linen panel
There is nothing more difficult for a truly creative painter than to paint a rose, because before he can do so he has first to forget all the roses that were ever painted. - Henri Matisse

If you spend enough time at your easel you may find yourself dreaming about painting as I often do.  A few months ago I had a very specific dream that I was just finishing up a large scale (about 6 x 6 feet) oil painting of a pale yellow rose. (Supposedly yellow roses may symbolize new beginnings, happy occasions, and friendship.)

I could visualize the painting so vividly that for a foggy instant I was certain I’d find an enormous rose painting waiting in the studio. But no, it was just a dream…My easel sat empty in the morning sunshine waiting patiently for a new canvas. 

Detail of abstract oil panting of rose-in progress in the studio
I was working on some other projects but kept thinking about the giant rose painting and added it to my “future painting” studio to do list.  In preparation, I took a few rose photos and started an abstract study of a rose—on a smaller scale (24 x 24) as test painting for something much larger. Still working on that one…But here’s a sneak preview....

Then yesterday Carol Marine posted a rose painting challenge on Daily Paintworks.  Sometimes you just can’t ignore the loud creative voice of the universe so I quickly grabbed my brush and happily painted a Peace rose from my small rose bed. It felt great to get that rose image out of my head and onto the canvas. Plus, I love Peace roses— They smell like orange sherbet (really, they do) and they offer painters a prismatic array of delicate color shifts. 

Four Easy Rose Painting Tips:
  1. Note the overall cup shape and spiral structure of a rose. Hybrid roses are not as loose and floppy as many garden flowers. You can see this when you sketch them from life—which is helpful before you paint them from your reference photos.
  2. Roses not in bloom? Roses are one of the easiest flowers to find at grocery or even a convenience store year round. One of the best thing about being an artist is that it’s OK to buy yourself flowers just because it’s Tuesday!  
  3. Note the subtle value  and color shifts within the rose blossom—particularly in very dark or very light roses. Yellow roses, for example, may have touches of blue gray, peach, lime, lavender, lime, etc.
  4. Finally, simplify--Yes, roses have lots of layers—but they are delicate flowers so you don’t want them to look too labored or busy.


  1. Love your tips on painting roses! I love to paint them, but get caught up in the layers!

  2. Thank you for your nice comment--I'm so glad you found those helpful. I find painting roses a bit like growing them--they can be "high maintenance" but are very rewarding in the end. Thanks again and happy painting!