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Caroline Henry Art Blog

Creating an interesting background.

by Caroline , June 5, 2009—12:00 AM

Topics: backgrounds, composition, flowers, inspiration, negative painting, portrait, technique, watercolor, wet on wet painting

A yellow iris glows with color in a garden setting. The surrounding lush foliage is suggested by the cool greens and touches of orange in the background. Every spring my eyes and heart are captured by the irises growing in the backyard. They are all the more beautiful in that the back of the lot may still have a raggedy look from our winters that spout forth a growth of weeds while remaining cold enough to discourage long spells of clean up work.

While I love the brightness and the crinkly folds in the edges of this flower, I find the background especially intriguing both to paint and to see as a compliment to the flower. One of my friends refers to paintings such as this as portraits of flowers because they focus in on a single flower as a portrait artist will upon a face. In either case the background should not take away from the "star" of the painting, but it does not have to be boring. Too much detail should be avoided. Focus your eye upon any object around you. Peripheral items are blurred out. Your painting needs that same blur. I achieve it here with the help of negative painting, lifting, and dropping color into wet paint.

Notice how the foreground foliage is fairly well defined and detail drops away into merest suggestion as you go deeper into the distance. Value variations keep the eye moving as well as allowing some petal edges to pop while others are softened.

If I had wanted to remove the flower (or portrait figure) from its setting, and let its form and color tell all, I could have used the same hues and tones but let them ripple through the background as expanses of color with not suggestion of story to tease the eye and brain.



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