Friday, January 29, 2016

Street Tulips - A Work in Progress

Hi everyone!

I'm having a great time these days now that I have just one day a week at the "day job".

Working a lot on my classes, both online and local. I learn something new every week. Both about the subject and about how I paint! Having to sit down and think about just how I'm doing something is really helping me streamline my own process. I even take my own advice sometimes! :)

So far my biggest challenge is making sure I find time to do my own painting! I could get up earlier in the morning, but we won't mention that!

Today I started a new larger painting - for me anyway - 18" x 24". Acrylics of course!  One in my series of images from around the neighborhood. Not that it is officially a "series", just what I've been interested in doing lately.

I thought I would post it as a work in progress, and do updates as I work on it. Might be interesting?
So here is the Block In Stage.
I'll post my reference photo, too so you can see where I'm going.
If you have any comments, questions or see something off - let me know!

The Reference Photo:

So here is the block in. Just big flat shapes, focusing on the value of each area. Also knows as the "ugly stage" :) Just using a 1/2" wide flat brush. My next step will be another layer of block in. Refining and adjusting the values and large shapes, but avoiding any detail.

I want to have some busyness in the background, but will probably keep the colors all pretty neutral so the tulips will pop more. Surrounding rich color with neutrals is a great way to give them more emphasis. The grey asphalt of the street is a natural for that.

Next step - still using only a 1/2" wide flat brush. You want to use one that is fairly stiff at this point. Not a bristle, something with a nice sharp edge.

Here I've worked on the background. Breaking the large shapes into smaller shapes. Still focusing on value, but now trying to refine the color as well.

It will be trial and error to see how much detail I want to add back here. I do know that I will want to keep it fairly quiet so the tulips can take center stage.


Next step - Starting to work on the tulips a bit. Just the yellow ones at this point. Adding some darks and brighter greens to the foliage

Still just using the 1/2 wide flat brush.

Breaking the larger shapes into smaller shapes. Refining the color and the shapes. Looking for those shadow colors mid tone colors and light colors. Adding some dark darks to the dirt in the foreground, as well as some areas in light. Refining the shapes of the shadows by painting the light colors back into the darker colors on the sidewalk.

I'm really trying to keep to big shapes, move around the canvas. Just focusing on refining the color and shapes...

Next update:

Mostly worked on the orange and pink tulips, the road, and a little on the foliage.
Still just using the 1/2" flat brush


Moving on to the background now. Using a small round bristle brush and a small flat synthetic brush to create layers of foliage texture. Thinking now about edges. Softer blended ones in the back, crisper in places as I come forward.

Keeping with the values and colors I established in the last steps. I did decide to go darker with the brownish tree behind the pink tulip. The value was too light there and I felt like it was competing with the lightness of the tulip. The whole plan with the background area is to provide a dark neutral area so that the light colorful tulips will pop.

I want a sense that this is a real place, but just enough detail to give that impression.

Breaking the bigger shapes into smaller shapes. Creating texture in each area by layering different colors of the same value.

I can see I need to make some adjustment to the sidewalk on the right - it looks like it is going up, but the road seems to be going down! Ha.

Anything else stand out as looking weird to you?

Okay, Here is the final :) Hope you enjoyed the process...
"Street Tulips" 18" x 24" acrylic on canvas.

It's available in my Etsy shop: Street Tulips Etsy Listing

Thanks for watching!


  1. Looks great! The only thing weird (your word, not mine) is the line on the road looks like it is in front of that one tulip on the left. At least on my iPad screen it does. Otherwise, it is making me want to go for a long walk to stop and photograph the tulips!

  2. ...tulip stem, not the flower itself. Sorry I wasn't clear about that.

  3. Hi Karen, I love this painting and you explanation! This spring we also do tulips in my paintingclasses with a lesson about shadows and light and I would like to use your reference photo ( not your painting!) if you are OK with that. Even tough I live in tulipcountry Holland I like this photo more than the Dutch ones :-). I want to offer my students three different pictures so I am not sure they would pick this one for their painting but first I wanted to ask you permission. And if not, I understand of course! Fenna.

    1. Hi Fenna, Thank you! Yes, you have my permission to use the reference photo for your tulip painting class. Is it a local class you are teaching in Holland?

    2. Thanks Karen! I have four local classes on Wednesday and Thursday, seven weeks in spring and seven weeks in autumn. I always try to find a season related idea for the theory. I will refer my students to your site!