How to Paint a Tulip in oils!

OK, so you want to learn how to paint a tulip.  Some of the basics you may already know, but here are some additional tips and techniques to help you create a more believable blossom to add to your arsenal of painting tools.

Some things to start off with.  The tulip blossom is very short lived, so if you decide to paint one, photograph it!  

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Paint a tulip, starting steps

If you happen to have refrigeration that can hold the blossoms, great, otherwise, capture it while it is fresh.  And don't forget to add a few water drops by misting the blossom before you start to paint a tulip, it will liven up the photo.

Start with the format you want to depict.  You can do the view in which you look into the flower, or from the side of the flower.  Both can give a powerful impact to your composition.

Lets say you want a side view.  don't forget this simple shape.

How to paint a tulip with a side view, the most common we see.

Remember the tea cup shape!

You may also have an ellipse at the top of the tea cup if the angle shows a bit of the inner workings of the flower.  In our example, we'll stick with the straight side view. It's just easier to work with.

A few closeups show the velvety side.  This is depicted with high contrast of your lightest lights and darkest darks. 

High contrast with lines going in the direction or contour of the petal as shown below.

Also, don't forget to add features that help the veiwer understand the modeling or shape of the flower.  Here, I've added dew drops under the petal that hang from underneath, yet capture the surrounding light and add a touch of sparkle to draw in the viewers eye to that part of the flower.

And don't forget the green within the bottoms of each petal.  Without it, the blossom will look like a cutout, cartoonish in nature.

How to paint a tulip and a bit of history behind the bulb.

Here's some interesting info on the tulip above, and tulips in general:

This pair of tulips will excite any room. These red tulip flowers are depicted freshly cut and still wet with dew, lying on the table cloth and being made ready for the vase. This image is striking in it's 30" x 40" size. 

Red is such a difficult color to paint, especially the nuances and shades which can quickly become just a big red splotch. In this piece however, the nuances in tone are very, very evident.  There are at least 6 different red hues within the petals ranging from pinks to magenta!  Also in this painting, the fine details of the blossom petal are evident. The dew gently caresses the sides as they fall away. And the array of reds simply cannot be duplicated on your computer monitor as well.

I remember the day I set these up in my backyard.  Because of all these subtle shades of red within this flower, my flood lights within the studio just were not giving them justice.  So, outside with my table, drape, squirt bottle to simulate dew drops, and camera.  Sunlight was a great asset.  But my camera still couldn't capture these reds.  It did it's best, but a short color study was my savior.  So, my lesson learned, certain colors, (like red) just can't be duplicated the way my eye sight can discern them.  And when a predominantly red flower is going to be painted, I do a color study.

The is one of the world's most easily recognized and loved flowers. They are not too elegant, too romantic, too big, too small, or too bright; the tulip is always just right. Tulips express genuine coziness and comfort in all of the right ways.

More info on the Red Tulip, a bit of history.

The tulip originated over ten decades ago in Persia and Turkey, where it played a significant role in the art and culture of the time. Most likely commenting on the Turkish tradition of wearing tulips in one’s turban, Europeans mistakenly gave tulips their name, which comes from the Persian word meaning turban. As Europeans began taking to tulips, the flower’s popularity spread quickly, particularly in the Netherlands where a phenomenon dubbed tulip mania set in at one point during the 17th century. Tulips became so highly-prized that prices were sent soaring and markets crashing. Tulips are now grown throughout the world, but people still identify cultivated varieties as "Dutch tulips."

The meaning of tulips is generally perfect love. Like many flowers, different colors of tulips also often carry their own significance. Red tulips are most strongly associated with true love.

No back to some more painting instructions.

How to paint a tulip from the frontal view and slightly above the blossom.  Showing the inside.

The Frontal attack would have the inside of the tulip darker, and
depending on direction of light as to where cast shadows will fall.

As this tulip blossom had light directly above, cast shadows are on the bottom side of each petal.

On the side view, the light source is from the left, so shadows fall to the right.

Left blossom shows shadow on front petal creating the illusion that the petal is beginning to curl outward.  Only its leading edge has the highlight.

A lot of greys and light blues are placed to the highlights to reflect blue sky light. These may not show up too well in the photo, but they are present.

The back of the left blossom has reflected light from the table cloth.

Close up of ridges with in the petals not usually seen unless observed closely and light is just right.

Some of the photos here are courtesy of wet canvas's forum under free photo portion of the site.

I hope this short description will help you in your painting a tulip!  Close observation, and remembering things discussed here should hold true for any tulip you decide to paint.

When you've tried one, why not share it with us!  Click here to add your oil painting!

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