Peony flower, pretty pink and perfect for painting!

Lets talk a bit about this wonderful flower.

This heirloom variety from Thomas Jefferson's Monticello gardens where they are grown and sold is one of the few plants I myself have planted and it lives to this day! I'm not much of a gardener, so I'm thankful for the hearty variety that has survived my non-green thumb.

I believe it is a Japanese variety due to it's guard petals with a flowering ball shaped center, and I seem to remember when we purchased it, the folks were pretty excited for this little guy being planted here in Virginia.

I guess they knew I couldn't hurt it!

Did you know the Japanese Peony is considered the King of Flowers and has a great deal of meaning behind it. It is said to bring wealth, honor, good fortune, and is associated with daring bravery. Because of this, it is not only a favorite flower to paint, but is highly regarded within the tattoo world.

There are five different categories of the peony, the single, Japanese, anemone, semi-double, double. This Peony flower is a transition between the singles and the doubles. It has five or more guard petals surrounding the flower center, the stamens are partially changed into short skinny petals. This makes for its feathery appearance. Usually the center petals vary in color from the outer guard petals. This leads to some impressive and striking color combinations.

You can find this flower all across the spectrum of the art world. Not just found in paintings such as this, but in tapestries, and on porcelain.

Now into how to paint the peony flower.

How to paint the Peony Flower and learn a couple of great secrets that will speed your process of painting up, so you can finish sooner than you think.  This is a very complex flower head to paint, so bear with me as I show you how to proceed.

Lets start with our reference photo, taken at an extreme angle in order to capture the sharp contrasting sunlight from the top.

peony photo

Most folks when they view the finished work assume the blossoms are in a vase, but they don't know the view was from the very tip top looking down on the vase. Blossom placement helped with the illusion.

Umber under layer peonies blossom

We start with our normal umber underlayer and the beginning stages of our gray layer are shown.

peony painting

But wait a minute! Take a closer look at this umber underlayer. See anything different than earlier demonstrations?

oil painting instructions

Did you notice all the white? That's right! I've taken what normally is a light area in the umber stage and added some white to the layer to help speed up and bump up these areas. I've added both alittle umber and liquin to the whites to speed up their drying time.

This means less work in the dead layer!

oil painting lesson peony

Ready for a 2nd powerful secret! Check out the laying in of the grey layer paint for this blossom. Notice there are large variations in tone between one gray mass of paint and the next. Because these blossoms are so intricate, with soooo maaaaany pedals, I've decided to incorporate another technique to speed things up!

peony picture

Can you see what I've done? If you said blending, you're correct. I've begun to blend the paint right there on the canvas. Instead of mixing 8 different shades of grey, I've used only about 4, and finished the other 4 shades by blending them right on the canvas! This cut my time in half, and when you add that to the additional whites from the umber layer, I'm smokin' fast with this painting!

peonies demonstration

Here you see additional softening with the big mop brush of the blossom.

oil painting lessons free

Let's see it again on another blossom!

Now do you get the picture?  Let's watch as I do the very same thing in the color layers!

Big blocks of color that are then blended on the canvas! 

What a great time saver!  Now you just need a few blended colors on the palette, and your canvas can be your mixing pot for the rest.

The finished peony flower piece and a few close ups of the blossoms.

Stay tuned for another episode in easy oil painting!  I've got white lily's on the brain, so if you love this flower, sign up for my ezine and get the update when I'm done with it!

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