The Southern Magnolia 

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It has been the subject of many a painting.  The southern magnolia blossom has so much to offer as a painting subject, from soft velvety petals to glossy slick surfaced leaves, then the soft leathery leaf underside.  From bright bright whites, to the darkest black shadows within the tree.  It really tests the full range of oil paints, but, they can handle them with ease.

In this article I will discuss in closer detail why certain things were done,  and delve into how to create a commissioned piece. Lots of photo's and a 6 minute video with even a few more items to see.  Below is the completed painting.

You may have seen this painting before.  It was done years ago on a much smaller scale.  (Link to demonstration of first painting)   This one is considered a re-creation.  As it is twice the size as the first, it allowed me to put in so much more than the first.  Is it a better painting?  That is not for me to decide.  It is a "different" painting with different aspects that I was allowed to explore and indicate with both very large brushes (2 inch wide) and my usual group of brushes.

One of the things some artist use in their marketing is "once a painting is done, it will never be redone or recreated a second time".  I think that is sad.  

When you look at the masters of earlier centuries, these folks had no qualms about doing a painting again.  Some made very good livings at painting basically 5 or 6 of the very same images over and over.  They got really good at it, and thus provided the masses with their product and fed their families.

I've been fortunate enough over the years to have multiple customers request paintings similar to something I've done in the past.  I remember my first re-creation when a customer was so upset when a painting she had been saving for sold before she could buy it.  The gallery owner contacted me concerning the issue, and I was very happy to paint another.

There are folks that want the one and only one. Not sure exactly why, and which emotion or need this satisfies, but I have had a customer ask me not to paint it again.  I have honored that request, however, I do have the right to make prints of any painting I create.  

So, having said all that, open your horizons, re-create past works and feel good about it!  You will most likely improve the work, learn more, and sell more!

Below are my reference photographs pulled from my archives.  Click on any image to enlarge it to it's full glory.

southern magnolia
southern magnolia
southern magnolia

First off, the blossom shapes are similar, but the first of the group was kept for using as a reference for it's leaves.  The middle photo was my main source, and the 3rd photo was also used for leaves, especially in the shadowed areas of the middle photo.  I simply couldn't see what was in those shadows, and luckily, (I usually shoot several exposure setting to get the light lights and the darker areas).  The human eye compensates for this naturally, the camera can't.  So "bracketing" is a must if your using photography as your reference material.  Clicking between the right side photos, you'll see the difference in the upper left and bottom right corners as to being able to see the leaves in there.

How to prepare the canvas.

Below is my canvas where I've already stretched onto it's stretcher bars.  These were heavy duty stretchers that were not only super thick (2 inches wide), but laminated!  No worry for warping with these bad boys.

No where in my small town had these, so off to the store 3 hours away I went.  You can get your own right here:

Dick Blick Stretcher bars.  Be sure if you go over 30 inches, use the heavy duty bar as illustrated below.  If you're creating a large work, you can order the canvas too from here.  I had a piece of roll given by a fellow artist that I had helped in the past stretch a 10 foot canvas.  Wow, what a painting that was.  Anyway, the roll came up 3 inches short.  So, off to the store I went!   

In the photo's you can see I've stretched over the edges for a gallery wrap.  I've stapled alot! and trimmed all the excess.  I then added bumpers to keep the canvas from marring any walls it rests against.  

I talk about how to make your own custom canvas here, without purchasing your stretcher bars (make them out of lumber) and how to get that perfect Marine Boot camp hospital corner for the canvas.  It is an art to get that clean corner, so follow the instructions on that page.

The next set of photo's show you just how large to piece is along my back wall.  Thought I was gonna have to move my 1980's vintage stereo system with JBL studio monitor speakers and a reel to reel tape deck out to the barn shed.  Luckily, I could still listen to my old "Santana" albums and a bit of Elton John, excuse me, Sir Elton John.  He was knighted you know.

The other two photo's show the clamping system I came up with to hold her in place.  She simply was too large for the easel.  Click on an image to get a larger view.  On some you can expand the image even larger (super sized) by clicking the upper right hand corner box.

The Drawing of the Southern Magnolia begins.

So here we go with the drawing stage.  There are purists that want every artist to draw freestyle.  Sorry, I can do it and on smaller works most are draw free handed, but it takes twice as long. 

Since I'm not academically trained, which by the way, if you attend a classical realistic atelier school, your first 2 years will be drawing, and nothing but drawing.  You will hone your eye to hand coordination so well, drawing will become second nature and as easy as sipping a cup of coffee in the morning.   I don't have 2 years, however, I do draw and practice drawing, as it is a must in painting. 

In this case, there was a deadline, so, out comes my projector.  There are pitfalls you need to understand concerning projecting.  The main thing to understand is the distortions that can take place.  There are a number of masterpieces hanging in galleries round the world that show the artist didn't understand this and created a work that looks, well, off.  A review of "Tim's Vermeer" and  "Hockneys"  documentary will show examples of this. The link below has these films.

Basically, make sure the image is squared properly before proceeding.

Projecting and checking the squareness of your image using a Comparitor mirror.

David Hockney's interview concerning ancient art tools used.

Click the image to see a closer view.

Once the drawing is completed, I seal it with an acrylic mat medium.  I've found this disturbs the graphite the least and provides an excellent film of protection from the oil paints that will lie above it.  If something doesn't work out during the next stage, I can safely remove the paint by wiping and not disturb the underlying drawing.

Below, we have a quick brown under painting completed, and the grey under painting well under way.  Major shapes and forms are captured but no texture, details are considered.

I definitely got my steps in this week!  Up and down the step stool I go.  Applying paint, blending, then stepping back down and away from the painting to check the results.

Working my way around the painting, putting in my grays.  Using large brushes for most applications to speed up the process. This southern magnolia is coming around very nicely.

southern magnolia under paintings
southern magnolia under paintings

You can see the cross hatching of a shadow doing in, and subsequent blending of that shadow within the blossom. (below)

southern magnolia under paintings
southern magnolia under paintings

Finally, our first color layers going in.  This is not a tubed green but a mixture of Cad Yellow Light, and Ultramarine Blue.  To darken, I added Burnt Umber and Ultramarine Blue, to lighten I added Cad Yellow Light, Yellow Ochre, sometimes a touch of white.

southern magnolia blossom color layers
southern magnolia blossom color layers

After the first color layer was completed, and things settled in and dried, (I use a dryer "Liquin" that usually dries the paint film overnight).  I start here with a bit of details, veins, found in the petals.  The light has to rack across the petal just right in order for you to see them.  It's not necessary to place this kind of details through out the entire work, but only a small portion in a strategic location to give the viewer an understanding of the blooms construction.

southern magnolia blossom color layers
southern magnolia blossom color layers
southern magnolia blossom color layers

Touching up the edging as this painting will be hung without a frame. 

Southern Magnolia final glazing applied.

Final glazes are then put in as well as my brightest bright highlights and deepest darks within the shadows.  The highlights go in rather thickly and stand out on the canvas to capture as much of the rooms light as possible.  The darks are glazed in thinly to allow under painting details to show through yet become darker.  The petals also received and amazing amount of color in the half shadows, ranging from blues, to greens, to yellows depending on which reflection was being picked up by the petal.  The camera simple can't reproduce it.

Here is a 6 minute video of the Southern Magnolia with still photos and a few live film clips of the process in it's entirety.  I hope you enjoy it!  You can leave comments below thru Facebook, or on the YouTube channel.  Thank you so much for visiting!

Southern Magnolia, the completed painting.

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