Tuesday, 3 March 2015

War of the Roses


“It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.”
 Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

If flowers are a language, then few can match the eloquence of a rose. It’s a flower that evokes so many emotions- love, passion, tenderness, joy and frustration. Yes, frustration! For roses are one of the most difficult subjects to paint.
Now I’d be the first to admit that roses are not one of my favourite flowers, but every now and then I’ll come across a seductive beauty, sweet smelling and sumptuous, and I feel the urge to paint.

Rosa centifolia (cabbage rose) by Pierre Joseph Redouté (Image from Wikipedia)
Of course, you can’t talk about botanical art and roses, without mentioning Pierre Joseph Redouté. His work is just so breathtakingly beautiful that it’s hardly surprising that he continues to inspire artists even today. There are many fine contemporary painters of roses too- I particularly love the work of Billy Showell and Vincent Jeannerot. They make painting roses look effortless.

Alas, the reality is often far from that, and I have a collection of bad roses to prove my humiliating defeats. 
What starts off so well, soon resembles a discarded snotty pink tissue. Bleuh! 

My only consolation is the realisation that I’m not alone in my inability to capture the subtlety of a rose. I was surprised and more than a little relieved to find that many of my botanical art friends share my frustration.

However, every now and then, I get the urge to tackle a rose again. 

Last week I visited The Enchanted Florist, quite simply the best florist in Dublin. So bewitched was I by the dazzling array of colour and perfume, and charmed by the owner Yasmin, that I carried away a stunning bouquet of roses with an irresistible urge to paint. 

Pulling apart a rose and painting the petals individually helps to identify the colours
Well, it has to be said that having roses on your desk is not a bad thing. They look so pretty and the scent is divine. These roses are called Memory Lane, and are a gorgeous dusty pink colour, with creamy outer petals. After the many layers of the Mambo lily, I thought that painting a pale flower would prove far less troublesome. Ha!


How wrong I was. It’s been the Battle of the Roses this week. My collection of bad roses grows. 



Finding the right colour match was not difficult. Naples, Cobalt violet and Cerulean were all good for the first washes. Rose madder (W&N) and Rhodonite (DS) led the pinks, followed by Purple lake and a smidgeon of Rose dore (sennelier. The pinks were balanced by the introduction of indanthrene and winsor lemon for my greens. A new purchase of Daniel Smith Moonglow, a delicious shadow purple, helped everything come together.


Roses are fickle and lack patience. The buds burst open and the petals drop with startling speed. They require big juicy washes and big brushes to blend and tease out the pigments. I’m a dry brush and magnifier kind of girl, so I struggle with wet on wet. This technique of painting takes me out of my comfort zone and adds yet more bad roses to my pile. 
But I persist.


The seductive charm of the rose is strong. This battle is not over yet.

"Try again. Fail again. Try better."
Samuel Beckett


21 comments:

  1. Your roses look lovely Shevaun. Not an easy subject at all!

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    1. Thanks Polly. It heartens me to hear other accomplished artists like yourself say that you also find them difficult!!

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  2. What you see as failures, I see as extraordinary beautiful.

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    1. EM, that is so kind of you. Thank you!

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  3. The only roses I've tried are wild ones with their simple petals...and they didn't turn out too well...so I sympathize! That velvety texture is quite difficult. It looks like you are moving in the right direction with your rose, despite the difficulty of the subtle colors and layers of petals, so well done! Maybe I'll be brave enough to try one someday!

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    1. I'm a glutton for punishment more than I'm brave. Perhaps brave for sharing these! Well, I'm not quite there, but I'm heading in the right direction. I sometimes compare challenges like this to learning a difficult piece on the piano... you need to have a lot of practice to get the technique just right. I'm still hitting a few bum notes, but the battle isn't over yet. Thanks Janene

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  4. I started a wild one on vellum but abandoned it. I also started a row of white ones...... And abandoned them, but I think I included two in a mixed floral. Not easy! Yours are beautiful Shevaun :) Im sure you'll get to where you want to be with them soon....oh I hate the leves too ;)

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    1. Dianne, I can't imagine you painting anything that is not stunning. I've had to put aside the roses for a week or so, but will be back to paint them soon :)

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  5. I think your roses are beautifully achieved!!

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    1. Debo, you're always so kind and encouraging. Thank you!

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  6. All of them are beauties, so delicate! I'm interested in your painting set-up. What kind of easel/support do you use?

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    1. Thanks Carol. It's a Blundell Harling Drawing Board http://www.blundellharling.com/products.asp?recnumber=59

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    2. Thanks. I kept searching around until I found one to compare to yours. I ordered it last week from Amazon and it came in 2 days!

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  7. I loved reading this, and (since I pretty much stick to wild stuff) am glad I don't have to do it. I think that it might take me two hundred roses, and you will get there so much faster than that. Beautiful colors, and those deep crevices, like nothing else.

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    1. Susan, you do such fabulous work! I've had to put the roses aside for a week or two, but the battle isn't over yet!

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  8. Your blog is fantastic! It really is. And very educational. I learnt more from reading a couple of your posts than from a class I took a few years ago. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and experiences. <3

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    1. J0DLi Thank you so much for saying that. I really benefit from having to write everything down too, so it;s great to hear that others find it useful too.

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  9. Stunning!
    Don't you just love a beautiful florist's shop?

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    1. Oh I definitely love a good florist! There is no excuse not to have a beautiful shop! Yasmine's shop is just divine... such a treat to visit!

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