Gardenia with Chardin Oil Painting Demo
Why a gardenia on old art books?
This gardenia was growing in our yard just outside of our studio. We love the delicate beauty of gardenia’s and the aroma is intoxicating. The books are from a collection of artist biographies given to me by my grandfather. They are now well over a hundred years old. I have several paintings of various fruit sitting on some of these books. This time I was compelled to place a beautiful flower on them for this painting. Placing the gardenia on these books made me feel closer to my grandfather and the great artists who have inspired me. Especially the one about Chardin, one of my favorite still-life painters.
A quick look at my process
This time-lapse video shows my process of painting Gardenia with Chardin in 6:44 minutes. The total painting time was about 24 hours. Below the video are still images and a brief explanation of my process. Enjoy.
STEP 1: The setup
Gardenia petals have a bold nature matched by an intoxicating exotic aroma. Soft whites contrasted with deep greens add to their commanding presence. This one was growing in our yard. I planned to paint a still life with it on a small stack of antique art books. But, wanting to flower last, and couldn’t bring myself to cut it, so I took this photo.
The books are just a few from my collection of antique art books given to me by my grandfather. I’ve used them many times in my paintings. I love their texture and color. What I like most of all is the feeling of connection with my grandfather and the old masters the books are about.
I set up the books on a table to this photo as the first step toward making a composited photo to be used as my reference for the painting.
The composite. In photoshop I flipped the image of the flower and silhouetted the leaves. With a few other modifications, I was able to “place it” on the books. One of my passions is studying how light acts, so adding convincing shadows was pretty easy. The shadows added a creating the illusion of the flower resting on the books. During the drawing stage, along with several minor alterations, I change the cropping of the composition and switch the book titles to make Cardin’s name prominent.
STEP 2: Drawing on canvas
Time to explore
I draw directly on the canvas with a 3B pencil. Drawing freehand helps me explore and refine the composition. I also get better acquainted with the elements and their relationship to each other. I pay close attention to the rhythm, placement, and orientation of the gardenia petals. Spray fix is applied to hold the drawing in place.
STEP 3: Blocking in
Focus on the large dark shapes
I use various mixtures of alizarin crimson with ultramarine blue along with a touch of burnt umber for the background. The left side of the background is predominantly crimson and ultramarine. The right side is warmer with the addition of burnt umber. I scrub in the books and table with burnt umber indicating shades with thicker strokes of burnt umber.
STEP 4: Blocking-in the leaves
I refine some of the shapes and edges of the leaves at this point. It always feels good to establish a finished area of the painting early on.
STEP 5: Lettering the books
The shadow on the books and book titles are added before work on the flower petals begins.
STEP 6: Blocking-in the flower petals
Working from the background forward, I block the gardenia petals. Titanium white is the base color. Very light touches of Indian Yellow and Ultramarine Blue are added throughout. My goal is to add extreme subtle variety to the white, mimicking how warm diffused sunlight and the cooler white tones from the sky model the form of the petals. The overall effect is creamy and soft.
STEP 7: Refining the flower petals
Smoothing out the surfaces, refining the lighting, and balancing the colors bring us to the final touches for the flowers. A thin line is added to the edges of the leaves to define their thinness. A light blue glaze is added to the leaf on the right to suggest the reflection of the blue sky.
STEP 8: Finishing touches – books, table and petals
The final touches are added to the shadows and reflective tabletop. The last strokes are warm gray-white highlights to the books to bring out the texture to contrast with the smooth glow of the gardenia.
STEP 9: Finished – Gardenia with Chardin
Gardenia with Chardin
9×12 inches | oil on canvas panel
Available online or in-person through Lily Pad West Gallery
Lily Pad West Gallery
215 N Broadway
Milwaukee, WI 53202
Canvas Panel – acrylic double primed
Paints (M Graham)
In the order arranged on my palette
M Graham Walnut Oil Paints
Walnut Alkyd Medium
Rosemary & Co Brushes