A Sunflower's Palette

"Lit" is now listed in my Etsy store - click here to purchase! This was a fun painting to share and teach last Thursday night with my watercolour students. I learned a lot while painting it, and then the challenge was for me to be able to verbalize my process. Painting is such a solitary thing that finding words for how to and why to do what I do can be a challenge. As is apparent from that last sentence.

I did a lot of talking about colour during the class. Yellow flowers can be tricky - almost as hard as painting white flowers - because you need to add shadow and definition without losing the glow of the light, bright yellows. And we all know that if you mix blue (most common shadow colour) with yellow, you get green - not a great shadow colour. So, what to do? I solved my problem by remembering my colour wheel. The opposite (complementary colour) of yellow is purple, and so it was to purple I turned to get my most dramatic darks. You can see the purple in the centre of the flower, especially, and there are touches of violet purple in most of the shadow areas.

My main colour palette for this painting:

  • Lemon Yellow
  • New Gamboge
  • Raw Sienna (or Yellow Ochre)
  • Cadmium Orange
  • Burnt Umber (Winsor & Newton's is very red/orange toned)
  • Sap Green
  • Violet
  • Payne's Grey
  • Cobalt Blue

I find the best way to keep all these colours unified is to mix as you go. The petals are mainly New Gamboge/Lemon/Raw Sienna, with the shadows and darker tones alternating warm (burnt umber/cad. orange) and cool (violet/payne's grey). Putting a cool colour in a darker value beside a warm colour makes the warm colour advance.

We didn't finish our painting during class and a number of students were planning to work on theirs at home. I've posted this at their request.