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Sierra Daily

01/24/2012

Warming Up Winter with Daffodils

Fierston1
What do you do when it's January and temperatures are heading for the 30s?

I paint daffodils. I paint whatever comes in to my grocery store, and this week they had the windswept variety called Jetfire. Jetfire is a Grant Mitsch daffodil—fragrant, early blooming, with a punch of orange-red on its trumpet. Mitsch was one of the first hybridizers to reach the Holy Grail of the pink-cupped daffodil, but he's also known for the elegant form he bred into all his daffodils: the Jetfire's chartreuse petals don't simply encircle the corolla, they sweep backward over the stem, as if they are caught in a high wind. Here I began to paint them in watercolor:

Everything's wet here. I began by covering the entire sheet of paper with clear water. I dipped a wet brush into color and touched it to the still-wet paper. This technique created the hazy color shapes you see in the image above. With a fingernail, I scratched out leaves and stems into the still-wet paper.

Fierston2When the paper dried (no coldness when I touched it) I painted a second layer of darker color over the first. Somehow I couldn't capture the vividness I was seeing, and I almost ruined the painting by adding too much paint. In despair, I took a photo of the painting and tried Photoshop's paintbrush and 35 percent opacity tools on the blossoms. 

I'm still not satisfied; I would blur and texture the trumpet on the left, if I were working with a brush.  But Photoshop helped me save this little picture. With more practice (and a drawing tablet instead of a mouse), I can see its possibilities for my own paintings.

-- Sue Fierston paints and teaches just outside of Washington, D.C. in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. As a painter, she works in acrylics and watercolor and is in the middle of a series called "100 Flowers." As a teaching artist, she works with teachers to bring art into their classrooms in grades 4-8. Her posts focus on her nature-themed art collaborations. For a look at her paintings or more about her teaching, check out her website at suzannefierston.com.

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