8 Tips for Painting a Floral like Van Gogh
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8 Tips for Painting a Floral like Van Gogh


"Paintings have a life of their own that derives from the painter's soul." Vincent Van Gogh

"It is better to be high-spirited even though one makes more mistakes, than to be narrow-minded and all too prudent." Vincent Van Gogh

Do you love the loose style, the bright colors, the vibrance and movement of Vincent Van Gogh's Impressionist style paintings?  Are you interested in replicating the style on your own?  I'd like to share a few tips to help you to translate the passion, urgency, and emotionally charged composition of a Van Gogh floral into your own style on your own personal canvas.  

Van Gogh enjoyed painting figures more than flowers.  Sadly, he could not afford to pay models according to an article by Catherine Restrepo which delves into his history.  Flowers on the other hand were always available to him as they are to all.  Fortunately for those of us who appreciate his work, he painted numerous florals over the ten years that he actively painted. 
 
Above (top) you can see my quickly rendered interpretation of Van Gogh's Still-Life with Roses and Sunflowers created for one of my two hour paint events as compared to the Van Gogh original below it. I chose to use the bolder colors utilized in his later paintings.  Below, I've listed suggestions for achieving a similar result.  Keep in mind that Van Gogh was using oil paints, so the effect will be a bit different in terms of texture, visibility of brush strokes, blending of colors, and drying time, but there are other aspects of his technique we can imitate to get a similar look and feel.

8 Tips for Painting A Van Gogh Floral

  1. Loosen up.  In many of Van Gogh's depiction of flowers, there is a delirious use of color and an unhinged joy in the process.  Leave your uptight expectations, your careful lines, your scant use of paint, and your fear of making a mistake behind.  If a glass of wine will help, by all means imbibe.  If you need to channel Vincent and know how to do that, it would certainly be advantageous, but keep both ears should remain firmly attached.
  2. Apply paint thickly using bold broken brush strokes - a technique known as impasto.  You want visible brush strokes - "bold, dramatic brush strokes which expressed emotion and added a feeling of movement"]. It has been suggested that he was applying paint to the canvas straight from the tube.
  3. Don't Overthink.  Paint with passion and a sense of urgency.  Don't think, just do!
  4. Choose colors which fit the mood you are trying to evoke rather than the reality of the colors as you see them.  Are you feeling more red than pink today?  Let your paintbrush do the talking.  No one will know that your roses were actually a soft, pastel pink. Van Gogh said, "Instead of trying to reproduce exactly what I see before me, I make more arbitrary use of color to express myself more forcefully."  By turning up the volume on the color, your painting will pack more punch.  According to Arts & Culture, Van Gogh's colpr palette commonly contained "chrome yellow, chrome orange, cadmium yellow, geranium, Prussian blue and emerald. Chrome yellow and cadmium yellow were later revealed to be toxic and as such, modern painters inspired by Van Gogh typically substitute these hues with alternative pigments".
  5. Know your color wheel.  Van Gogh said,"There is no blue without yellow and without orange". Why?  Because colors appear most vibrant when painted alongside a color opposite on the color wheel.  Red next to green, purple next to yellow, orange next to blue.  This color wheel calculator is a perfect resource for a study of how colors interact with each other.  Having this knowledge will work wonders in subsequent paintings.  
  6. Don't be afraid of contrast.  In the painting above, look at the dark hues behind and beside the roses which makes them stand out and almost glow.  Contrast does not mean simply the juxtaposition of dark and light or black versus white.  Complementary colors also provide contrast.  Read this article which claims that "contrast is king" for further information about how to utilize contrast in your paintings. Practice trying to find the darkest and lightest areas of a still-life before you begin.  
  7. Try painting from memory rather than from reality which results in paintings which are "more attractive and less realistic" according to Vincent Van Gogh Style and Technique on Artble.  The article explains that Van Gogh was influenced by his artist friend, Paul Gaugin, to begin painting in this way, thus relying more on imagination.  
  8. Use emotion and reaction to your subject in your technique.  Start by trying to leave the cares of the outside world behind. Try to look at the objects your are painting in a more subjective way, trying not to just accurately depict shapes, but to render the impression the object makes on you. Artist Cathy Locke describes it this way; "One thing I do is close my eyes and dance with the pastel or brush touching the canvas. I want to feel the emotion in my body and as the brush dances across the surface that feeling gets conveyed onto the painting. I focus on building motion." The Painter's Keys also suggests that emotion is expressed through brushwork saying, in the words of Elbert Hubbard, “Allow motion to equal emotion.”

  Well, that's enough talking about it.  Time to put the paintbrush to the canvas and let the emotion and passion for color flow from inside out.  Since a picture is worth a thousand words, you might want to take 6 minutes to watch this video painting demonstration by TOPofART Painting Reproductions of Van Gogh Sunflowers.  Be aware that this artist is using oil paint rather than acrylic. Especially pay attention to brush strokes.

Happy Painting!
Arianne
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