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Painting Workshop 53

"Bouquet of Roses" 11 x 11" Oil on Canvas by Richard Robinson.

"Bouquet of Roses" 11 x 11" Oil on Canvas by Richard Robinson.



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This Month's Challenge

Bouquet of Roses

Love painting flowers? This is the fourth lesson. Get the first lesson here. Learn about creating a joyful painting using broken colour and lyrical brushwork. Discover how to paint the delicate hue shifts in the white rose and how reflected light makes the petals seem more real. Enjoy!

Workshop Challenge

Feel free to follow me step by step in painting from the resource photos below or use the same concepts and techniques to paint something more your own. You can paint this any size or shape you like using any medium. Happy painting!

Click image to enlarge.        
Resource Photo   Resource Photo   Resource Photo
Resource Photo   Resource Photo   Resource Photo

The Process

Here's the general process I follow when painting in the studio:

1. Find a scene that moves me.
2. Find the visual concept for that scene. What's the big idea?
3. Draw or imagine the notan design. What's the dark/light design?
4. Paint or imagine a limited value study. Where will I place the main values?
5. Paint or imagine the colour study. Where will I place the main colours?
6. Paint the final painting. Dark to light, big to small, thin to thick.

Visual Concept

Every good painting begins with a strong visual concept. This is something that beginners usually miss completely because they are so concerned with trying to capture the likeness of their subject.

Here is a list of visual concepts written by Robert Bissett:

Interesting Shapes
Great Color
Unusual Texture
Sharp Contrast
Quiet Simplicity
Fascinating Complexity
Morning or Evening Light
Weather Effects
Back Lighting
Horizontal Movement, vertical counter-movement
Light Shape suspended amid darks
Light Shape moving against Dark Shape
Light Shape separating dark shape from mid-value shape
Eruption of fragmented shapes and colors
Etc., Etc....

Note that they are concepts, not things. For example it's not a 'beautiful tree' or 'big
clouds'. A good painter begins with a strong visual concept to base a painting on. The
visual concept is usually suggested by the subject itself, especially in plein air painting,
but you can just as easily apply your own visual concept to the subject or even begin with
a visual concept in mind and find a subject to suit your idea. More often than not the
visual concept will be the very thing that you love most about the scene, the thing that
compels you to paint it, like the dramatic lighting or the strong colour or interesting
shapes. The important thing is to clearly understand this motivation at the very beginning
and write it down so you keep it in mind through the entire painting process.

Here are a few examples of some of my own paintings which began with a strong visual

visual concept

Notan Design

Notan is a Japanese word meaning the balance of light and dark. Using small notan designs is the best way I know of to begin designing a painting. Most of the way we see our visual world is in terms of
light and dark patterns. Colour is really just the icing on the cake. Our brain recognizes the silhouettes of objects first and needs very little other visual information to work with.

When I see a notan design I see the absolute core of a painting, the skeleton that everything else is built on. Notan is a great way to sort out the placement of the major masses before you dive into your painting. What I try to achieve with my small notan designs is an interesting abstract design which expresses something about what I want to say about my subject, or the 'visual concept'. To help with that I often write the visual concept at the top of the page which sums up what I want to express in the painting. In the case below I wrote 'Bold Shapes, Strong Contrast'. Then I went ahead and did a few different notan designs.

Resource Photo   photo
Original Photo by Lorna Allan   Notan Designs
Can't see this video? 
Watch it on Youtube here:


Limited Value Study

We've looked at Visual Concept and Notan and the next step is to figure out the value structure of your painting. We can see the value of a colour if we convert it to grayscale, like in a black and white photo. Value gives us form. When everything is the same value, like in a whiteout fog, we can't see anything. Your limited value study or studies will be based on your favorite notan design.

Goals for your limited value study:

1. Design a strong value structure from your scene based on your visual concept and your notan design.
2. Learn to see colour in terms of value.
3. Understand the principle of conserving your values. That is, practicing compressing the entire visual range into 5 premixed values.
4. Explore the elements of your scene and how they relate to each other.
5. Explore the possibilities of variations in sharp and soft edges. How far can you push these to help enhance your focal areas?
6. Keep a simplified value structure by keeping your pre-mixed values separate and don't create large gradations. Soft edges yes, gradations no. Simpler is stronger. Don't mix the values together on your palette either.
7. Paint from dark to light, big to small, thin to thick.
8. Use your palette knife if you wish.
9. Enjoy the freedom of using expressive brushwork without the worry of colour mixing.

photo   shadow and light families
Notan Designs   Limited Value Study

For more information on notan and limited value studies please view the workshop video or refer to these earlier workshops: Workshop1 and Workshop2.

Colour Study

Painting a small colour study before getting to the final painting is a great step towards figuring out your colour scheme and ironing out any problems before you commit to a larger painting. Bigger painting, bigger mistakes. It's often easier and faster in the long run to correct those mistakes on a much smaller scale.

Resource Photo   Completed Painting - click to enlarge
Original Photo by Lorna Allan   A completed painting showing notan design, limited value study and colour study as well as the gamut mask used for the colour design.

Here's a video explaining how to analyse colour and value with a colour checker:

Can't see this video? Watch it on Youtube here:

Get The Ultimate Painter's Tool here:


You can learn more about using colour here.

Note: If you can't see the videos on this page (above) or on Youtube, I can't help with that sorry - there will be something wrong with your computer settings, but I'm no computer wiz. You would need to contact a computery person to fix that problem.


Gallery of the Month's Workshop Challenge Entries  

Painting Critiques

Student Painting

'Roses and Ribbons' 8" x 10" oil on linen panel by Marcia Hodges

Hi Marcia, what beautiful brushwork and colour! Makes me want to try my one all over again! I like use of the red/green complementary colour scheme, your attention to detail in the centre of the roses with all their complex reflected and glowing light effects, your treatment of sharp edges versus soft edges. I do feel that some of the leaves could have been dealt with more deftly. Richard Schmid says the real test of a floral painting is in the handling of the leaves, I expect because they're rarely just where you want them, are very complex often with mutliple overlapping depths and with few visual keys to their form in this case because they're so dark. The artist must also battle with their own feelings of, 'the flower's more important so I don't really care about the leaves'. I certainly experience that in all my flower paintings.

You've made an outstanding job of depicting the form of the main flower especially. Love it! Keep up the good work.


Student Painting

'White Roses and Others' 30 x 30cm oil on canvas by Elena Sokolova

For a second there I thought I was looking at my own painting Elena! Wow - I can see the great effort you focused on this one going step by step and not letting the drawing slip as you often do when you start painting with abandon. Great job! I hope you learned a lot - it sure looks like you did.


Student Painting

'Rhapsody in Bloom' 12 x 12" oil on canvas by Luba Robinson

Beautifully and subtly crafted, Luba! The contrast of sharp, clear shapes and the softly modelled colour transitions within them is a real pleasure to dwell on. The design is solid, the colour transitions in the painterly background nicely handled. Great work!


Student Painting

'Roses' 16 x 20" acrylic on board by Kym West

Nice work Kym. Equally successful as your lillies painting I would say. Great to see you having fun with the brushwork in the background and even trying out some splattering. I often mask off my detailed centre of interest before a big splatter attack on the background. Maybe that's just me being tight, but I find it hard to splatter over the star of the show. Great work on the subtle colour transitions there in the roses! Very successful. There's that one left close to the bottom there which is looking great too, though the rest need some work. It does feel like the dark leaves are trimming the shape of the white rose a little and creating an unnaturally straight line there. Also I believe the composition would gain a little strength by trimming two inches off the right. Good stuff!


Student Painting

'The Bouquet' 12 x 12" acrylic on canvas by Jess Paskel

Great design, Jess. The drawing is excellent with clear shapes and you've handled the modelling of the form well, except for the red rose which looks like it's made from a folded napkin. You dropped the ball on that one. Also, I think your grey background feels a little dead and that grey has seeped into the colours in your flowers and left them muddied in a few spots. I wondered for quite some time about how I might enhance this if it were mine, and what finally came to me I illustrate in the photoshopped version below, where I've done three things:

1. Intensified some of the reds in the pink and red rose.

2. Added a red wash over the background to harmonise the whole painting. I also tried it with a grey/green gradated background.

3. Soften a few edges off to add more variation and interest to the painting.

I hope that helps a little. Great work!

Student Painting Student Painting - altered in photoshop
The original Fiddled in photoshop
  Student Painting - altered in photoshop
  with a grey/green gradated background.



My final painting

"Bouquet of Roses" 11 x 11" Oil on Canvas by Richard Robinson.

"Bouquet of Roses" 11 x 11" Oil on Canvas by Richard Robinson.

This painting is about joy. I've tried to use lyrical shapes with vibrant colour combinations and fluid brushwork to get that message across. Most of the work is in seeing and painting the subtle hue shifts in the white rose. It took about 1 hour to paint that and 1 hour for the rest of the painting. However it took 3 hours to arrange up the still life. Planning is important!



Get the Demonstration Video

Demo Painting from workshop

Painting Workshop 53
Bouquet of Roses

Love painting flowers? This is the fourth lesson. Get the first lesson here. Learn about creating a joyful painting using broken colour and lyrical brushwork. Discover how to paint the delicate hue shifts in the white rose and how reflected light makes the petals seem more real. Enjoy!
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