A flower

Easy paintings for

a fast return




Spring 1999
"Sofa paintings"

A flower was the last painting in the series of "sofa paintings". If you haven't done so yet, please read the commentary on 'Midnight Rose' and 'It rained Kool-Aid' listed on the Paintings page for the complete narrative on the series. A flower was also the smaller size painting in the series. It was done in oils over a canvas wrapped wood panel form -2 ft. by 4 ft. by 4 inches thick (.61m x 1.22m x 1.57cm). The design carried over the sides since the piece was not intended for framing, but designed to be attached directly unto a wall.


The composition for this painting is uncomplicated: a close-up view of a simple rose. But it's simplicity is deceiving. Lighting and background shapes add depth, movement and splendor to the single flower. A strong beam of light makes its colors radiant and help separate its elegant form from the background. A shaft of light also breaks the dark background and adds fluidity to the visual movement by guiding the eye from the flower to the two buds protruding in the background.


The warm color of the flower against the colder background immediately draws the eyes to it, making it the painting's focal point. The highlighted stem then leads the attention down to the paintings secondary focus, which are its lower leaves. Faint and slightly blurred leaves and bulbs layered the lower half of the painting giving it more depth without distracting from the main subject. Finally, the flower was positioned with a slight tilt toward the viewer making it appear even more regal than it already was.




flower-painting-by-John-Rivera-Resto,-1999

A flower. 1999. Oil painting on frameless canvas-covered panel, 2 ft. x 4 ft. x 4 in. (.61m x 1.22m x 1.57cm).


I did not use real flowers when planning this type of paintings. My process was to collect hundreds of photographs of flowers (this was way before Google images), and study them until something caught my eye. For this particular series, I settled on roses. They came in what seem an infinite variety of shapes, in a full gamut of colors. Once I selected a particular image as my starting point, I looked for artificial silk flowers that resemble the one -or the ones, I picked. Then I lighted the model to achieve the desired look, and then took a few reference photos.


Next, I used the photos to create a drawing for the painting, making sure the composition had a good balance of shapes, fluid visual movement and a strong focal point. Once completed, I transferred the rendering to the painting surface. On the first session, I modeled the flower in tones of gray under-paint and the background in thin washes of color. Then I let the paint dry. On the sessions that follow, I add more layers of color and complete the modeling of all the elements in the painting.


In the same manner as when I paint a portrait, after I have achieved "the likeness", I put aside the reference photos and play with the coloring and the lighting. I particularly enjoy controlling the contrast of lights and shadows to further emphasize the painting's focal points. This is where I tend to deviate from reality to cross into fantasy by idealizing my subjects. I based this practice on the fact that, for example, when we think of a red rose, it is always more red in our minds than in reality. So I try to paint things the way we envisioned them, because the final result is always beautiful.


And so, now that I have explained to you how to do these paintings, go and experiment with your own. If you study the three "sofa paintings" in this flower series, you will notice that, in spite of following the exact painting process, you can still come up with very different results. The one thing you do not want to do, is to produce work that looks repetitious. Otherwise, you will become "boring and predictable" to the viewer. So, if you have experimented with a subject until you feel you have run out of ideas -and the paintings are growing stale, all you have to do is switch to a new subject matter to become fresh again.






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