Sunflowers are synonymous with sunshine.
They mimic the sun as they radiate warmth with a glow of colors. Yellow and the warmth of sunshine always make me happy, as the lyrics to John Denver’s hit song tell of “sunshine on my shoulders...”
To paint the sun you must squint or quickly glance at it, or your eyes will hurt from the bright glare. The sun actually appears more whitish than yellowish, but my earliest drawings all had yellow suns. In fact, I didn’t think a drawing was complete until I placed the sun in it, usually in the top corner of the paper.
To illustrate the brightness, I usually placed lines radiating out in all directions. Some were wavy and some were straight.
To paint sunflowers, I can stare endlessly into the center, allowing my gaze to travel around the flower petals as they gently fold over and under one another. Light and shadows create different shades of yellow on the flat petals. That gives them a dimensional quality that makes the sunflower appear more round than flat.
In this painting, I wanted the yellows bright and to appear as if they were jumping off the canvas. To accomplish this, I used a cool color behind them and cool shades of yellow for shadows. Also I chose purple which is the complement to yellow (opposite on the color wheel). By placing opposite colors next to each other they tend to vibrate or glow.
Before I started the painting I studied the details in Van Gogh’s famous sunflower paintings. I looked at the directional brushstrokes and the energy and confidence expressed in them. Collectively Van Gogh harnessed the energy of the sun in his sunflowers and that was my goal for this painting.
As I worked to complete this painting, with sunshine on my shoulders, my energy increased with each brushstroke. I took color risks by painting colors I didn’t see. I chose colors because they were pure and bright and made me happy. So happy, I actually painted a smile into the center of one sunflower, then painted over it by accident when adding texture and more layers of paint.
My mother saved some of my early art work which I recently found in an old scrap book. It reminds me of the sunny art created by young artists at . I suggest you moms save some of your children's art work too. It is part of their expression of delight that words can never capture.
If you are so inclined add some more sunny drawings or sunflower paintings here for all of us to enjoy.
Janet Arline Barker is a San Bruno artist who specializes in plein-art painting. Her website is janetarlinebarker.com. Her column appears biweekly on Sundays.