View Full Version : Royal Gardening (is it too much?) - FINISHED

12-10-2009, 09:47 AM
A warm sunny late summer afternoon I painted a PA at this location, plus shot numerous photos (thread here (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=584896)). This painting is a studio version of the PA, but from another angle. The field in front of the orangerie is filled with flowers in horizontal rows. I simplified these a bit, and made use of the shadowy parts between rows to create a z leading back to the building. This is a well known location in Stockholm, a part of the Royal summer castle Rosendal. (The gardening is commercial and historical, combined. They preserve old varieties of flowers.)

The yellow light on the yellow flowers is, well, very yellow, gilding the pink orangerie.

Size 30x40 cm (12x16")
paper AS Colourfix natural.
Assorted pastels, mostly Rembs, AS, Unisons, TL, Sennelier, and Schmincke, with a PanPastel underpainting. (Nearly all the pastel types I have.)


Does it work, or is it simply too much? C&C most welcome.

You see, summers here are uniformly green, and here I found a colourful spot. But is it too colourful? Ah, Monet painted his flowerbeds, so if he could, I can, eh?


Kathryn Wilson
12-10-2009, 10:09 AM
Charlie, my first inclination was to say "too much yellow" - but when I blanked out the bottom of the painting with my hand, covering over the foreground reds and blues, the painting quieted down quite a bit. So I am now thinking the reds disturb too much.

I love the light on the building and the greens surrounding the building - don't lose that - but I think the reds are too bold.

12-10-2009, 10:40 AM
Charlie - nice job here; I do get a sense of space of a large garden. My absolute favorite part of this painting, however, is the buliding! I love everthing about it, and the trees adjacent to it, which are nice and cool and really do give a sense of depth to the painting and provide some scale as to the size of the garden. I also really like the flowers in the foreground; they help lead the eye into the painting and I like the varied textures and colors you used. I like the green pathway that leads to the building as well.

The things that aren't quite working for me are: 1) the figure. I personally think she competes with the building and the flowers, which to my eye, are the focal points/main area of interest. I understand why you would put a gardener in there, but I am not sure it really adds to the painting. Just MHO.

2)The large tree on the left side I like, but the shadows seem a bit busy with color. I'm not sure what would happen if you just darkened them and maybe just left a few random splashes of light, but that might allow the viewer to focus more on the garden and building. Ditto the shadow cast by the tree. That would also have the added effect of increasing the value range in your painting, which is mostly midtones (I don't have the capacity to greyscale the image on this computer, but I don't think those existing shadows would read very dark in greyscale).

Just my own thoughts there, FWIW, which may not be worth much :lol: .

Thanks for sharing this! As we are approaching "official" winter, seeing garden/flower paintings is always a welcome reprieve.

Kathryn Wilson
12-10-2009, 10:43 AM
LOL - I totally misinterpreted that shape on the right side as a person - I thought it was an animal statue.

Phil Coleman
12-10-2009, 11:12 AM
I like how the green path meanders to the distance, holding ones interest throughout!

I love the colours and the suggestion of the flowers, it is alive and vivid.

The shadow under the tree to the left just looks a little too pinkish and at the end of the path, perhaps a break in the trees would allow ones eye to complete the journey to the focal point in the distance.

Yes I would have this hanging on my wall!

Donna T
12-10-2009, 11:24 AM
It is so nice to see another painting of this beautiful location, Charlie! I like this one just as much as your first version - not too much color for me at all and I admire your use of yellow. From the flowers to the hedge to the building - the sunshine just bathes everything in its path. I don't think you need the figure either, maybe she can be the star of another painting when the building is not so prominant. Since you mentioned Monet, check out how he used the poppies to lead us from one group of figures to the next. No poppies on the right to distract us:


What if you did something similar; use the z pattern you have already created and lead us back to the building? It's a gorgeous painting and much needed at this dreary time of year!

12-10-2009, 11:49 AM
Love the building, love the trees, love the flowers and the bright colour! Yep, I guess I like it.
I agree about maybe darkening the shadows a little. I like the gardener who reads as a Woman to me but I just think her head is a little on the big side, even allowing for her top knot.
I would still love it though if you didn't change a thing!

12-10-2009, 12:03 PM
Go Charlie Go! I do like so much of this and find the foreground reminds me of the oil painting textures of an impasto painting. It's lovely.

Whatever that thing is on the right doesn't read well in what you posted. I swear I was sure it was a giant (I mean GIANT) poodle. Sorry:lol:

Would you consider breaking up the shadow on the shrubs in the back - (left to center left. Maybe less of a barrier where they dip below behind the tree shadow?

As for color - how could you do it any other way. We know what you like! Barb

Adriana Meiss
12-10-2009, 12:07 PM
Being familiar with your style, and knowing that you like to push color, I would say no, this is not too much (BTW, I hope to see a midday painting of yours someday.)
I love the feeling the painting evokes: sunshine, warmth, and the sound of insects buzzing in the air. So what if summers are greener there? This is how you see it.
In terms of composition, etc, the background and the atmospheric perspective is great. The building is the star of the painting.

The figure distracts me too. I do not know if it's the size, it's pose, or the fact that it's a single figure. I also thought it was a statue at first. If you want to tell a story about the place, perhaps a less defined figure would work, and even another gardener, barely defined in the distance, might reinforce that idea of a preserve.

First I thought the tree on the left needed stronger shadows, but when I looked at the painting a few feet away from the monitor, the shadow reads very well, and consistent with a very warm day.

About the reds in the foreground, I think the color works, but not the shapes: I see 4 similar clumps.
Just my thoughts here.

12-10-2009, 02:09 PM
Thank you, Kathryn, Sonya, Phil, Donna T, Ruthie, Barb, Adriana!

LOL! OK, the "giant poodle statue" goes! I agree, it distracts, is not needed, looks odd (is unfinished, as I doubted the wisdom of it), you've helped me make up my mind.

I'm thinking of another painting, with no yellow flowers in it, letting the building be the lone star of the show, probably from the angle of the PA (but with better proportions to the edifice. I might make a spring painting, with lots of naked earth and greens in the field, in May, on location.

Red flowers: Gee, I've made the three clumps of red flowers in the ref into four clumps of... The reds are not this vivid IRL, but if I desaturated them in PDE, the field turned grey. It is just beastly difficult to get accurate colour on screen, as I have to change them pastel stroke by stroke, manually... not up to that, no. I can only say, trust me, it looks better IRL, and clumps are more varied. (If we get daylight on Saturday, I'll try to take a better pic. As it is now, I can't bring it outdoors in the drizzle from the 3 km thick clouds.)

Which brings me to Yellow: It is a night-time photo, therefore yellower than needed, and if I'm really lucky, I might get daylight before mid March.

Adriana makes an important point I will make a point of mentioning from now on as I post a pic: Back up about 2 yards from the screen, and it will look about right. Blues will darken, and shadows will fall into place. Adriana, one day I'll paint a cloudy day landscape, as I see it. Mid-day sun here is rather yellow, too, depending on the season (now, if we ever get to see it, it is rosy orange). Not like Mediterranean countries, where it is sort of white, or California, when it can get a bit greenish.

Sonya, you bring up a point where I'm not sure, the tree on the left. The darkest darks are there, because it is the closest, but does it detract from the conservatory building?
I happen to have a greyscale, shot before I made some changes around the building:
It is mainly a mid-tone painting, with a few bits of dark and a little bit of light, basically only in the building when the "poodle" is obliterated.

Donna, isn't that Monet beautiful? I've seen it, and the poppies are a little bit more muted than in reproductions. Are my eyes deceiving me, or does one of the trees, in the golden mean, really look like giant sunflower?!

Barb, I'll work on those shadows, I think part of them are from an invisible tree/bush and they do create a barrier. (And a kiss, I see that now.) I think I had some idea of bridging the darks, and it doesn't work well so out it goes!

Thank you so much, everybody, for the warming words and for the great advice. I'll work a bit more on this. Sans yellow is for another painting, though, and it is a very good idea.


12-10-2009, 03:00 PM
I'd swear that this was painted by Monet's granddaughter - it has a very classic European feel to it, the building is magnificent, the flowers are to die for - yes, the gardener can go but you see it, it's not distracting, therefore your eyes move on to the other lovely parts of the painting.

I'm a colorist and love bright, bold color - I think it's the genes from my European ancestors, therefore I greatly admire your work - I wouldn't change a single stroke! - It's your painting and it's GOOD!

'blue....' :thumbsup:

by the way Charlie, maybe Tiger Woods will purchase it as a house warming gift for his wife's new Swedish mansion! :D

12-10-2009, 03:24 PM
I love the painting, I think it's beautiful:clap: , love the colors, feels like a really warm day, great job on the light too, I would leave the gardener out though, just my thought.

Ps. wish you would do a tutorial on how you did the trees, I suck at doing trees and yours are beautifully done

Donna T
12-10-2009, 03:32 PM
Donna, isn't that Monet beautiful? I've seen it, and the poppies are a little bit more muted than in reproductions. Are my eyes deceiving me, or does one of the trees, in the golden mean, really look like giant sunflower?!


If a giant sunflower was good enough for Mr. Monet we can certainly allow you to have a giant poodle in your painting, Charlie. :D I never even noticed that sunflower tree until you pointed it out!

12-10-2009, 04:19 PM
Thanks for posting that greyscale picture, Charlie! I realize that the darks appeared a bit ligher because of the position of the screen on this tiny laptop-type device (called an "Eee PC") probably was at when I first looked at the image. In the greyscale, it looks how I thought it "should" look :).

I totally agree that you need to come back and revisit this garden during different seasons or times of day - your painting clearly shows it to be a beautiful, compelling, and special place, just like Monet's gardens.

12-10-2009, 06:56 PM
Blue, thank you, what a lovely compliment! Will great-granddaughter-in-spirit do? My teacher learned from a man who learned from a man who learned from Monet. Ummm, I suppose that is great-great-granddaughter... in spirit LOL! Mmmm, if the gardeness (gardenette?) is to be kept in, she needs work, she's basically two-dimensional now. You know, most of Europe is north of the US, I think Rome is on the same level as NY. The light is different, richer, and vegetation tends towards more lushly green, especially in central and northern parts. Or, some of us are just plain colour junkies. :-)

Nicoclaus, thanks! When I've cracked the tree-nut, I might. I feel that I'm just starting to 'get it' with trees. Near trees/bushes are still a hit-and-miss thing... wipe off and do another hit/miss, or hit/hit that is halfway decent. Paula has a tree WIP somewhere in Talk forum, I think, and there are other demos too. Do a "search this forum" for 'tree demo', and 'how paint trees'.

Sonya, oh yes, computer screens matter, and angles too. When I switched to the one I'm using now, all my old images (moved to this machine) lacked darks, and were yellowy, as the old 'puter was different. Moving a picture from computer to the camera (brilliant idea, I thought, then I have a portfolio with me...) turned out to look disastrous.

Donna, we'll never ever see anything but a giant sunflower in that painting! LOL!

Thanks, guys!


12-10-2009, 07:09 PM

that's 'color junkies' - just a reminder! :lol:

12-10-2009, 07:25 PM
Charlie, I know what you mean bout moving back about 6 foot. (2 yard) the piece comes together at around the distance. that is about the best viewing distance to see a painting. i Know when i post mine i see it wp close on the monitor that it doesn't look nowhere as good as looking at it from some distance back. your piece looking at it close up looks real different than about 6 ft back. it all falls together than. nicely done and your colours and every thing does work at that distance.

12-10-2009, 09:54 PM
Beautiful painting! I am glad that the "giant poodle/woman/gardener" is going to be eliminated because I could not tell what it was, and that was the only thing that bothered me about this painting.

Another wonderful painting!


12-10-2009, 10:48 PM
I like to be a hooligan with colours when I get the chance so it looks great to me and really zings off my screen

Mary Y
12-11-2009, 06:22 AM
I love the bright colours in this. I would be very happy to hang it on my wall.

12-11-2009, 01:52 PM
Hmm thought for sure I commented on this yesterday....but it doesnt show up.

I love your use of bright colors and the building against the blue sky with the yellows in front are beautiful. I agree loose the figure to distracting, and the red forground on my monitor stops or cuts off the front of the painting...adding more in i think would enhance it. Wow it looks stunning in black and white!!! can't wait to see your update.

12-11-2009, 02:30 PM
Charlie, this is lovely! My first impression was "No, this is so definitely not Too Much, it's the sort of thing I've been drooling at in your gallery that put you on my list after I'm done buying the painting I'm buying now."

When I looked at it critically I didn't even see the person/poodle statue so I agree that taking her out would help. The building is so magnificent.

I also had an intuitive suggestion. The red flowers in the foreground are a warm red. If you sprinkle some magenta cool red or cool pink flowers among them, that would tie it together with the cooler pinks in the background and help unify it, also would make the magenta under the tree shadow look better. It was a completely visual idea, I just pictured some magenta flecks among the reds in the flowers and that'd make it work in some way I don't completely understand the principles behind.

I think it's that there aren't any other warm reds anywhere else in the picture, but that's the foreground, but it's also just leading toward the glorious building as a focal point. Oranges among the flowers to tie them to the yellow and lead the eye toward the building would help too. So I'd just add a few random strokes of orange and pink so the red flowers aren't so stark.

There isn't too much yellow. The yellows are beautiful. The building is absolutely splendid and the trees rock.

It's inspiring is what it is.

12-13-2009, 03:28 PM
I like the picture. It is quite warm with so many oranges and reds. You could try to offset it with a bit of a cooler green in the shrubs across the middle. Then again, it's a warm, sunny day and you don't want to lose that feeling. Although it's very warm, I think it works :)

12-13-2009, 05:13 PM
Blue, http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/13-Dec-2009/117343-Wagging_finger.gif :heart: :D

Pete, thanks! I think it is a matter of the screen glowing bluer, er... don't know how to explain, but probably blue *light* has a wavelength that makes it appear lighter.

Don, thanks! I put her (it? :) ) there as she happened to be in the photo, and I thought it might help set the scale of depth, but then... no.

Gary, thanks! I guess you get a samish kind of light in the UK too, (when the one sunny day per year happens :wink2: ). And, there can never be too much colour! :thumbsup:

Mary, thank you, lovely compliment!

Betsy, thank you. Update is coming slowly, had to be way too social this weekend. (I'd rather be in my studio, as the book-title goes.)

Robert, aw-chucks, thanks! When I finally get to paint and update it, I'll include some macro shots of the reds.

Nina, thanks! Yes, I think it needs a few more cools here and there. I hope to work on it tomorrow.

Guys, I did say it was a field with mostly yellow flowers, looking like yellow cone flowers, or did I forget? If I get lucky, I might remember to include the ref next time... :o


12-14-2009, 01:51 AM
Charlie, you have captured the feel of sunny afternoon beautifully... i do see what Kathryn means about the red, but i'm biased... you know i like strong bold colors so i'm not really bothered by the red. Hmmm, gosh... I don't think i can be objective this time...hahaha :)


12-14-2009, 06:47 PM
Annette, thank you! (And I believe a human being, a subject, can actually never be objective, not even when we try.)

OK, I think I'm finished. Yet another night-time photo, unfortunately. The painting on my screen looks just right on the screen in a room lit with ordinary old-fashioned light-bulbs. (I.e. it is too yellow..., I'll see that in about mid February.)

Finished painting, sans "giant poodle".



Macro of front flowers, where I hope the colours are nearly right:

And, ta-da! I remembered my own ref, which I used together with a PA sketch. As you see, I've taken a tree/bush to the left and extended it upwards and downwards. The neat rows of flowers are simplified in the painting.

Somehow, the building got more stately in my hands... have no idea how that happened, possibly the same way as trees grow on a painting.

C&C still welcome! I'm gonna stare at it for a couple of days anyway.


Donna T
12-14-2009, 08:11 PM
Nice changes, Charlie, and I don't miss the poodle-woman at all! (I hope she doesn't get that comparison IRL.) When I look at paintings I try to check to see if they work as a Notan, sort of in reverse. Yours does - I can follow all the darks around and even if they don't touch another dark physically there is a small enough gap that they connect visually. I need to remember this! Anyway, gorgeous painting!

12-14-2009, 10:42 PM
I like it (sans poodle lol ). The close up of the flower detail is just gorgeous. There's some really lovely color interaction there. It's a very lively, warm painting. :clap:

12-15-2009, 05:17 PM
Donna, Nina, thank you!

Notan-wise: I think it can be sufficient to let the darks (or lights, depending on what kind of key the painting is in) sort of 'bridge', or 'point', as long as they somehow belong together. A mid-tone can let a light take a 'leap' over a dark without breaking the dark up. I think. At least, many painters from an earlier time did this, successfully.


12-21-2009, 01:40 PM
Charlie, I just love what you do with colour and think, like Gary...you have a bit of hooligan in you also when given a full palette of wonderous hues.

I too missed the miss in the field but when she was pointed out, immediately felt she was too large for the area. Seeing the reference, I can understand her size but without the definite division of mid field to back field apparent in the rows in the ref, she appears to grow in size so it seems a good thing that she tripped and toppled from view at just the right moment.

Lovely work milady...as usual. My only teeny weeny nit pick would be your signature...and coming from me, you will know what comes next. Perhaps a brilliant or cad orange would be a little less distracting. My eye goes there immediately and being an unusual signature, my brain instantly tried to figure would what kind of an ornament you planted amongst the flowers.

Cheers and thanks for filling everyone's days with sunshine. Dianna

12-21-2009, 02:58 PM
Dianna, thank you! Hooligan, right! Actually, I'm quite restrained these days... LOL! I'll paint a muted scene, soonish. It is so funny, as I realized that siggy had gotten wrong, and I was thinking of one of those iron ornaments you stick in a flower bed. :-D And, would you believe it, someone else signs just as I do, but with different name. Anyhow, I usually try to let the siggy be unobtrusive... it's not framed yet, so I can fix it.


12-21-2009, 03:55 PM
Your work positively vibrates with energy, Charlie. Such a colourful feast for the eyes!

The close up of the foreground flowers was interesting. Do you fix one colour layer before applying the next?

12-21-2009, 07:25 PM
Just gorgeous....I think you are "channeling" one of the impressionists:thumbsup:

12-22-2009, 08:29 AM
Gillian, thank you! I use a UK paper, the Fisher 400, which is very similar to the famous Wallis Pro. No fixative needed, at all. I start with the cheaper Rembrandts, and most of the foreground flowers are painted with the UK brand Unison, and they have great 'stickability'. They adhere beautifully to ordinary papers, and cling to the grabbing Fisher extremely well.

Cynthia, thank you! Studying Degas' method has helped, and I'm starting to get a grasp of what Monet did (only starting), as he left so few unfinished works. The man *burned* the paintings he didn't like... what would a Monet "stinker" be worth today!? Not only in terms of money, but in terms of knowledge.


Paula Ford
12-22-2009, 01:26 PM
Charlie, This is so beautiful!

12-22-2009, 03:58 PM

I didn't read all the posts, but I think the colors in your painting are gloriously bright and beautiful.


12-22-2009, 04:12 PM
Turned out beautiful!:clap: glad you left the gardener out, love the colors:thumbsup:

water girl
12-22-2009, 04:49 PM
Charlie, I'm happy to see that you stuck with this and made the small changes. This is another winner and I can see this being juried into another show.

Mario V
12-22-2009, 05:04 PM
Charlie, I like our finished version better. The closeup is especially interesting. It'd make a nice abstract painting :)

12-25-2009, 10:20 PM
Charlie, this is beautiful!

I really love the building. What is an Orangerie? I have never heard of that before.

Love your style and still hope to do your class one of these days!


12-26-2009, 07:45 AM

An orangery was a building frequently found in the grounds of fashionable residences from the 17th to the 19th century and given a classicising architectural form. The orangery was similar to a greenhouse or conservatory. The name reflects the original use of the building as a place where citrus trees[1] were often wintered in tubs under cover, surviving through harsh frosts though not expected to flower and fruit.

Thank you guys!

Mario, I ain't no Jackson Pollock, no! :-D


12-26-2009, 06:24 PM
What a lovely painting. I really needed to see a wonderful flower garden today . There is snow everywhere here... we have had blizzards for days. I can hardly wait for spring. (I hate winter)

12-26-2009, 10:23 PM
Love it!

12-27-2009, 12:46 AM
Charlie, this is so perfect. I love it. This stands out even among my favorites among your paintings. I'm drooling at it as I type. Commented on your blog entry with it already, dreaming of what I can do in a few more months.

12-27-2009, 12:24 PM
Fabulous work Charlie and thanks for including the reference and the B&W version. It works lovely and who knew someone could use every color in the pastel set on one painting!

By the way - I'm glad the giant poodle is gone LOL. Barb

12-27-2009, 02:31 PM
Pat, thanks, we've got snow everywhere too, now. Happens now and then, but we've gotten used to mild winters.

Rob, thank you!

Barb, every single colour, yes! (Not stick.) But as they're interwoven, they make one general mass per value. The theory is that as every colour exists in sunshine, at least a speck or two of all of them are foud in some reflection somewhere. It tends to make the colour zing more. (I'll do a cloudy day one, soonish... ) I find tiny figures hard to do, this one was about an inch high, so way easier to get the 'poodle' out.

Thanks a lot, guys!