“If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere.” —Vincent van Gogh
There are so many ways that painters can pull inspiration from Vincent van Gogh’s decade of painting. I recently posted about 6 ways van Gogh can make you a better artist. But today I want to look at one facet of van Gogh’s paintings—his many paintings of flowers—and how they can be a powerful inspiration for painters.
Paint Flowers to Master Color
Painting flowers was a way for van Gogh to transition from the use of dull, somber colors to bright, bold colors. He used his floral paintings as color studies. In particular, he enjoyed creating bold contrast using complementary colors in some of these paintings, such as red roses on a green background, blue irises on a yellow background, or yellow flowers on a purple background.
So even if you’re thinking that you don’t plan to become known for your floral paintings, flowers are the perfect starting point for color studies. The more you experiment with color studies, the more mastery you’ll achieve—which will benefit you no matter what subject matter you plan to specialize in!
2. Be Open to Variety
You may think of sunflowers when you hear “van Gogh’s flowers.” But in fact he painted a wide variety of flowers beyond sunflowers: irises, roses, peonies, poppies, chrysanthemums, lilacs, daisies, and more. Van Gogh was also open to painting flowers at all stages of their life cycle, from fresh blooms to wilting. Each flower had something to teach him!
I urge you to take photos of flowers that you see near your home. Take a day and go to your local botanical garden, garden center, or historical garden to encounter a wide variety of flowers. At a minimum, look at seed catalogs or online photos of flowers to determine which ones are the most interesting to you. And don’t forget to keep an open mind when flowers are “past their peak.” You’ll find that aging flowers (just like aging people) still have a beauty all their own.
3. Take a Deep Dive into Painting Flowers
Van Gogh developed his style by painting at a feverish pace. For example, in the summer of 1886, he painted 30 floral still lifes! The more he painted, the more he developed his color sense and his brushwork.
Now imagine what you could learn if you committed to a floral “deep dive” painting series! You could paint 10 floral still lifes that focus on one or two types of flowers in different compositions. Imagine how that would impact your relationship with and understanding of that type of flower and the powerful boost to your art skills it would give you! I challenge you to go deep into this subject as van Gogh did. See what you learn!
Flowers and Your Art
I’d love to know what your favorite flowers are for painting subjects—or whether you’ve never tried painting flowers. Are you inspired to take some inspiration from van Gogh’s florals? I’d love it if you’d let me know in the comments.