Evolution of painting the Tulip.

How do you know if it’s finished?
Really does any one ever stop editing their work…Only unless it is sold or framed and out of reach with my paint brush. ;p

I have so many I thought were decent and put them aside to check back later to find more issues to solve as my paint process grows. Typically I prefer watercolors, I have been working mostly in oils for my masters here. My struggle is that each medium behaves completely unique in it’s ability to reflect light in it’s translucency or opacity. Oils take some time to dry and change as they dry. And it is extremely easy to make muddy colors when you are not absolutely sure of how the combination will work under or over a previous layer of paint.

So my recent satisfactory efforts include… The Red Tulip. It is done.
It has to be done now.  Someone has claimed it. Um-kay, but…. “Don’t touch it, just sign, seal & deliver”. Course she has watched it evolve over and entire semester to where it is now… Sometimes a piece has to grow on canvas to fit all the many layers you already have put together in your head… the trick is finding the right process and color scheme to get that result and visual expression.

When I started it I knew I wanted a cool background and a rich red that pushed and pulled in / out of the negative space. I started several studies b/w, limited palette, and watercolor too.

Tulip 1 (left) Tulip 2 (right)

I loved the depth & freshness of the studies but felt the image needed more space to breathe. So I enlarged it to 30″x40″, worked at it, reworked it over again and again. Until I managed to get the central curving petal to flow just right.

Tulip stage3. (left) Tulip stage4 (right)

That set the pace and expectations for the rest of the piece. By that point I had to really start “knocking back” areas that were competing with my focus. So I reintroduced the richer darks of Cerulean and Terra Rosa and additions of black (i think). It was warm but still cooler than my Reds. The hardest part was building up the tinted values on the forward petals to bring them forward just enough. I included images of the various stages for studies and larger painting progression. The final image (above far right) is what it is now.

Red Tulip #5. 2010. 24x30. Private Collection.

I’m not done with subject there will be more paintings of the Tulips in my future. It only took the better part of 3 months to do it… So what does someone value 3 months of work for? Not really sure, perhaps it all depends on the alignment of the stars…
Hope you enjoyed the process.     ~Alexis McCarthy.

2 Responses to “Process”

  1. ubiquityyoga Says:


    I had to go home after class and look at your art. Your artwork is beautiful.


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