Birthday Painting

I have a friend.
Really! I do!
This friend LOVES everything flower related. Floral scented shower gels and lotions from Bath and Body Works are a big one. Whenever we go together, I get the "food" scented things like vanilla, coconut, cherry, lemon-and she opts for the floral spectrum. I 99% of the time can't stand the floral scents. I find them overwhelming, over perfumed, and they usually make me sneeze or my nose stuff up. She feels pretty much the same about the yummy things I go for. (But we both agree on Lemon and White Tea!) So I of course, as the wonderful friend that I am, have to give her a ton of crap. Of course, she throws it right back at me.
But her appreciation for floral goes beyond scents and into decor. Again, I am not a fan. The 70's left-thankfully. I mean, floral print everything and disco? *shudder*
This year I was trying to think of birthday gifts that are a little more personal, and a little less 'gift card off the local grocery store display'. For the first birthday, I did cute socks AND a gift card-but it was to something my friend uses a lot as a way to relax after work. For the second birthday I did snacks and well, ok gift cards for her, but as she's recently moved and is working from home, she specifically requested food gift cards.
The next birthday had me stumped for a bit. I got her a gift card for Christmas to JoAnn fabrics because she's been crocheting and doing cross stitch. I didn't want to do that for her birthday though. Then I came across this quote by Claude Monet; "I must have flowers, always, and always." I thought I could do something with that! Handmade! Painting! Acrylic!
It should have been simple.
Flowers are not something I draw/paint. Again, floral. It's not that I don't appreciate the real thing but I don't want it plastered in some tacky pattern everywhere. I did some Youtube searches and some were waaaaaaaaay too intrinsic for me. But I found two that I liked:
Painting With Jane and TheArtSherpa
I thought to myself, I MIGHT be able to do that.
Ha.
So, I got a canvas board. And I began painting. I wanted a background of pale colors-light blue, purple green. So pale that they barely show. I got busy mixing my colors and began brushing them on. I hated it right away. The colors were still darker than I wanted and the brush wasn't giving me the effect I wanted. But I kept at it, hoping to salvage my work. Ah hope. It's a beautiful thing. Until it isn't.
In the end, I whitewashed the board with some Titanium white. The color showed through a little bit. I thought I might used it. Nope. I got some gesso and made a whole new board.
In the meantime, I tried again. I made the colors even lighter and this time, I used a palette knife to spread them on. The results were sooooooo much better. I was pleased with it. I left that to dry fully for a few days. Then I started on the flowers and the writing. Writing in paint with a brush is no easy task. The brush gets gloppy and thick. Your nice fine line becomes a bumpy curvy line.
I HATED it. I decided to try something different from what I had originally envisioned. And I chose a flower color that CLASHED with the background and the writing colors. And I still hated the writing even more (though there were these tiny blue flowers that were cute but, not enough to save the painting.)


Scrap that one. Try a third time!
The writing was much better this time. I wrote in watercolor pencil first, and then painstakingly went over it with a smaller brush and more patience.
The flowers were fun. They weren't anything to write home about but I was mostly happy with them. At least the colors no longer clashed.  And soon I had a completed project that I'd deem very beginner but I knew my friend would love it.
Finally! I was done!
However.
Yes.
My brain.
I wanted to go a step further this time and varnish the painting.
Easy enough. I bought some gloss and varnish medium. (It doesn't need to last forever. Just be shiny and last her lifetime.) I learned a little about how to varnish a painting. And I went to work.
It didn't take me long to realize that I had screwed up. So much. I was so very disappointed. Because of all the work I had done.
You see, when I did the flowers and the writing, I forgot one little detail.
I didn't use acrylic.
No folks, I used gouache.
What is gouache? Think of it like thick watercolor. It doesn't become impermeable to water like acrylic. As soon as my varnish soaked brush glided across my painting, the whole thing smeared.
This is just a small look. The entire thing was a smeared mess. 


I was distraught. I sent my friend a picture, called it trash, and said it was garbage now. Because I wasn't going to be able to remove all of that to even salvage the canvas board.
She pleaded with me to not throw it away and that she would take it. I finished varnishing and set it aside for her.
So I was out a third painting. I was annoyed. Seriously annoyed at this point.
But, perseverance is my middle name so I stuck with it.
This time, I went with a real, proper canvas. 16x20 The first time I ever painted on stretched canvas. (Except for my two paint-night paintings but that's another persons idea being executed by me.)
Again, lightened the purple, blue, and green (running out of that huge bottle of Titanium White now!) and began spreading it on with the knife. I. Love. Palette. Knife. Painting.
Got that done. Let it set and dry.

Pretty Colors

Then again, the wording and the flowers. I went bigger with the flowers. Where before when I added the stems as afterthoughts, I did them first here so they'd be better incorporated. I changed the design of the other flowers and played with the colors more. Clashing? Maybe. But I wanted it to be representative of my friend. Color. Flowers. Both things she loves.
I drew the lines with watercolor pencil, wrote the words as well. Then went over it with the paint. This time I used Acrylic through the whole thing and double, triple, quadruple checked that I had the correct tubes.
I left it to dry. Loved it more and more. Thought it needed a little something extra so I painted a butterfly and a couple bees and ladybugs and finally I was ready to varnish.
I confidently swiped my varnish brush across the canvas (before signing my name in the corner but after spraying it with fixative spray) and then realized I had forgotten one little detail. I didn't wipe off the watercolor pencil lines I used to keep my letters even.
Oh. Well.
I was NOT doing this again. And they are so light in color you can barely tell.
Of course, my eyes zero in on it each time but, whatever.





I'm going to have her send me a photograph once it's hung. This was taken after I had given it to her. She was, as I had hoped, very pleased. Moved to tears. I'm no Van Gogh, but I love the way it turned out.
Now, I guess I should work on painting flowers.

The background was done with palette knife, the leaves and all flowers were done with my very own little fingers, and the words were done with various brushes. All acrylic paint (Reeves, Artists Loft, and possibly Liquitex) with Grumbacher spray varnish and Liquitex Gloss Medium and Varnish.

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