Today we’ll draw a flower from observation with oil pastels, in the style of Georgia O’Keeffe. We’ll create a close-up view of the flower with blended colors.
Step 1: Gather Your Supplies
For this project, you’ll need: white drawing paper, scrap paper for sketching, oil pastels and a paper towel. You’ll also need one or more flowers. This project can get a little messy, so you might want to wear an apron and put newspaper under your drawing to protect the table.
Step 2: Get Inspired
Georgia O’Keeffe was an American artist from the 20th century who became famous for her close-up paintings of nature. After moving to New Mexico, she became enamored with the colors and natural landscapes of the desert Southwest. Her paintings showed an incredible talent for simplifying subjects down to their natural essence while exhibiting a complex sense of color and composition. Today, you can see Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings in museums all over the world, and she has her own dedicated museum, The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, in Santa Fe.
Step 3: Sketch and Practice Techniques
For this project, you’ll draw your flower from observation with an extreme close up viewpoint. Look at your flower closely to find the area you want to focus on. On your scratch paper, make some quick thumbnail sketches to figure out your composition. A thumbnail sketch is a small and simplified drawing, around the size of a postage stamp or a little larger, that allows you to experiment with different compositions without worrying about depicting all the details. Use basic shapes and a loose touch to sketch several options for your composition. Because your drawing will be a close up view, place your flower so that the petals touch or go off the edges of all four sides of the paper.
Once you’ve determined which composition is your favorite, start practicing techniques with the oil pastels on the same paper. Try drawing with the tip of the pastel and then unpeel the wrapper to draw with the side. This can be a good way to fill a larger space with color. Press firmly to cover an area with color, and then layer the same or a similar color on top to practice blending. Use your fingertip to blend the pastel into the paper, pressing in small circles to maintain a degree of control.
Step 4: Draw the Flower Outlines
Using a pastel that’s similar in color to the overall shade of your flower, start to draw the outlines of the petals and other visible parts in your composition. Remember to draw larger than life in order to fill your paper. Use a light touch for the outlines. You won’t be able to erase the pastel, but if drawn lightly enough, you should be able to layer another color over any mistakes to make them disappear.
Step 5: Select Colors
To blend the flower petals, you’ll want to select at least three analogous colors that are near each other on the color wheel. Options like yellow, orange and red or pink, blue and purple will work really well. See if you can have a light, medium and dark color for your mix. The reason why you want to choose analogous colors is because these are color families that will blend the most naturally from one color to the next. You’ll also want to choose one complementary, or opposite, color from your main color. Complementary colors are across from each other on the color wheel. Red is opposite green, blue is opposite orange and yellow is opposite purple. You’ll use your complementary color for shading because when blended with its opposite, it will create a dark brown for a more naturalistic shading effect. For the background, choose any contrasting color that will allow the flower to pop.
Step 6: Color and Blend the Flower
Start coloring the petals of your flower. Start with your medium color and fill in the middle of the petal. Draw more loosely at the edges of the color where it will meet the other two colors. Next, use your lightest color to fill in the outer edge of your petal, blending in the direction of the bloom. Overlap your light color on top of the medium color. Repeat for your darker color at the innermost portion of the petal and overlap the middle color. Put another layer of all three colors on the petal if you need more even coverage. Use your fingertip to blend the colors in small circles. Focus on the areas where two colors overlap. Keep layering to add more vibrancy until you’re satisfied with the result. Repeat for the other petals and color in any other details.
Next, use your complementary color to find any areas that need a deeper shadow. I suggest looking at the areas of the petals where they meet the center of the flower and also at the edges of petals that are partially underneath another petal. Use your complementary color sparingly and blend in. Layer the original color on top and blend until you achieve the effect of a dark shaded area.
Step 7: Color in the Background
Now, color in the background. Try using a color that will provide a nice touch of contrast to your flower. If you have a mostly light flower, like yellow or pink, try using a combination of dark colors like purple and blue. If your flower is mostly dark, then go for the opposite and combine a light color with a layer of white. Because your flower is drawn so close up, you shouldn’t have much background to fill, so one or two colors at most should be sufficient. When finished, step back from your art to look for anything you want to adjust or change. Make any necessary edits until the drawing is complete.
And there you have it! A close up oil pastel flower inspired by the great American artist Georgia O’Keeffe. I hope you enjoyed being creative with me today, let’s do it again soon.