I have written in one of my sketchbooks, under the heading "General painting alla Sargent" a series of notes, paraphrases if you will, on advice Sargent gave his students which I'd copied out for my own purposes years ago when said advice had crossed my path in the form of a book I did not own. The last note is a fragment, reading simply, "excellent practice to paint flowers, for the precision necessary in the study of their forms and the pure brilliancy of their colors."
I was given a beautiful bouquet of flowers recently, as remedy to the series of damp, gray days that have all but squashed my spirits lately, and, naturally, set out to paint them. I love painting flowers because they require a freshness, a rapidness in execution, and all the pressure towards exactness and accuracy I feel in my other work is pushed aside (in fact, my normal working methods don't even apply, as flowers will change, open and die while you are trying to capture their likeness--hardly a "still" life). If you belabor over flower paintings, they start looking lifeless; for me they are the ideal subject for alla prima work. If I do not like a piece, I simply set it aside and start a new one.
First attempt. Why not go for everything at once?
Gladiolas! I painted this one w/o a background (that's the shellacked panel you see). I do not usually work this way, it's more exacting as you have to be absolutely sure of where every brush stroke goes--I did it as a challenge, to keep myself on my toes, as it were. I'm not sure I like how it looks, though, I may go back and paint in a background.
Snapdragons. This one's my favorite. (And clearly needs its background finished.)
This one, I felt, beat me, but it was great fun... I may try again.