Peony Series

All images ©Bivenne Staiger

As promised, here’s another in my series of 22×30″ peony paintings; I started this about a week ago. Peonies are among my favorite flowers to paint. Their spectacular colors, curved petals and showy anthers in the garden also truly enhance any painting that features them. As usual, I begin with bright washes of color on partially wet paper, and allow paint to bleed and across sketched edges. Above, visible hard edges are the first hint of adjacent paler petals.

All images ©Bivenne Staiger

Form is developed layer by layer. Color brightness is maintained by using clean, vivid pigment and by allowing the paper to dry in between each layer.

All images ©Bivenne Staiger

Since pink/red is opposite green on the color wheel, I waited until most of the flower forms were complete before painting the first layer of the background. Undecided about what to do with the background at top and bottom left, I’ve left it mostly blank there for now.

All images ©Bivenne Staiger

As you can see, a stark value contrast between petal subjects and dark, leafy background makes the flowers begin to pop. If mid-value shapes are not juxtaposed with the extremes of dark and light values, even colorful shapes may not appear to burst off the paper.

All images ©Bivenne Staiger

The above is much bluer than actual, but in any case, the top background area, while dark, now distracts too much from the subject flowers because its leaf pattern, though mostly undefined, contrasts too much in value and is therefore too busy.

Peony Awakening, Watercolor, 22×30″ ©Bivenne Staiger 2020

Hiding much of that busy background pattern at top with washes of very dark green does the trick.

4 thoughts on “Peony Series

  1. Bivenne, I love painting flowers, but have been frustrated in oil as they always look too heavy. I think you’ve convinced me that I should stick to watercolor with this subject, following your lead! Thank you!


    1. My experience with painting flowers in oil is to develop depth and build highlights by applying color in thin layers and by painting alla prima until key details are needed. At least in this way, painting in oil is similar to applying paint in watercolor. I encourage you and everyone to try or continue with watercolor! 🙂


  2. Like how you introduced the darker areas to calm the busy background. The peony was one the examples you showed our Peabody class a few yrs. ago. You made it look so easy!! I have also purchased the heavier paper you suggest – so much better for working with wet washes.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Isn’t the heavier paper wonderful? I’m working with Yale Peabody on arranging some online watercolor classes in October and/or November. Hope you’ll be able to join us. 🙂


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