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Homecolour chartWar of the Roses

War of the Roses

“It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.”
 Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

If flowers are a language, then few can match the eloquence of a rose. It’s a flower that evokes so many emotions- love, passion, tenderness, joy and frustration. Yes, frustration! For roses are one of the most difficult subjects to paint.
Now I’d be the first to admit that roses are not one of my favourite flowers, but every now and then I’ll come across a seductive beauty, sweet smelling and sumptuous, and I feel the urge to paint.
Rosa centifolia (cabbage rose) by Pierre Joseph Redouté (Image from Wikipedia)
Of course, you can’t talk about botanical art and roses, without mentioning Pierre Joseph Redouté. His work is just so breathtakingly beautiful that it’s hardly surprising that he continues to inspire artists even today. There are many fine contemporary painters of roses too- I particularly love the work of Billy Showell and Vincent Jeannerot. They make painting roses look effortless.

Alas, the reality is often far from that, and I have a collection of bad roses to prove my humiliating defeats. 
What starts off so well, soon resembles a discarded snotty pink tissue. Bleuh! 
My only consolation is the realisation that I’m not alone in my inability to capture the subtlety of a rose. I was surprised and more than a little relieved to find that many of my botanical art friends share my frustration.
However, every now and then, I get the urge to tackle a rose again. 
Last week I visited The Enchanted Florist, quite simply the best florist in Dublin. So bewitched was I by the dazzling array of colour and perfume, and charmed by the owner Yasmin, that I carried away a stunning bouquet of roses with an irresistible urge to paint. 
Pulling apart a rose and painting the petals individually helps to identify the colours
Well, it has to be said that having roses on your desk is not a bad thing. They look so pretty and the scent is divine. These roses are called Memory Lane, and are a gorgeous dusty pink colour, with creamy outer petals. After the many layers of the Mambo lily, I thought that painting a pale flower would prove far less troublesome. Ha!
How wrong I was. It’s been the Battle of the Roses this week. My collection of bad roses grows. 
Finding the right colour match was not difficult. Naples, Cobalt violet and Cerulean were all good for the first washes. Rose madder (W&N) and Rhodonite (DS) led the pinks, followed by Purple lake and a smidgeon of Rose dore (sennelier. The pinks were balanced by the introduction of indanthrene and winsor lemon for my greens. A new purchase of Daniel Smith Moonglow, a delicious shadow purple, helped everything come together.

Roses are fickle and lack patience. The buds burst open and the petals drop with startling speed. They require big juicy washes and big brushes to blend and tease out the pigments. I’m a dry brush and magnifier kind of girl, so I struggle with wet on wet. This technique of painting takes me out of my comfort zone and adds yet more bad roses to my pile. 
But I persist.
The seductive charm of the rose is strong. This battle is not over yet.
“Try again. Fail again. Try better.”
Samuel Beckett

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