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  • Filipina Pate

Two Projects for Spring 2024: Learning What To Keep and What to Give Up When Designing a Painting

It’s hard to believe that it’s already February. I caught a terrible bug at the beginning of the year and I am still recovering my lost voice. It was so frustrating to be stuck in bed instead of working on all my ambitious plans for my next collection of paintings.

But as I laid there with my cherry-flavored cough drops, I started thinking about why I enjoyed painting flowers. There is something heroic about a closeup painting of a single flower and I’m impressed by the scientific detail of botanical illustrations. But what really makes me excited are complex floral arrangements, similar to the ones painted by Dutch still-life painters from the late 15th and early 16th centuries.

I love these paintings because of the complexity of the shapes and colors. The paintings usually feature warm shadows of leaves that fade into a dark, neutral background. Light pastel colors from the flower petals stand out against the darker greenery and wild, curving stems draw the eye from one bright flower to another. The overall effect allows each flower to have its own place, while still uniting all the flowers into one central arrangement.

Studying these paintings made me wonder what must I be willing to give up in my painting idea so that the overall painting will work better. How do I decide what is dark and what is light? What parts of the painting are the most important for me to convey my idea? What do I want to emphasize and what will I sacrifice?

To explore these questions, I’m working on two different projects this spring.

The first project is a series of drawings and color studies based on flower photo references. I plan to use charcoal, ink, and gouache to explore different ways to design a painting with light and dark shapes. For instance, the Dutch painters used light flowers against a dark background. What would it feel like if I used dark flowers silhouetted against a light background?

Studio setup for my study of Ruysch's painting. I'm simplifying the shapes and eliminating details to focus on the overall composition.
My studio setup for studying Ruysch's painting.

My loose interpretation of Rachel Ruysch’s painting in just black and white.
Study of Bouquet of Flowers, Acrylic on mixed media paper, 8 x 8 inches

My other project is about deepening my understanding of flowers, plants, and their surrounding environments. Instead of painting flowers in a vase that are about to fade and die, what would it feel like to paint living flowers as part of an outdoor garden or a wild landscape? I signed up for a series of gardening classes at Denver Botanic Gardens to learn more about our Colorado native plants and our environment. Colorado apparently has a very unique climate that makes it challenging to grow a garden; it’s very dry and the growing season is short.

Still, I am optimistic. The classes are taught by experts in horticulture and gardening who have been growing their own gardens for decades. Maybe one day I might grow a Colorado native garden that could inspire my future paintings, just like Monet and his famous gardens at his estate in Giverny, France.

My goal is to share the result of these two projects at the next Open Studios Night, which will be held on Friday, June 14, 2024 from 5:30 - 9:00 pm. Sign up for my newsletter for first access to these new works via my website and online shop.

If you are in town, here are the details to save in your calendar. There are over 60 artists and creative businesses at Prism Workspaces. Open Studios Night is a great way to get to know us and bring home original, affordable art for your home. Please join us!

Prism Workspaces

Spring 2024 Open Studios

999 Vallejo Street (I’m in Unit 1)

Denver, Colorado 80204

Friday, June 14, 2024 5:30 - 9:00 p.m.

I’m excited to get back to work. Thanks for reading!



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