Painting peonies at Highland Park

Peonies by Nina Jarmolych Koski
“If a watched pot never boils, how can a flower completely open while you’re painting it?” asked Nathan Tomlinson at Highland Park on Saturday. I could see his point. At 10 AM when he sketched his idea onto his canvas, the peony in question was half-open. By 2, when we left, it was wilted.

Pretty wilted but still beautiful by mid-afternoon.
The change in the flowers was unusually dramatic, because we were making a dizzying leap from cold spring rain into glorious summer weather. All of Rochester realized it, too, and came out to photograph the flowers.

Peonies, by Nathan Tomlinson.
I didn’t realize it was Memorial Day weekend until we were mobbed by tourists. At one point, Nina Koski leaned over and whispered, “There are four different languages being spoken right next to us.”  Since I love playing tour guide, I had a great time directing people to the lilacs, the pansy bed, and the conservatory, and explaining what a pinetum is.

Peony, by Jingwei Yang.
These three are all very inexperienced painters: Nate has been with me since early February, Jingwei and Nina since the end of February. Their progress has been fantastic in a very short time, and they’re making the leap to plein air painting with a great deal of self-assurance.

Who can resist photographing the darn things?
The biggest problem they faced was that their palettes couldn’t match the chromatic intensity of the peonies themselves, gilded by back light on this beautiful, intense day. Nate, who is using muddy Charvin oil paints, had the most trouble, but there are many things in the natural world that are more intense than any paint can match. The answer, then, is to make the chroma you can muster up sing against the background.

Peonies by little ol' me.

I had time to do a small watercolor between annoying my students. The nature of watercolors makes it a little easier to give the illusion of high chroma even with a limited sketch kit, so I didn’t suffer quite as much as they did.

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