A Rose Is a Rose Is a Rose

In Sacred Emily, written in 1913, Gertrude Stein says that “Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose.” She’s referring to Jack Rose, a figure in the poem. Today, we’ve come to use that line of poetry as a way of saying “It is what it is.”

My husband loves roses. On Valentine’s Day each year, I get at least a dozen, and he occasionally likes to surprise me by bringing home a single red rose. We also have rose bushes in the garden, and they’re beginning to bloom now.

First RoseRoses are incredibly beautiful, and incredibly complex. I would never have attempted to draw one had it not been for You Can Draw in 30 Days, one of the how-to-draw books I bought. Here’s my first attempt, drawn last summer.

“That’s not what a rose really looks like,” my husband promptly informed me.

“It hasn’t opened yet.”

“It still doesn’t look like a real rose.”

Of course, I couldn’t argue with him. It doesn’t look like a real rose. It was just a drawing exercise, a quick and easy way for a beginning artist to draw something that vaguely resembled a rose.

RoseWhen the first bright blossoms appeared on our rose bushes last week, my husband plucked a few and brought them inside for me to enjoy.

Later that day, inspired by the little bouquet, I grabbed my charcoal sticks and followed along with a demonstration at The Virtual Instructor. It’s actually a reverse drawing, done by applying a layer of charcoal to the page and then using an eraser to make the marks.

It does look a bit more like a rose. Enough that it got a nod of approval from my husband. Truthfully, I think he was more intrigued by the reverse drawing technique than by the actual rose.

But who draws black and white roses? Roses are so bright and so colorful! It was, of course, only a matter of time before I made an attempt to capture a rose in its true glory.

Well, maybe that’s stretching it a bit. Let’s just say I wanted to capture the glorious color of our yellow roses. I also wanted a good subject for a bit of watercolor practice. A rose seemed like a good thing to draw.


All things considered, my yellow rose watercolor turned out much better than I’d expected. It’s got a few droopy petals, and unfortunately — as you can probably tell — I had a little problem with the paper buckling. Overall, though, I’m happy with it. It’s clearly much better than the first little tightly-wrapped rose I drew last summer.

My husband hasn’t seen this one yet, but I think he’ll like it. I like it if only because of the hope it gives me. I think, with practice, I can actually get better with watercolors. Now, I just need to figure out how to properly soak and stretch my paper.  Any tips will be appreciated.

Note: I’m using Canson 140-lb. cold-pressed paper. I typically soak it first, then place it on my Masonite drawing board, squeeze out the water with paper towels, and then tape the page down. It still buckles. I could buy more expensive paper, I know, but as I’m still at a “practice” stage, I don’t want to spend a fortune on paper. Any advice?




  1. Your Rose is lovely. And not an easy subject! I started exactly the same way you did. Same drawing board, and everything! My friend Jodi at Life in Between started painting in watercolor about six months or so after me, but with a key difference: She used good paper from the start! And as a result, she was able to very quickly improve. I’ll tell you what I started with: a pad of the exact paper you have – which will never ever IMO give you the results you want, and a box of Strathmore watercolor cards from dick blick, which were only a smidgen better. Both inexpensive, and not recommended. I would go to Blick (in person or online) and order a 3-pack of Arches 140 pound cold press paper to start. It’s cheaper if you buy three sheets. It may seem high to begin with, but you can tear it down to any size you want (YouTube will show you how) and I don’t even have to pre-stretch that paper at all. You will find it much much much (I could say that 1000 more times) easier and you are almost guaranteed better results,once you become accustomed to a completely different and more forgiving surface. Plus, if you don’t like a painting, you can likely rinse most of it off and go again, and if that doesn’t work, you can go again on the flip side. My .02!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m going to go ahead and make the investment in Arches. Everyone raves about it. I looked at it on Amazon. It comes in pads, sheets, and blocks. I was thinking about getting one of the pads. I’m going to look first at Hobby Lobby where I can use a 40% off coupon, and at Michael’s. We have a granddaughter who works there, so she can get art supplies at a discount. Have you used the Arches pads? Or would I be better off to stick with the sheets? Amazon has a pack of 5 (22 x 30) for about $40.00. Opinions, please?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes….go Arches! it is well worth the investment. I even turn it over and paint on the other side. I like to buy the sheets because I have compared the prices and I feel that it is cheaper by the sheet. I also rip (not cut) it into the sizes that I want. I know the Canson 140# that you mentioned. I bought it one time and I HATED it, it buckles like crazy and the pigment just lays on top of the surface. Go Arches! lol no I am not there poster child, though if I got a whole lot of sheets, I would be. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I have used the arches blocks….maybe I have used the pads, I am not sure. The blocks are more for plein air artists and they cost a bunch. I would say as long as it is truly arches 140# and the cost is far better than the sheets, go for it. I don’t think that the quality is any different. At the time I started buying the sheets, it was the way to go. With the pads, the edges are sharp. I happen to like rough edges, that’s just me. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I will catch it as soon as I can. I’m going to be away for most of the morning. I’m not sure what time I’ll be leaving, but it’s going to be early. If I don’t get online before I leave, I’ll be sure to look it up as soon as I can. Thanks for the “heads up”.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. I’m going to do more. After I saw the buckles in my paper, I got a little frustrated so I didn’t add as much shading as I’d initially planned. Our red roses are about to bloom, so that will be my next project, I think.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Getting acquainted with Jodi and so many other artists has been an incredible experience for me. I love being able to share thoughts about art with people who understand my feelings and who can advise me on so many different aspects of the process. I’m so glad I started this little blog, as crazy as the idea seemed at the time. It’s allowed me to make so many great connections with artists like you and Jodi.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, it’s wonderful fun! And enlightening, too. I was so hesitant at first about “real artists” visiting my site. I realize now that we’re always learning, and that I can gain incredible insight into art through knowing other artists. I’ve found so much encouragement from so many talented people! It’s really helping me in all areas of art.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m gradually learning to see myself as an artist, although that’s a huge step. I’m realizing, too, that in a sense, we’re all still learning new things, trying different things. I’ll always be a “student” no matter how long I’ve been drawing and painting, so I guess I can best call myself a “student artist”. Whaddya think?

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Yup. Looks good so far. I’m sorry your paper buckled. Anyhow, I was showing my sister the post cuz I think it is funny your husband said…that doesn’t look like a rose and we scrolled down to the yellow one and my sister said…she did good.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, be sure to tell your sister THANK YOU for me. I’m still waiting for our red roses to open up. I’ll have fun painting them. I’m really exploring the different hues in my watercolor sets. It will be fun to work with reds.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I buy half sheets of Saunders Waterford cold pressed paper, as I find that size approximately 22×15 inches very manageable. I use 200lb paper and don’t pre-soak because I am too lazy. I don’t personally believe that soaking does the paper much good. 300lb is even better but I agree expensive.
    I don’t find the 200lb cockles much. It usually goes back. To get it back flat, soak the back of the painting with clean water and put it in a press for say 24 hours. A press could be two heavy books or similar. You need to frame or store flat soon afterwards
    Hope that helps

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sorry I forgot to comment on your rose painting, mainly because flower painting is not my strong point. I tend to include some dead heads and buds as the open petal arrangement is tricky. But that is just me. Your yellow rose looks beautifully observed to me.Keep going with them

    Liked by 1 person

I'd Love to Hear Your Thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s