Zestful Zinnias

Just so you know, I have now successfully completed my “15-Day Floral Challenge“. You’ve previously seen my first nine oil pastel paintings, and today I’m sharing one more. I’ll be posting the others soon.

This particular oil pastel painting was done while my husband was visiting his retinologist recently. It was a “test day” — meaning that Dr. Fletcher would be doing a dye test and the visit would be a bit longer than usual. So, I settled in with my sketchbook and a set of oil pastels and began working on my “Zestful Zinnias”, the prompt for Day 10 of the challenge.

I wasn’t sure where I was going with my zinnias when I first began. One of the true challenges I’ve found in this 15-day event is not knowing exactly what to do with the background. Another challenge is figuring out how many flowers I want to draw! I know, I know. These are really simple questions, but for artists like me, they’re important questions.

In the past, my approach was always to take the easiest way out when it came to drawing. Certainly it is easier to draw a single flower than a vase of blooms, and while drawing a field of flowers might seem like a fun thing to do, well… there’s that problem about all those stems and leaves, and that brings me right back to the problem with doing a background. My previous attempts at creating any sort of background for my floral drawings have not had good results.

When it came time to do the “zestful zinnia” prompt, my mind went quickly back to childhood. We had zinnias growing in the garden every summer. Only a few days earlier, my husband had also planted a packet of zinnia seeds. Whenever I think of zinnias, it’s always in the plural. I knew I had to draw more than one.

But how many? How do I space them out? And what about the background?

Well, I just started by using design principles and placing a number of circles on my sketchbook page, arranging them in what I thought would be an interesting and satisfying way. I then started drawing petals around the centers. Now and then I added a new center and worked it into the design.

These “Zestful Zinnias” soon became an interesting “oil pastel technique” challenge for me. Take a look at it, and then I’ll explain.

This painting was done on a half sheet of Strathmore Pastel Paper. I’m learning that, for me, pastel paper is not a good choice because of the tooth. I find that I definitely prefer a smoother surface for my oil pastel art.

Now, for the techniques I used.

I began, as mentioned, by using my oil pastels to create a basic “lay-out” for the centers of the blooms. I then chose several different colors that I felt would work well together. I used mostly oranges and reds with a bit of magenta and yellow in places to serve as a focal point — something to catch the viewer’s eye.

Each bloom was painted using at least two — more often, three — different hues. My hope was to create a bit of a “variegated” effect. I then used a tortillon to blend the colors so that what I had on my page was a lot of circles of blended colors. My next step was trying a new technique — using a china marker. I used the black marker to draw the petals on the individual flowers.

Now, what about that background? I decided to just add as much green background as I could. I used three different pastel sticks and did my best to work the color around the flowers. Then, I tried yet another “new” technique. To blend the green, I used a clay shaping tool.

I love these new tools! Using one of these allowed me to get a much smoother blend with my oil pastels, enough that I could actually fill in the tooth of the paper — except for those in-between places surrounding the flowers.

The idea behind this painting is that of repetition. I’ve heard it said many, many times that if you take a single object and draw it repeatedly it becomes interesting. That’s what I was going for in this floral painting. I wasn’t striving for realism, of course. What I wanted to create was a sense of the flower gardens I loved as a child. I wanted something playful, loose, colorful, and fun. I think I succeeded on all counts.

And, again, it was fun for me to work my way through this drawing, to try different things, and to “figure out” what I wanted to do and how to do it. In the end, I was pleased with my “Zestful Zinnias” because, for me, this little floral painting illustrates a lot of my own personal growth as an artist. Like these zinnias, I’m beginning to bloom.




  1. Brava! You seem to be getting the hang of oil pastels. I have tried the clay shaper tools, and find I prefer cotton swabs – the cheap ones from WalMart do what I want on the paper I like (Canson XL oil and acrylic pads – used to also buy at WalMart before WM changed over recently). I still need to post my latest oil pastel piece from earlier this week on my blog.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I’m learning more each day. I tried the cotton swabs for blending. They were my first blending tool. I found them a bit awkward, but that’s just me LOL. I was rubbing the cotton right off the swab! I guess I need a firmer tool like the “sculpting tool” or the tortillon.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I drafted an early comment that got lost in some kind of reloading of the page. Sorry if you get this twice. I think the colors and arrangement work really well here. The pale green sets off the reds and oranges effectively. And there’s the right amount of background again to emphasize the main elements, the zinnias.

    Liked by 1 person

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