Assignment 5 – Rose ‘Birthday Girl’

I loved this assignment. I feel like I have improved since the last assignment, and each element (the drawing, planning composition, painting) all came much more naturally. I chose this rose because my friend has asked me to do a commission, and this rose suited her brief. I thought at this time in my life where everything is very hectic, combining the commission and the assignment made sense…


After many hours studying the rose, photographing different elements and views of each flower head, I settled on the aspects of the rose I wanted to paint and set about drawing. If you’ve read my blog before, you’ll know that I like to draw onto either tracing paper or cartridge paper, and then create an ink version of each individual component on separate sheets of tracing paper (shown in the photograph below). This makes composition planning much easier, and it means I forever have an ink copy of each drawing individually.



Composition planning is made much easier by the process I’ve explained above, but it is still always a challenge to get it right. I had lots of components and so lots of options. A couple are shown in the photos below. I settled on the final composition because it felt balanced, with interest at both the top and the bottom of the piece. I did have to move around some of the leaves in order to make the composition flow naturally and not be too busy.

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Final Composition

Colour studies

The next stage is the colour studies, to ensure the colours are botanically accurate. These also give me a chance to have a ‘practice run’ which I am always eternally grateful for, as it always turns out completely rubbish (see examples below!)

I used varying mixes of Quinacridone Rose (Daniel Smith), Opera Rose (W&N), and P. Alizarin Crimson (W&N) for the flower heads.

For the leaves I used a mix of Indanthrone Blue, Quinacridone Gold, and Green Gold (all Daniel Smith).



IMG_0163 Working out my Greens using my “Indanthrone Blue” colour chart.

A really key part of the colour studies are making a botanical grey. This is a really crucial component of the painting, as it’s used to create realistic shadows on the plant. A good botanical grey is particularly important on pale flowers, as it’s really the main way to demonstrate form. To make a botanical grey I take three of the primary colours used in the piece (in this case Quinacridone Rose, Indanthrone Blue and Quinacridone Gold).


I think it’s a bit easier for me to just post photos of the painting process.

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IMG_0173_2  IMG_0186_2




I got 8.37 for this assignment, but lowest mark so far in the course. At first I was very disappointed, but the criticism was very constructive and I have a few areas that I can work on. They mark us on a number of different areas, I’ll just go over the main criticisms, as the feedback is very thorough…

Line: I need to make sure that my stem widths are even, particularly where a leave or another stem overlaps. A basic point which I’m annoyed I didn’t get quite right.

Form and Tone: This was generally good but could have hard darker tones in some places.

Colour: According to my tutor this particular rose has some yellow tones in the centre. My particular rose didn’t have this, but perhaps it’s a lesson in doing some research on what the ‘true’ specimen should look like…

Composition: She was pleased with the composition.

Botanical Accuracy: This was also fine!

Technique: Some uneven washes on the stems, and sometimes the veins on the leaves can be more indistinct, particularly where there is less light.

Presentation: There was a small dot of paint on the right which I couldn’t clean up off the paper – I’m always so careful but accidents happen occasionally. Will have to find a way to try and fix it, there are ‘magic erasers’, maybe I’ll try one of those….

Labelling: My labelling with the latin/english names wasn’t quite right… again. I need to spend more than 5 minutes on this at the end.

I hope you all enjoyed reading this post, and it was helpful, especially for those of you on the SBA course or equivalent!



10 thoughts on “Assignment 5 – Rose ‘Birthday Girl’

  1. Helen thanks for sharing your work. I think your composition for this piece works beautifully. I appreciate you sharing your tutors critiques it is also really helpful for those of us reading along to be aware of such points. I know it sounds odd but the one thing I miss most about being at art school is not being able to get the critical assessment of my work by my tutors.
    Keep going, I’m learning lots of useful things.

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