Help me paint a Rose please!

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Hello, I have been working on painting a rose for my mom. The image attached is three roses that I have done. The one on the left was the first one and the one on the right was done today but not finished. I am highly frustrated with all three. I am struggling with what medium to use so that I can add layers of paint for shading or highlights. Any tips or thoughts would be appreciated! I was feeling very much like throwing in the towel today!


Never throw in the towel. Don’t give up. This happens to be lovely and I think your mom will be very happy with it. Think you got it already. I love them all.

Hi, please don’t get upset, art can be so frustrating, especially when we do it for our loved ones! I am sympathising indeed! Roses are so beautiful, but so difficult to draw… I am sure your Mum will appreciate your love and effort! And I think your picture in the middle is very nice! The highlight on the edges makes a nice contrast.
I am only a beginner, but I can share my experience and what I’ve learned so far. I don’t work in oil, only tempera and acrylics. Acrylics is beneficial because it is opaque. Your can paint on top of a layer, that is, easy to correct.

  1. Can you tell us more specifically what is it you don’t like particularly? Colour? Angles? Brushwork? Can you share reference?
  2. If you have time, make couple of quick sketches to make sure you got the angles, shape and proportion right. I personally try to make the structure in rough, straight strokes. When I happy with structure, it is much easier to soften the forms to make them more realistic.
  3. Decide on focal point - that’s where your contrast will be strongest. That is what makes your middle picture is so attractive.
  4. Colours! I usually mix the colour and try it on a clean little scrap of paper and put it against the reference. If is right, it is good to go on canvas.
    I hope it helps.

Hi Holly.

I can only advise from my experience and the advice I am going to give is based on the fact that you have said you are not happy with your paintings above and I am going to assume this is because you feel they don’t look realistic enough?

Your middle rose is definitely the best and this is because you have given it a greater range of light and shadow. I personally think the way you are trying to do it is quite hard, because you are trying to achieve all the light and shadow (the correct values) and the colour all at once.

Can I suggest that if you want to attempt the rose again, you could do so trying oil paints or acrylics and do it using the techniques in Matt’s Oil painting master class Modules 6 and then 7. I feel this may help you, because you can think about painting the rose first in monochrome ONLY thinking about the dark and light areas. (Try taking a photo of the rose on your phone and changing it to monochrome?). Let that TOTALLY dry. Then when you are really happy with the fact it looks like the rose, but there is no colour, use the glazing (very thin layer of colour) from module 7 to add the pink and green and the darker shades will show through, giving you the colour variation you are after.

I think this will help you to isolate your problems and deal with them one by one. See how it goes!

Hope this helps? Patience is key with the above techniques.

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Here are some examples of what I mean.

First part:

Colour over the top:

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Or similar idea with pencils: (maybe a bit easier for first go?

Hope these help.


I think I like the middle one. Oils can be tricky. If you are like me I want to finish everything all at once; but, sometimes you just have to let it dry and go back and use a lighter color to blend the dark into the light portions. To smooth the dark to light. Sometimes you just have to get up and walk away or you will muddy what you are working on. I like soft pastels but find I get a lot of dust on things between layers. I use a brush on them, then I can layer the colors and then use a semi-hard pastel stick to make the colors have dimension to the drawing. I think I bear down too much to be successful with colored pencils although I have a lot of different ones and will be experimenting. My next medium to try will be watercolor. But that is the opposite of painting in oils. Seems that oil is working dark to light and I think you would need to start with light watercolor and then add the dark. I would also think you would need to put a removable medium that you can rub off to get a white, white. I guess I will have a lot of trials and errors with watercolors. But, I am looking forward to trying it. I really like using mixed mediums. Pastels, soft & hard and oils, colored pencils and graphite. I have used a little water to help blend some of the different mediums; but, you would need to try it on a scrape of the same paper you are using to make sure the water won’t make the paper buckle. Also collages as well with different mediums on those, too.

what a useful and thoughtful reply. i shall apply your advice on my own processes. :boom:

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I like the one in the middle. I don’t think you need to do anything else to it. The flower looks just like a rose. The background is perfect. Unlike the one on the left one, which looks like some sort of flower, but not a rose. Stop trying to paint it again. You are making the rose on the right too large for the size of the canvas. When I paint something and sign my name to it I never touch it again. It is fine to repaint over a picture, but glad you did not do this on the 2nd canvas. But for the one on the right, my suggestion would be ‘stop’. I do not think anything from this point would improve it. I rarely paint a picture twice, but both times I did they looked totally different and I did not mind signing my name to them. This picture painted twice and they looked totally different but you improved and anyone knows exactly what they are looking at - a perfect rose. Change the portrait layout to landscape layout then on its side and upside down. The one on the right even that you just started it will be way too large for the size of the canvas. Stop painting the picture on the right-hand side if you think you will improve it. Everyone seeing the flower in the middle knows it is a rose. The one on the left, people would know it is a flower, but not a rose. I know you just started it but put it aside. Turn it upside down then on each side. Squint when you look at it (give it a month or more) and maybe you will see another subject. Like the picture of 2 people; but look at it long enough you will see a vase. Paint over it with a thin layer of gesso (I am assuming this is some sort of oil medium). When painting in oils you establish the darks first, let it dry to touch, and then go back to working on it towards the lighter color, and highlights (definitely let it dry to touch if your highlights are white). I rarely use stark white or black. I think it is totally the opposite when working with watercolor. Then you can paint something different. but now you might find a different subject after putting it upside down, then on its left and right sides. You just might see something else. Flowers are not my favorite subject, but I did one for my mother-in-law because that is what she wanted. When I tried to paint my first flowers, I was extremely unhappy with it and my instructor told me to stop and do this change and I ended up ‘seeing’ a nun praying on her knees’. He also told me to do something with it different from things he had, so I added marble chips (very small pieces) and my sisters wanted it. You did a great job with the middle one and I think you did just what I might have done, and that was starting from the middle working out with the dark part of the petals nearer to the center and working out to the light highlights. I hope you take this as constructive criticism because that is what I am trying to convey.