The postcard view is often not the best one for a painting. Just ask Julia Seelos.

The Redwood City, California, painter was at the Allied Artist Guild, in Melo Park, a haven on San Francisco’s peninsula designed for artists in the 1920s. The location has exquisite gardens nestled among shops and a cafe, with each area themed and exquisitely maintained. Seelos set up in a walkway with a spectacular view of the Rose Allee, which is lined with white tree roses and set up to look like a similar location in the Alhambra. But then she looked up, and against the vibrant blue sky, an orange tree branch dissuaded her from the postcard view. “I thought, ‘Screw that, I’m painting the oranges,'” says Seelos.

The plainspoken and pragmatic artist noted how the eucalyptus trees in the background faded into a soothing blue-green — a perfect foil for her branch of blood oranges. She painted the darks of her composition first — the branches of the orange tree — drawing with a mixture of alizarin crimson and ultramarine blue. (She had quickly toned her canvas in a light orange, painting the composition on the still-wet tone.) Seelos has no greens on her palette, so she quickly mixed a transparent dark green and laid in those portions of the leaves, then moved on to the medium greens and the eucalyptus color. Next came the dark oranges of the fruit, then the yellow greens of leaves, and the blue sky holes in the branches. With darker and thicker mixtures of the darkest darks, Seelos flicked a brush across the branches to re-establish the value range, adding nearly pure yellow on top of the oranges “to make the colors sing.”

The 6 x 6-inch painting was done in 90 minutes.


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