– Bob Bahr reporting, Editor PleinAir Today –

Jude Tolar paints portraits of flowers outdoors, but it’s not just about the individual flower. It means more to this Oklahoma artist.

Lead Image: “Crimson and Cream,” by Jude Tolar, pastel, 11 x 14 in.

“Painting a portrait of a flower is one of my favorite things to do, but it’s also a portrait of light,” she says. “I can think of them as individuals whose portrait I am painting, but it’s also more than that. I have a real love for florals and gardening, and I like to paint what is blooming seasonally. To paint what is there at the time, to paint from life — there’s no better way to portray a beautiful subject like this than outdoors in the sunshine and fresh air, with the bees and the wind.”

As with any plein air painting, these floral portraits are impacted by the changing light. “I like to paint facing east in the morning so that the sun is rising behind the subject,” says Tolar. “I’ve figured out over the years that I must know what the direction of the light is. The shadows do change, but you get more with that orientation than if you are painting from another direction. The middle of the day is too flat. The contrast of lights and darks at the beginning and end of the day are good — the cast shadows from flowers are fun to play with. I try to nail those early on. My method is to paint the darks and build lights over the top of that. I work on the whole painting at once, not just one area. I also take photos in case I lose direct sun and need to tweak last-minute details.”

Tolar limits the size she tackles outdoors, with 9”-x-12” being the most common format and 11”-x-14” being the largest. “I want the gesture in the painting, the movement,” she says. “That’s easier in a reasonable size.” Although she is often painting in her carefully landscaped garden, Tolar does not emphasize the background. “I zero in and focus on the flower,” she says. “I may come back and finish out the background later, but that is not really that important for the painting.”

What is important? “That depends on what catches my eye,” says Tolar. “I may like the color — like the ‘pow!’ of a red. I may like the quirky petals on a daisy. For some, it’s the posture, the way it is leaning. I did a series of irises, different varieties of them, and one was very frilly, like a pedigreed dog. “I titled it ‘Fancy Pants.’ That’s where I describe the personality — in the title.”


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