River of sunshine

How ‘Project X’ didn’t go at all as planned…and why that wound up being so much better.

River of sunshine
Photo by Donald Promnitz (aka “Dad”!)

During the two weeks leading up to Mother’s Day, I decided I wanted to paint my mom a bouquet of beautiful, Double Delight roses. There was a snag, though: I don’t have a lot of experience painting flowers — especially complex flowers such as roses — and I only had about a week to plan, practice, and paint in order to have everything completed and shipped in time for Mother’s Day.

After five solid nights of practicing roses with much anxiety and little improvement, I realized somewhere along the way of trying to learn how to render the perfect petal I had lost sight of my true intention. My goal had never been to render a perfect still-life; it was to bring my mother joy. (I shared more about the process leading up to this point here.)

So focused was I on “getting it right” that I had forgotten the deeper meaning behind my gift. I wanted to share delight, warmth, and love through a painting, and to do so with a subject that also aligned with my own personal take on how those feelings are best conveyed. In person, Double Delight roses are beautiful both in appearance and fragrance (hence the name, “Double Delight”), but my rendering of them as a still-life was lacking all life. I was trying to force something that couldn’t be forced.

I remembered a photo my dad had taken a few weeks prior of the hills around my parent’s home. Thousands of wildflowers had burst into bloom in what looked like a river of sunshine. The life, the warmth, and the joy were all there in that beautiful, natural moment. Even better, my dad had shared the photo with a note about how every time he sees something interesting and unique, he thinks of me and snaps a just photo in case I might ever want to draw it.

I had my subject! My bouquet of roses transformed into a field of wildflowers and I titled it, River of Sunshine, adding purple lupine to the foreground. I found a way to send my mom flowers in a manner that was in keeping with an approach that felt much more natural to me and inspired me to paint in the first place.

River of sunshine by Brooke Morales

I employed a more impressionistic style for this painting as I wanted the focus to be the overall feel of a river of yellow flowers rather than a study of any individual flower. One of the reasons I’d like to improve as an artist is to be able to better represent scenes such as these to share with others and to preserve precious memories. I did my best with what I’ve learned so far at this point in my painting journey, and am glad I didn’t let my lack of experience get in the way of creating something special.

It was an important reminder about the importance of not only showing up, but showing up as who you really are.