How to Paint Loose Watercolor Flowers for Beginners
Today we are getting into some loose watercolor florals - no matter your skill level, you can paint this. It's all about messy brush strokes and splotches of color that, loosely, resemble flowers. When it all comes together, you will have a beautiful floral artwork.
Be sure to watch today’s video for more details and examples:
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I am using hot press paper from Arches, it is on a block which means it is stretched (but cold-pressed is good too). I have my number 3 pointed round brush that comes to a nice pointed tip and my Mungyo 48 pan watercolor set. It has a palette in the lid so it’s nice and contained and is great value for the price. I am also ready with a couple of glasses of water and some paper towel for blotting.
Tip #1 The difference between a good painting and a great painting is really the color palette. Putting thought into your colors beforehand is always a good idea. Think it through and plan it out.
Mixing on the palette allows you to get thoughtful, using colors that are your own and not taken directly from the paints. Experiment on some scrap paper and see how your colors work together. I am starting with some peaches and pinks and then add some complimentary colors: burgundy, browns, yellows, and a dark purple and periwinkle. I have a few natural greens for different leaves.
It is time to start painting! These flowers are going to be loose and free, so I am going to jump right in. Using the brown, I’m making a stamen with a circle of dots, and then with a wet brush, I’m mucking them up a bit so it is free and loose. With the peachy pink, I drag the belly of the brush across the page to create some large imperfect petals of splotches of color.
With loose florals, none of the individual flowers take a long time or require a lot of attention. The petals don’t match, I leave negative space to add highlight and detail, and everything is messy and imperfectly perfect. The different colors of flowers can butt up against one another so the colors blend. It is about creating shapes that, kind of, look like flowers, but it doesn’t have to be precise.
Tip #2 I want them to blend and bleed but if it starts to bleed too much you can blot your brush so it is dry and use that to sop up some of the extra colors. You can see that the burgundy flower began to bleed into the grey-white flowers around them, but I still love the end result.
Now I have two large flowers and a few smaller flowers, but I want to add some vertical height. With the light purple, I am hinting at the idea of lilacs with little ovals and splotches with random areas of color. Adding a little green throughout hints at stems and leaves. Loose florals are a great way to get into watercolor: some of these are just slapping paint on the page, they are colorful brush strokes barely resembling flowers. When you add the green it all sort of comes together. You can make a mess; never go back and fix anything but just leave it alone and it will all come together.
Tip #3 You can start with stamens or add them when the petals are dry. They are just messy dots and lines and you don’t have to overthink it.
My loose rose is a messy bunch of circles, I started with a yellow broken spiral and then transitioned to peach going around but not filling in the entire circle. The negative space gives the idea of layers of petals. I like the blend of peach and yellow. Below this, I added another periwinkle flowing flower that I think of as being like a school of fish. You want to paint a cluster of random brush strokes, clustered together they are connected with delicate green stems. I keep adding more blue blobs and leaves going downwards.
Tip #4 Each time you paint a flower, think about changing the leaves slightly. With a smaller flower, the leaves are smaller. Just that little bit of difference and contrast can add so much interest to your piece.
I continue moving around the page, adding little yellow flowers and more green and leaves. I want a burst of green around the perimeter, without a solid perimeter. I actually rotate the painting as I go so I can pull the brush towards myself. As it starts to dry you can add more detail. Layering the same colors on top can add more contrast, adding a thin line to leaves or shading the top, or bottom. Don’t overthink it, just add a darker bit to the leaves or the center of some of the flowers for some contrast. For more contrast, I used the dark purple to add some berries, which also add a nice size contrast.
The loose florals come together pretty simply, just turn your mind off and let yourself go. It’s about enjoying the process of painting and you’ll have a great result. With that last bit of detail and an extra leaf or two, it is all done. The more you let go and just enjoy the paint and the color and the brushstrokes, the more successful you will be.