Watercolor Flowers: From Blank Page To Amazing Artwork
In todays video we break down the anatomy of a painting. I go through every single step, from planning and practice, to a large scale painting.
Follow along with every step here:
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We are getting back to basics and going through this one step by step. I am beginning in my Strathmore sketchbook where I have split a two page spread into three spaces for our first three steps: color palette, floral practice and design sketch. I already completed a messier version before the video where I experimented and sketched out different florals but now I am going to clean it up and make the final plans. First up is colours!
With a nice clean brush I take the paint over to my palette where I will do all my mixing. I started off adding brown into some pink and purples, and my palette gives me a lot of space to try out different variations of this. I love the more muted shades the brown creates. I included my color mixing in the video to inspire experimentation and creativity. You don't need to recreate these colors, but understanding how I approach it and experiment will hopefully give you some ideas so you can play with colour on your own. You may like more vibrant colors or want to mix in some white or extra water for some pastels.
This is your chance to play! So experiment and figure out what speaks to you to start to develop your own style. Don't forget to test all your colors on the page, and remember you don't have to use them in the final piece. Mixing greens can be an artform in itself, and I have posted an entire video just on mixing natural greens. While I normally don't get into specific color mixes because I want everyone to experiment, I do share my absolute favourite green in todays video. Mixing deep phthalo green and olive green creates a natural color perfect for leaves and stems. I also mix the phthalo green with browns and blacks to create more variation.
With the palette complete it is time to think about what flowers to include in the final piece. It is still practice so you can try different florals and different colors for each. Think about what types of flowers you want to include, for example, spring flowers like roses and lilacs. My challenge here is to paint those flowers in as few brush strokes as you can! These are loose watercolor florals and fewer details will give you that whimsical style. So don't overthink what you are doing - by adding a stem to a stroke of color you can create the look of a simple flower.
The rose is made of a simple broken spiral, by slowly changing the color and the size of the brushstrokes you can add dimension and create the image. Adding the leaves creates context, and I love the way the dark green looks with the peach. The purple flower below is just splotches of very light paint with a stem. I don't even know what type of flower this is exactly but it is simple and loose and will be great in the finished product. Don't worry about perfection, it is all the little imperfections and happy accidents that make a watercolor piece unique and beautiful.
Remember this is just practice so you don't have to have everything exactly right. You can still play around with what you like best, what greens to use for the stems or where to position leaves around a bloom. Although I didn't include white in my palette, I decided to include some small white florals here. I love the way the white grounds a very colorful floral painting.
With the palette and florals picked out it is time to think about the design and layout of the final painting. You can use a very basic sketch and do as many as you want while you experiment with where each flower will go. I start with the larger flowers, using pencil circles or semicircles to represent them. The smaller circles are the smaller flowers and i've placed the tiniest ones along the side. Once I have the main body, I start placing the more vertical of clustered flowers, and the leaves and stems. In pen I add just enough detail to distinguish between the roses and peonies from my practice and the different shapes of the smaller flowers.
Keep it sketchy and loose. It will definitely end up changing as you paint so you shouldn't get too set on it. The important thing is to have an idea of which flowers will be in the center and may be a little larger, and which ones will be bordering those or springing off in different directions. Get your thoughts down on paper and then the practice is done. I have a two page spread breaking down the anatomy of our painting!
With the practice done I am much more confident starting my painting. I have colors picked out, I've practiced my flowers and I have a basic idea of the layout I want. The blank page is not as intimidating and I am ready to put paint to paper! You've already put in a lot of work at this point so don't cheat yourself of a good quality paper.
I am beginning my large scale painting with a peach colored rose. I already love my color palette and practiced my roses so there's not much more to it. I added a little bit of pink for the second rose so it is a slightly different shade and they don't blend together.
Our peony is next and is a flower that always intimidates me. I feel like no matter how much I practice it turns out different each time, so I don't feel like I have mastered them. I'm aiming for that nice cup shape so it looks really natural. No matter what it is that you may struggle with, just have fun. As the flowers dry you can always add a little more shading and detail work as well.
Despite not practicing this, I have decided to add a bud to the peony. They always seem to have them so it makes it look more real to me. I started with a very light circular shape, adding darker paint and leaving negative space to create dimension and the look of petals. Already veering from my planned layout I added another peony bloom and bud to the other side to border the roses. Things are looking good though!
Now that the larger flowers in the center are finished I'm going to start working around them with the smaller florals. I started with the pale purple and used the clusters to fill in the gaps, flowing outward from the central floral to create a nice border for the larger more detailed flowers. Using the smaller flowers that can be tucked into spaces and flow outwards will help with that loose whimsical look. It is also a good time to think about the shape of the floral piece as a whole - are there pockets that need more flowers? Do you want some leaves trailing off? Is there a part that doesn't look as full? Stand back from your piece and see how it feels.
After I started filling out the left side I decided to add in those white flowers. They really make all of the other colors pop! I tuck them in behind and very close to the other flowers to help add contrast, just as I use the green leaves to add contrast to the white petals. I added the same spray of white flowers in the bottom right of the painting. It gives balance to the piece and by flowing away from the main florals it creates a bit of movement in the piece.
The last floral I tucked in was a few of the lime green carnations. I added the leaves while the petals were still wet for some great wet on wet blending. I love the contrast of the lighter green in the finished piece. I have a lot of detailed leaves around the flowers but before finishing I added some larger leaves in so I have more contrast with size.
The very last step is to add a little more detail with a wet on dry painting technique. This is especially helpful if you find your painting looks a little washed out. You can add darker shading on your petals and leaves. If you don't feel like your painting needs the lowlights, just skip this step! I find that it really added some depth and oomph to my final painting.
I am so happy with the way this turned out! I hope you feel like you can get a handle on doing a larger scale painting. Remember your prep and don't be scared to get creative.