Virtual Tea Party: Paint a Cup and Saucer in Watercolour

April 6, 2020


Responses to this challenge would be a lovely way to contact your friends with a virtual cuppa.  You could even do this one in a garden setting if the weather’s good, part of an alfresco cream tea perhaps!

Getting the drawing right isn’t essential but if you would like to end up with a convincing structure there are a few things you should think about.  If you feel confident with the brush you may like to go straight in with paint but reading through the following and looking at the photos may help your observation skills and thoughts about the composition.

When you are very close to the object you are painting, it becomes more difficult to measure so when you have chosen your cup and saucer, put it down on a table.  Then make some observations.  Move your head/eye level up and down and you will see changes in what you see, so once you have decided on the view you like best, stick to it!


Photo 4. should read…. underside of saucer not visible!

So you have chosen your view.  The object is on a suitable cloth and you are ready to draw.

Ask yourself the following questions;


Where do you want to place the cup and saucer on the paper?

How important is the background(cloth, pattern, wall behind etc.)?

This may impact the size and placement of your cup and saucer in the composition.

Cup and saucer itself

What is the relative overall width and height of the cup and saucer?

How wide is the saucer in relation to the width of the cup?

Can I see the bottom edge of the cup?

How much of the lower surface of the saucer, if any, can I see?

Vertically how far up the cup does the widest point of the saucer occur?

At what point does the saucer disappear behind the cup?

How much of the inside of the cup can I see?

How is the handle attached?

In some ways it is easier to draw from a photograph but photographs can have unwanted distortions especially if you take a shot very close to the object.  These distortions can be largely avoided by taking the shot at a distance from the object and zooming in.

Draw the main shapes of your composition on watercolour paper.

It may be useful to indicate the mid-line of the cup and saucer with a feint vertical line.  This will make it easy for you to check that you have the widths of the cup and saucer symmetrical.  Some cups have wide tops and much narrower bases and all sorts of curves in between.  This vertical will provide a marker so that the symmetry of all the parts of the cup can be checked.

Concentrate on the largest shapes first, then add the details of fluted edges etc.  You may choose to paint pattern directly with the brush after putting in the main washes or to indicate the main areas of decoration very lightly with pencil.

Lit from the right side

Lit from the left side

Before adding washes observe how the light falls on the objects and note if there are any areas you need to remain absolutely white.  These may be very small; note the base of the cup, handle and part of the saucer rim and a couple of reflections in the photo above.  You can do this by either leaving the paper white or using masking fluid.  Slightly more subtle lights can be achieved by lifting out.  If lit from the side the difference in tone between the light areas and more shaded parts may be dramatic and obvious, but where the light is diffuse or from more than one direction this may not be so clear.   Start by washing in the main areas of tone and the background fairly lightly at first then add further washes till these are built up sufficiently before adding the pattern.

Diffuse light

Think about the background.  I chose to invent a wet in wet background .  You can do the same or choose to have a patterned cloth, or for the backdrop to take in part of the room.  Always look carefully at the tones and how they relate to the cup and saucer.  Look for shadows; the shadow that may be cast on to the saucer by the cup and the shadow below and/or to one side of the cup and saucer that falls on to the cloth or a wall behind.

Contre Jour

When the main areas have been painted, the detail of pattern can be added, and if gilded the last thing to add would be some imitation gold watercolour to lend a decorative touch to the painting.

Have fun with the paint and don’t take the words too seriously; just look and paint!

Your paintings;

Tones well observed and beautiful pattern painted freely with the brush

Blue Cup and Saucer; Handle looks really convincing and upper ellipses good, just needs a curve on the bottom of the saucer.

Cup and saucer with gold decoration


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