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Watercolour Flowers a Free Approach: Week 1

April 27, 2022

Deep Red Primula
Wet in wet followed by dropping in more colour as the paint slowly dried. Final brush strokes applied when dry.

In this course the challenge will be to paint flowers freely in watercolour, using the brush for shapes and some really wet washes. Any under drawing in pencil will be kept to a minimum and the aim is to create some very expressive flower paintings rather than botanical illustrations.

Part of a more complicated set up where wet in wet washes were painted around the Honesty seed heads which made them look paler. The foliage was added with a medium sized pointed round brush when the background washes were dry.

The first two weeks will be spent on gaining confidence in drawing with the brush, suggesting plant structures with different brush strokes, applying washes either to to fill shapes or to paint around shapes. There will be a lot of dropping colours into wet paint or water and finding ways of controlling very wet washes and/or coping with and taking advantage of some of the happy accidents that occur on the way.

This is what happens when washes get really out of control: painted with a large round brush, colour dropped in and left to its own devices!
Bit better: same round brush used for flowers and a 3/4 inch flat for the stem and leaf shapes. Same pink as for the flowers dropped into the green while still wet.
Top right: start of a wet in wet rose
Bottom: leaves “printed on with a large round brush, brown stem/twig painted while the leaves were a little damp; berries added with the same small round brush when all was dry
Left: poppy seed head shape wetted with clear water, pale olive green added; brown dropped in when a little drier and pale parts lifted before all was completely dry
Detail of poppy seed head; see caption above

Complicated shapes may need a pencil guideline and we’ll practise filling shapes with water before flooding them with colour and also painting around shapes and making wet in wet backgrounds. This means it’s a good idea to think in advance about the overall composition, the colours you need and the tonal range. Keep the number of pigments you use low and experiment to find which mixes will suit the work best.

Your washes should be ready in sufficient quantity and in the concentration needed for the painting, before the first wash is delivered to the paper. Always mix stronger than you think you will need as the colours will often be added to wet paper and they dry paler than they appear when wet.

The execution may be quite fast and spontaneous but a bit of thought and planning ahead will be invaluable.

Posy
Think it’s finished?

The three artists chosen for inspiration have different styles and by no means limit themselves to flower painting. One can learn a lot from studying their work so I have put together a Pinterest Board, link below referencing their work and techniques so do have a look. Each artist has a section within this board.

https://www.pinterest.co.uk/jhall1282/flower-painting-techniques/

Trevor Waugh has a magical way of working with washes and has produced books on watercolour roses in conjunction with the RHS at Kew Gardens. Paul Riley‘s compositions of floral still life subjects are sometimes quite complicated, but a lot the techniques can be used in much simpler studies and one can learn a lot about drawing with the brush as well as working in broader wetter passages from his works. He enjoys using oriental brushes for linear work and mark making. I am sure many of you will know Shirley Trevena‘s imaginative compositions, rooted in observation but often with an unreal and exciting twist.

For this course it will be useful to have;

Brushes: One large round, one small round brush, a rigger brush and a flat (half inch or larger). If you have other kinds of brushes, great! They will all be useful.

Watercolour paper 300gsm or heavier: 300gsm will cockle a little when very wet so may be a good idea to stretch your paper or use a block for the more considered paintings but this is not necessary for the exercises.

A block to tilt your drawing board. This will be better than a table easel and we will be working flat some of the time and/or turning the paper round so this is much easier to arrange if a block of wood about six inches long and about 2 1/2 inches in cross section.

Watercolour paints and a palette with deep wells. If you intend to work large a daisy palette or a plastic bun tin palette will be useful, although for most purposes and up to A3 size I find my usual folding palette adequate. Tubes are easier than pans to work at a large scale and if using pans remember to flood your paintbox with water so the pans are moist and the colours can be lifted easily without scrubbing the pan with the brush. Some artists use a different hardy brush like an acrylic brush for lifting paint from pan to palette to lessen the wear on their watercolour brushes.

Also: water pots, paper towel, small natural sponge

A couple of flowers to inspire your brush marks and washes.

This first session we’ll make a lot of brush marks on to dry paper and on to paper that is damp or randomly spattered with water. When making these marks we will have flower structures in mind but the purpose will be to find ways of making marks and controlling washes that will give a lively and free way of expressing these forms in watercolour.

After the exercises an expressive study of your chosen flowers should be attempted. The exercises will be done in real time as they are demonstrated at the class session. Hope the illustrations will give you a few ideas for the session.

Your Paintings;

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Pansies
by Sandra
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A variety of techniques from Sandra
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A Sampler of Flower Shapes
by Ann
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Bluebells
by Ann
Posy
Watercolour painted wet on dry by Virginia
Posy in a Tall Vase
Watercolour painted wet in wet by Virginia
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Flower Shapes
by Mali
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Blue Flowers
by Mali
Flowers in a Glass Vase
Watercolour by Kate
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Wisteria
by Maryon
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Roses
by Maryon

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