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Watercolour Flowers, a Free Approach: Week 2

May 6, 2022

The first part of this post is a recap of what we did in the last session. The second part explores painting pale flowers and backgrounds.

Brush strokes and dropping more pigment into the wet paint on dry paper.
The top three brushes were used to make the shapes; two round brushes small and large and a small pointed squirrel mop. The small round brush was used to tease out the tiniest parts of the flower like shape at the bottom left.
The much larger squirrel mop below these brushes has an excellent point so although I usually use it when when working at a larger scale it is a versatile brush capable of making fine lines and adding small marks for detail.

By increasing the pressure as the stroke is made and then decreasing the pressure as the stroke is ended and the brush lifted from the paper leaf shapes both thin and broader can be made with round brushes. We also used flat brushes to make a variety of marks resembling leaf shapes by twisting the brush as the stroke is made. Depending on whether the broad or thin edge of the brush is presented to the paper a variety of line widths can be made with flat brushes. Some of the best fun can be had by loading a brush; any variety and using it sideways as a printer on to dry or damp paper.

Below is a demonstration of a cornflower where flat and round brushes were used on wet and dry paper.

Cornflower
Painted on damp paper on the left and on dry paper on the right.

A wash of water was applied to half the sheet with a large brush and allowed to dry just a little. Colour was added as the paper slowly dried. Defined shapes occurred where the wash has been mopped with a “dry brush”, tissue or sponge.

When working in watercolour, especially when working on wet paper it is essential to have your colour washes mixed and at the ready, together with a sponge, tissue paper or to pick up excess paint as you proceed or to remove moisture from your brush so that the brush can be used to control very wet washes.

Another wet in wet study on cold pressed paper.
While the paint was wet a blunt tool was used to score the paper so that paint filled the troughs to indicate veins on the leaves.

Now it is time to consider backgrounds both for dark and especially for pale paintings of pale flowers.

This started as an experiment on dry paper. A red circle of very wet paint was applied with a large round brush and rough lines were added radiating from the centre. While still very wet a wash of water was made around the red so that it touched the red in places allowing it to bleed out. Purple was dropped into the wet paint and more red and purple dropped into the centre.

It was then allowed to dry. Dark washes were added mostly wet in wet and with indenting to suggest marks on the flower as well as leaf veins. The dark leaf mixes were made using Viridian mixes with Alizarin and Purple and also Viridian with Burnt Sienna. The result of perhaps too many layers is a very dark painting of an azalea like flower.
Imagine: Dark Azalea

With a lighter touch a dark background to pale flowers can preserve a feeling of freshness as in the watercolour sketch of some apple blossom below. Here I did have a model in front of me and applied some colours using a round brush and very fluid washes on dry paper.

Apple Blossom: first washes on dry paper

This was allowed to dry before dampening large areas of the sketch and dropping in colour. the shapes were refined using a small brush while the paint was still wet. Washes were allowed over the leaves in places refining their shapes. This time I stopped before the whole thing got too heavy and finally added some very pale yellow at the flower centre and a couple of pencil marks to indicate stamens. The result was lively and playful rather than accurate reflecting the joy apple blossom brings.

Apple Blossom: dark background added mostly wet in wet and some of the washes continued across the leaves

The point is that the background can often determine the mood of the painting and it is important that the way the subject is treated should be complemented by its background.

Daisies:
Left: painted around
Centre: masked
Right: wax resist

This week’s challenge is to paint pale or white flowers. Painting a background reveals the shapes of white flowers and is easier than painting pale blooms with no background. Colour, tone and how much to simplify backgrounds are all important factors to consider as well as deciding how free and loose you approach should be.

Inevitably you may question whether to mask or not to mask parts of the composition. Masking fluid can free you up to be more adventurous with the background but may make your flowers appear more graphic and less painterly. Painting around the subject may make you simplify more than was the original intention but that is not always a bad thing.

At the end of the day the only way is to experiment.

Same flowers different look!
Left: background painted around the flowers
Right: masking fluid used on the flowers and the jar
The study on the left was of the same jam jar of flowers as on the right. The objects are more simplified and less accurate. Hints of colour have already been added.
The study on the right was carefully masked with masking fluid and washes applied when the masking had dried. Because the background was applied more uniformly and quite dark every detail of the marks made with the masking fluid are visible giving it a much more graphic quality. I was quite pleased with both and had I developed them further would have ended up with two paintings of the same subject but with a very different feel to to them.

Some more ideas for painting white or pale flowers can be found on my Pinterest Board, Link below:

https://www.pinterest.co.uk/jhall1282/flower-painting-in-watercolour/white-and-pale-flowers/

White Tulips
Photo by Jo
White Lilacs on a Blue Cloth
Photo by Jo

So first find some white flowers for the session and we’ll investigate ways to paint them in a way that has enough structure but still feels free and lively.

Your Paintings;

Iris and Libertia
by Maryon
Iris Study
by Maryon
Exploring Background Colours
by Sandra
White Bloom
by Ann
Small White Flowers
by Ann
Flowers masked before painting the wet in wet background
Choisya in Pink Pot
by Anne
Golden Rose 1
by Kate
Golden Rose 2
by Kate
Daisy Flowers
by Kate
Window Box
by Virginia
Apple Blossom
by Virginia
Freesia
by Mali
White Flowers
by Mali

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