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Category Archive: Floral

Watercolour Flowers Week 4: Composing with Flowers

May 18, 2022

This week the challenge will be to make a painting with flowers of different sizes and colours in the garden. Perhaps find two or three large blooms, poppies for example with spikes of blue Veronica and white daisies making a soft focus backdrop. The colours in your garden may be more harmonious like foxgloves withe pale pink and purple Aquilegia.

In week 2 we looked at dark backgrounds for pale blooms but in the real world you will find flowers against backgrounds that are similar or paler in colour and you may also find flowers like pale Rhodedendrons and Azaleas where the leaves form a dark green backdrop for the blooms.

This challenge should result in a fairly free painting of the flowers but with close attention as to how various background shapes, tones and colours work harmoniously or discordantly with some large flowers seen close to. Do look at the works of Shirley Trevena: Pinterest Board link below

https://www.pinterest.co.uk/jhall1282/flower-painting-in-watercolour/shirley-trevena/

These works on one level are quite free but are also highly organised. See how she arranges the little painting of spray carnations where half the painting is dark against light and this is reversed in the top half. Your painting may not be this extreme but be very aware of how the flowers appear against different colours and tones.

So far we have used very little in the way of a guideline drawn with pencil to map out the shapes so have gained a lot of experience in handling the paint with a brush. It’s now time for a slightly different approach.

This is the week where a tonal sketch before setting off on the final painting will help enormously in organising the composition with regard to the light and dark areas. It would also be a good idea to make another small study juxtaposing some of the colours you are going to use in the foreground with the smaller shapes and colours in the distance and play with the hues surrounding each flower.

When the sheet of of watercolour paper for the final piece is in front of you, make sure to mark the paper so that it is in the same proportion as the composition sketch or photo-reference chosen to work from. Do map out all the main areas and challenging shapes with pencil. Think about whether and where to apply masking fluid or a wax resist for the white/palest areas. It may be that it would be better to reserve the white of the paper by painting around the shapes to be left untouched and to used pigments that can be lifted out while the paint is still damp or after the first washes are dry. Note that “staining” pigments do precisely that and will sink into the paper so that when dry they are very hard or impossible to lift out.

As the painting progresses it may be that elements of the flowers and the background are worked at the same time. It can be great to leave some hard edges but there will be other places where it may be good to let wet paint bleed from one area into another. Make sure a damp sponge, “dry brush” (brush dipped in water then squeezed gently in some paper tissue) or just the paper tissue is to hand in case the flow gets out of hand.

Don’t worry about the end result, to some extent you will have to go with the flow, enjoy the process and have fun. Not sure whether this post will get illustrated but if not there is plenty of food for thought here and plenty to look at on the Pinterest Board.

Your Paintings;

Flowers in Watercolour Week 3: From dark Backgrounds to Colourful Blooms

May 13, 2022

Smell the Lilacs

As the lilacs are pretty much ended I was delighted to find a couple of headily perfumed blooms left to paint. The painting above was on a quarter sheet of Bockingford cold pressed watercolour paper which stood up to very wet washes, indenting wet paint to make veins in the leaves and lifting out areas to soften them and give and indication of petals.

The white of untouched paper shines through in the glass jar. This time I decided against masking fluid as I hoped for a soft look to the painting.

The three images below show how a smaller study was made on very damp paper working wet in wet then leaving the paper to dry before re-wetting the paper and adding further washes. Some lifting out was done while the paint was wet but the petal shapes were lifted out when the paper was dry.

First very wet washes on dampened paper. The lilac blooms were lifted out from the wet wash with a small sponge. The more defined washes were added when the paper was almost dry. For really hard edges the paper needs to be completely dry.
When the first washes were dry the paper was more washes were added. Some wet in wet and some as on the flowers were wet on dry against the white but by wetting the paper below the blooms the wash had a soft edge below bleeding pigment into the leaves. Further washes indicated a darker tone for the table. More leaves were added while the paper was still slightly damp.
Finally petal shapes were lifted out out from dry paper and other areas strengthened, especially the leaves and table.

This week’s challenge is to paint flowers as they grow in the garden using any of the watercolour techniques used so far and with the aim of capturing an impression of their character; how they look up at you as the pansies and little pink geraniums or how they point toward the sky like the iris in the photo below..

Iris
Photo by Jo

If you have time try to get out into the garden and sketch and photograph your favourite flowers. Make sketches of individual blooms, buds, stems and leaves to familiarise yourself with the shapes, and small composition sketches to explore the arrangement you may choose to paint. Iris and Weigela are blooming as are geraniums and Aquilegia so there should be plenty of colour around.

Iris
Photo by Jo

Before starting to paint explore the colours and brush strokes which will help depict the plant’s character and then review the composition sketchesmade outside and home in on one idea for the final painting. This may include just one or two plant stems relatively close up or with a backdrop of the same flowers or different plants giving an impression of a massed planting.

Experiment with colours and how they interact when mixed to find the hues and strength of washes you will need, erring on the side of making more wash and stronger washes than you think you may need. It is easy and quick to add water, not so easy to “drop in ” strong colour if it isn’t already mixed.

You may like to look at the following Pinterest board for some ideas on painting iris, link below:

https://www.pinterest.co.uk/jhall1282/flower-painting-in-watercolour/iris/

Your paintings:

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

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