This is a photograph of one of our blossoming beauties named, “Minerva Amaryllis”, that I will be painting in watercolor. It’s petals range in color from salmon to pink with white tiger stripes extending out from the center. My husband grows this one, and many others in our kitchen window. When they quickly spring-up with their bright blossoms it can literally take-your-breath-away. Amaryllis always cheer-up the house in the winter.
First, I sketch the shapes using a 2H pencil, drawing very lightly so lines are erasable later on.
Next, I wet the first petal area being very careful to reserve (keep dry) the area in the middle. This dry area is where the white stripes will be. Proceeding on, I combine colors “wet-on-wet” in this pre-wetted area. Start with a mixture of orange and gambouge yellow, then apply drops of quinacridone magenta and alizaron crimson for the darkest edges. It is fascinating how the watercolors do almost all the work themselves. They combine in expressive gradations till they make edges that are sharp right where the wetness stops. This picture shows very bright the colors look when wet, but, remember that they will fade as they dry.
The approach for the second, third (behind), and fourth petals are pretty much the same except for the lighting changes as they stack.
Now, is when I look at the beginning of where the light and shadow occur on the flower surfaces. The stem below the blossom is heavily darkened.
Following this, I apply a light wash in the background petals that is more muted in value to exaggerate distance.
With a light wash showing the light sky background and greenery texture from below to eye-level, I am ready to begin painting the details.
I have been working on different approaches to rendering this Great White Heron from a photograph by Elise Beattie who teaches, “Fearless Painting” classes. The first post about this is a pen & ink study.
While studying the picture, I kept feeling as though the best part of the picture was missing. What would that be? Well, the reflection of the bird on the water. Being an artist allows me to go ahead with adding the missing piece in as I render this subject. I believe it is called the artist license.
Render Sun Reflection
Watercolor requires that you start with where you want to reserve white, then begin laying down lightest colors first. In this that will be where the sun is laying on the water.
I start to lay in the reeds behind and am careful to avoid where my Great White Heron is. Must preserve a pristine white area to work on later for the center-of-attention character.
As I add in the reeds on the right side additional lily pond type leaves are added to help the composition move in a circular motion.
Using royal and cerulean blues I begin to put the ripples of the water in.
A reflection is simply the original image turned upside down on the water. After turning it we need to take into account that the surface reflecting the image is not flat. As in this water scene with it’s many ripples that cut-up and distort the image. The more I apply the reed reflections and water colors I begin to lose the heron reflection so I apply a soft gray there that helps me to see it better.
This next step is scary as I apply a wash over all the water using ultramarine blue.
At this point I am darkening reflections and making details and adjustments. I should be able to finish this image this week. When I complete it I will be sure to post it so you can see it. Happy painting.
I am finishing this dahlia closeup watercolor this week. Here are 6 progressive shots of the painting’s progress.
12″w x 13″h watercolor on 300lb Arches paper.I establish the layout with a pencil sketch .
Starting with a background wash of alizaron crimson I begin to apply highlight color washes on the leaves, then progress to the light washes on the flowers.
Various shades of green and gray are applied to the leaves in the background.
The next step is, to bring up the intensity of the colors in the blossoms by applying bright layers.
To complete this piece, there is very little work remaining to be done . The process becomes a back and forth balancing act from here. I apply the darks and shadows. Followed by accentuating the lights until I get the look I want.
I will be sure to share the finished painting in the near future.
Doing a rose watercolor involves many steps. Most of the time I can describe my steps simply as washes-on-top-of, washes-on-top-of, washes and so forth. I tend to pile up layers and layers of wash until I like what I see.
I began with this yellow rose layout in a sketch. I put a real light wash in the body of the flower bloom first. Being carefully light with the paint I add the long stem and it’s leaves, along with the little bud peeking out on the left side. I am encouraged.
Lately, I have noticed that I have a habit of painting backgrounds with tons of detail going to the very edge of the paper. To change things up, I will work on getting a dramatic background without walking in those footsteps this time. The biggest realization I have is that this is not going to be good without some serious background to help it pop out. The challenge will be to make an appropriate background that pops but doesn’t take over the main image.
A light yellow rose watercolor can very easily fade into a white background and become a ghost. The background is my beginning to remedying that. With violet wash as a background I add a mixture of Crimson with it on wet areas to the edges of my main character. A good change, don’t you think?
Dropping vermillion or cadmium reds into these areas give a little more zing as it bleeds into the background violet and crimson.
Examining the watercolor rose procedure pictures I’ve taken makes another step that I take real apparent. The picture that I took of the blossom is the reference for the rose watercolor.
Never hesitate to get your old fashioned gear out. Improve by using “photography technique” along with that “real camera” (not a smart phone). Nothing, takes the place of good reference material. If you are trying to improve and learn about where the light hits and shadows extends to, use a well lit photograph. There are millions of amateur photographers out there flooding FaceBook and the image banks with junk, but very few “real skilled photographers” capturing memorable shots with enlightened essence anymore.
At this point we are looking at the dry version of this watercolor painting. Take note of the differences between the last two images and you will see a noticeable amount of fading occurs as the paints dry. While looking at a wet painting, there are many times that I am tempted to dab a bit of the pigment out of it because it seems so very bright when wet. If I can resist that urge, I am usually a lot happier with the result because the paints do fade so very much by the time they are dry.
This dahlia watercolor progress is slow as I experiment with getting the bright colors and shading right. It has been a while since I painted flowers, even though they are one of my favorite things in life. Isn’t it funny that we get distracted from what we love with our work in life? This paining seems to be more of a study of the light and casted shadow on the various petal surfaces. It is truly amazing how many surfaces there are on a single blossom. I love the play of light and how it makes something seem so 3D whenever I get it right.
Pink, my kingdom for a pink
It is surprising that the most difficult areas so far have been getting the right pinks to appear. It requires that I actually get the right amount of water to dilute the paint with the main one being used as Alzarian Crimson, or Scarlet Lake, the darks are better with the violet or purple ranges added. My daughter shares my interest in flowers, she has a site named www.dahliasinbloom.net, a place worth checking out.
You can see why I feel so inspired by blossoms, each day as I walk through our garden, I not only see vegetables and fruits. Luckily, there are many blossoms to pause and smell as I do my daily chores.
At this point, I am not sure if I am liking the way this watercolor is coming out so I may put it on the shelf to rest while I get back to my real work. When you paint for work sometimes your personal paintings have to wait till there is time again. The most important thing to me is to not make a big stack of unfinished art in my shelf, so I keep working on my un-done stack every week to keep it real small. A uncluttered studio is a happy studio.
The lighthouse and the other exterior buildings at the top of the cliff are rendered using grays and black for shadow and shape. The final adjustments throughout the rest of the painting are completed using red tones in the cliff side, and darker tones along each wave crest and the shoreline. All small touches that are so important to give that final zing of movement and shape.
The cliff on the left side of the image needs more earth tones and detailing. I need to darken all the way down to where the water is splashing up onto the rocks. It is a very high contrast area of the painting.
From this point on I typically add details to the most blaring areas first. The first areas catching my attention are the two areas on the cliff where the mastic was applied. They are way too bright and the wrong shape. I apply a light wash of earth tones to both bringing the values more in line. OK, they are less blaring.
Now I add shapes and colors as I see them from my reference images beginning with the middle area.
It is time to remove the mastic so I can get down to the details in painting this view. I start on the left side of the image, see the crisp whites appear where the yellow once was.
Proceed to the right side till all of the mastic is removed. Not all areas that I am removing the watercolor resist from were totally white. It is especially noticeable in the cliff where some of the original light wash shows through.
The cliffs are highlighted first with one of my favorite colors, Quinacridone Gold by Daniel Smith. I am replacing the colors I run out of with this brand whenever possible because the colors are so vibrant. To darken the Cliffside in the areas that are recessed along the shore I use an earth tone created by mixing greens and reds. This color combo creates the best blacks… a great array of darkness.
The same blues used in the sky are then added to the ocean swells along with greens and purples to mark the darkest areas in the waves. Water always seems to reflect the sky so well.