Watercolours: Wisterias (demonstration)

I had planned to spend Good Friday catching up on uni work, but after being hit with both a stomach bug AND a migraine on Thursday, I still wasn’t feeling up to doing much, so I thought I’d cheer myself up by playing with my watercolours. Since it was a fairly simple painting, I decided I’d turn it into a demonstration post. As always, I’ve listed the brands and names of the colours I’ve used, but you can find the equivalent colour in your preferred brand.

M Graham Watercolours:
-Nickel Azo Yellow
-Quinacridone Rose
-Ultramarine Blue
-Cerulean Blue
-Phthalo Green
-Quinacridone Rust

Winsor & Newton Watercolours:
-Smalt (Dumont’s) Blue

-Silver Black Velvet 3/4 inch flat
-Silver Black Velvet size 10 round
-Creative Mark Rhapsody Kolinsky Sable size 4 round
-Creative Mark Ebony Splendor size 2 round

-Handmade watercolour paper postcard (the paper I used was sent by a friend in Italy and is hand-made near the art shop where she works, but there are commercial brands of handmade watercolour paper available)

Step 1
After taping down your watercolour postcard, wet the surface with a generous coat of clear water (using the 3/4 inch flat) and let it dry almost completely. Wet it again, and then drop in some thin washes of colour onto the paper, allowing them to run together (from now until near the end of the painting, use either the size 10 or size 4 round). For the bottom left corner, I used Cerulean Blue (with a tiny touch of Smalt Blue in the very corner). The green areas were a mixture of Phthalo Green and Nickel Azo Yellow (for the yellow green) and Phthalo Blue, Nickel Azo Yellow and Quinacridone Rust (for the darker, more olive green). For the area where the flowers will go, use a mixture of Quinacridone Rose and a small amount of Ultramarine Blue for the pinkish areas, and use straight Smalt Blue for the darker blue-violet areas. Try to indicate the subtle cone shapes of the Wisteria flowers, letting them blend with the pale blue background. Let this dry.

Note 1: You may want to mix up separate pools of these colours before you start applying them. If you have to mix each one before applying them, you run the risk of having your paper dry out too much while you are mixing.

Note 2: Keep in mind that watercolours can often dry up to 30% lighter than they look when they’re wet, so take this into account when you’re mixing up your washes. Don’t worry if the first layer turns out too light. You can always add another wash over the top (make sure the underlayer is dry first, to avoid muddying the colours).

Step 2
Using stronger mixes of the colours used in step 1, start adding more details. Paint the leaves with your two different greens, adding a touch more Quinacridone Rust and/or Nickel Azo Yellow to some leaves for variety. Use the Quinacridone Rose and Ultramarine Blue mixture to start dotting some petals onto the pinkish Wisterias, and use Smalt Blue for the blue ones. For the purple Wisterias, use a combination of Quinacridone Rose and Smalt Blue. Take care to let some of the pale washes in the background show through, to give the impression of more distant flowers hanging behind those at the front.

Step 3
Using stronger mixes of your Step 1 and 2 colours (there shouldn’t be much water in them now), build up more layers of petals on your flowers with your pink, purple and blue mixtures, and the yellow-green and olive-green leaves, respectively. Make sure that some of the Wisteria flowers overlap, and for each flower, add little specks of the other flower colours (some purple into the blue, and some blue into the pink) to give them more depth. Mix Quinacridone Rust with some Ultramarine Blue to paint in the twigs at the top corners, and to add some of the tiny stems within the bunches of flowers (use the size 2 round brush for this step). Don’t overdo these little stems; only add them to some of the flowers, and each flower should only have a couple of stems visible, as most would be hidden by the petals. With the same dark brown mixture, add your signature in the bottom corner. Once it’s all dry, carefully peel away the masking tape from the edges (and I do mean carefully; if you rip it off quickly like I did, it could tear away some of the painted area, meaning you’ll have to patch it up with more paint).

Thus concludes another watercolour painting demonstration. It’s a fairly simple painting and is therefore well-suited to beginners, and it works as both a small post-card sized painting or as a larger piece. So if you want to try your hand at a floral, get out your paints and have a go!

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