Watercolours: A Fiery Pair (demonstration)

Time for another art demo! Today we’re painting some fiery red, yellow and orange tulips in watercolour.

This painting is based on a photo by Sei Nakatugawa in the Facebook group, Photos for Artists. I’m pretty sure they’re tulips but I don’t know what variety (if any of my readers, can tell me, please leave a comment). As always, if you don’t have these exact colours or brands, use the closest thing you have in your existing supplies.

Sennelier Watercolours
-Lemon Yellow
-Sennelier Orange
-Alizarin Crimson (Hue)
-Dioxazine Purple
-Ultramarine Deep
-Cerulean Blue
-Turquoise Green
-Viridian Green
-Payne’s Grey
-Titanium White

Raphael Squirrel Mop size 2
Raphael Red Sable Round size 4
Isabey Kolinsky Sable Round size 1
Isabey Kolinsky Sable Round size 3/0

Masking Tape

St Cuthbert’s Mill Saunders Waterford Watercolour Paper – 300gsm Rough (140X190mm)

Step 1
After masking off the edges of the paper and working out the composition, transfer the lines to your watercolour paper. Mix a dark wash of Dioxazine Purple and Payne’s Grey and fill in the background. You might need to do several layers in order to build it up so it’s a solid almost-black with a hint of purple. If you’re a beginner, I’d also recommend mixing up a lot more of this colour than you think you’ll need, or you’ll run out half way through and find yourself watering it down to make it last the whole background, resulting in uneven washes. Using a weaker wash of this mix, lay in the shadows down the right side of the tulip stems and under the flowers (and a weaker shadow across the middle of the stem of the right tulip), and blur the bottoms of the stems so they fade into the background.

Step 2
Paint a weak wash of Cerulean Blue over the stems, making it lighter where the light hits. Mix up some Turquoise Green and Viridian Green and go over the middle value areas of the stems, allowing some of the Cerulean Blue to show through. Let this dry, then add some Ultramarine Deep to the mix and add darker shadows over the grey-purple shadows you did in Step 1, blending these so they gradate smoothly around the stem.

Now it’s time to paint the tulips themselves. When painting flowers, I find it easiest to work one petal at a time. Start with Lemon Yellow and put in a weak layer of this over all parts of the tulip flowers except for the bright white highlights and the areas that are a deep, cool red, graduating to a stronger mix in the areas that will be orange. Wait for this to dry. Make a pale wash of Sennelier Orange and then put this over the lightest non-white areas of the tulips and some of the yellow parts, for a hint of rosy orange. Let this dry as well.

Step 3
Building up colours on the tulips will be a gradual process. Mix Lemon Yellow and Carmine for a light-medium orange and apply weak layers of this over orange parts of the tulips, overlapping the yellow and Sennelier Orange in some places. Add more Carmine to this mix for a reddish orange and start adding it to the darker areas of the petals. As you add these darker colours, be sure to leave highlights along the outer edges of the petals.

Step 4
For some of the medium dark areas, add Alizarin Crimson Hue to the Carmine and Lemon Yellow mix, then lay a mid-strength wash of this over the relevant parts of the flower. For the much darker areas, use pure Alizarin Crimson Hue. There are a few very dark shadow areas (under the left most petal of the left flower and in the centre of the right flower) so use Alizarin Crimson Hue with a touch of your Dioxazine Purple and Payne’s Grey mix from the background (adding some of the background colour to the subject helps unify a piece). Use a small brush here (a size 1 round or smaller) and make your strokes follow the contours of the petals, creating a stripy, feathery texture in some places.

Around the bases of the tulips (where they join the stems), mix some of your Viridian Green/Turquoise Green stem colour with a bit of the Carmine and Lemon Yellow Orange mix, and add in some shadows to help join the flowers to the stems. Take some of your leftover green and add some Lemon Yellow to it and add this to some parts of the underside of your tulips. If, like me, you’re not happy with the highlights you left on the edges of the tulip petals, use Titanium White and a small round brush to go over the edges again, making them lighter.

All that’s left to do now is sign your name. I used Titanium White mixed with the Dioxazine Violet/Payne’s Grey background mix.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this watercolour demo. Keep an eye on my blog for more art demonstrations, as I’m hoping to do a few more watercolour demos over the next couple of months.

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