Guide du débutant à l’aquarelle | Peindre des fleurs et au-delà

Beginner Watercolor Tips for Painting Flowers

Just starting out in watercolor? Need a refresher? Or want to spruce up your skills for painting watercolor flowers?

Below, botanical artist and instructor Adele Rossetti Morosini shares advice for getting started with florals as well as great beginner watercolor essentials, regardless of subject matter. Enjoy!

Daises are a good beginner subject for watercolor flowers | Beginner Watercolor Tips -- Painting Flowers and Beyond | Article by Adele Rossetti Morosini and Artists Magazine

Daisies, Rachael Fritz/Unsplash

Flower Picking

If you’re new to painting flowers, I recommend you start with those containing relatively few petals — each of which is a simple shape. Some good floral subjects for beginners include:

  • Violas and pansies
  • Single roses (with only one whorl of petals)
  • Clematis
  • Daises
  • Tulips, especially when viewed from the side
  • Single fruit blossoms

Variety is Key

If you’re painting multiple flowers, group them in uneven numbers. This usually results in a more lively composition than if you arrange flowers symmetrically or in identical groups. It also helps to avoid the problems that come with crowded, complicated subjects.

Beginner Watercolor Tips -- Painting Flowers and Beyond

Flower and Toad by Zhang Xiong, 19th century, ink on silk, 10 1/2-inch diameter; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Choose Your Angle

Before beginning to draw or paint your flower, look at it from all angles to find the easiest view to depict clearly. We often choose a head-on view without thinking. But this can, in fact, be one of the hardest views to paint — especially for flowers whose centers are set deep within the petals.

Beginner Watercolor Tips -- Painting Flowers and Beyond | Article by Adele Rossetti Morosini and Artists Magazine

Floral art by Adele Rossetti Morosini

Pro tip: Indoors, flowers are easiest to paint in moderately bright, even light. Outdoors, look for bright, indirect sunlight.

Beginner Watercolor Tips, Beyond Florals

Be Smooth

A smooth gradation of color is a nice technique to incorporate in a composition, whether painting flowers or any other subject. It is easier to achieve if you first moisten the area of the paper where it will be applied.

The moisture in the paper will draw the paint out smoothly, resulting in a spot of color with soft edges. This technique is very useful but requires some practice. Try it out on a spare piece of the same type of paper you’ll be using for your painting — and be persistent!

Beginner Watercolor Tips -- Painting Flowers and Beyond | Article by Adele Rossetti Morosini and Artists Magazine

H20 (Times 2)

When painting with watercolor, use two jars of water. Designate one of them for cleaning your brushes. The water in it will become the color of the paints washed off of the brushes. Change it whenever it becomes too dirty.

Use the water in the other jar for diluting colors and mixing washes. This is essentially part of your paint, so it’s important to keep this jar of water completely clean. Only dip your brushes into it after they’ve been thoroughly rinsed in the other jar.

Beginner Watercolor Tips -- Painting Flowers and Beyond | Article by Adele Rossetti Morosini and Artists Magazine

Dry Flat

Whenever you take a break or finish painting, rinse off your brushes and lay them flat on a clean paper towel to dry. If a wet brush is placed upright in a container, moisture will seep inside the metal ferrule that holds the brush together. This weakens the glue that binds the hairs and eventually destroys the brush.

Leaving brushes soaking in a jar of water can cause the same long-term damage. But this will make a brush unusable long before that by causing a bend or “heel” in the hairs.

Beginner Watercolor Tips -- Painting Flowers and Beyond | Article by Adele Rossetti Morosini and Artists Magazine

Blend in Bulk

A color mixed from several ready-made paints can be difficult to duplicate. If there’s a chance you’ll need a large amount of one color, mix a larger batch than you expect to use. This way, you’ll be sure to have enough for your entire painting.

Blend your colors using a palette with wells or another small container. Deeper containers will allow you to mix larger amounts of a color than is possible on a regular, flat palette.

These beginner watercolor tips from Adele Rossetti Morosini first appeared in Artists Magazine. Subscribe here to never miss an issue.

Bonus Tip: Basic Brushstrokes

In this quick video tutorial below, Paul Jackson demonstrates three fundamental brushstrokes in watercolor: flat wash, gradated wash and wet-in-wet.

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