The other day, my friend Arvind, a gifted photographer who has recently taken up drawing and painting, asked me how I go about painting watercolor flowers. I’m not sure I was helpful in answering his questions, but it occurred to me that some of you might be interested as well. Here is a step-by-step guide to my process.
- Start with Light
As a photographer myself (and a fan of the Impressionists), I’m inspired by natural light. If I’m painting flowers, I position them in a spot where there are beautifully illuminated. The most atmospheric light is usually very early in the morning or early evening. Since natural light is fleeting, I snap a photograph or two.
- Make a Value Study
Next I work out my composition in monochromatic watercolor. My goal here is to capture the tonal range of the scene, exaggerating the values for dramatic effect. In the past I never bothered with value studies, but I’ve found they are well worth the time. Essentially a value study serves as a roadmap to where I want to go. Without that roadmap, I tend to meander around, wasting paper and time.
- Paint Freely with a Limited Palette
Once I’ve sorted out the composition and light, I pick my colors. I always keep my palette limited to a handful of colors (often just two colors). Having mapped out where I want to go in terms of value and color, I’m free to paint very quickly and loosely. That’s the thing about watercolor. It’s spontaneous, but if you truly have no idea where you’re going, you end up with a muddy painting. And who wants that?
This painting is available as a print in my online shop.
See It In The Shop