GUEST ARTIST: Nature-Inspired Watercolors by Krzysztof Kowalski

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Krzysztof Kowalski - Rhythm of Nature - #doodlewash

Hi everyone! My name is Krzysztof Kowalski. First of all, I would like to thank Charlie for inviting me to be a guest artist. I’m very honored to be among all the wonderful artists featured here. Thank you!

Background

I’m a self-taught watercolorist based in Poland. My background is not connected with art. I have a master’s degree in Social Readaptation and in 2018, I’m finishing my second master’s degree in Indonesian and Malay Philology. I have never attended an art school. I’ve been painting since I can remember and it’s always been my hobby. I used to paint with oils and draw with graphite pencils.

There was also an episode with soft pastels too. But it was watercolors that I fell in love with. I discovered them in 2012, and since then, watercolor painting became my great passion.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Krzysztof Kowalski - The Voice Of The Garden - #doodlewash

The Voice Of The Garden, 5″ x 5″

Realism

I like to paint in a realistic style. Sometimes I read comments like “At first I thought it was a photo!”. That’s nice, because it means that my paintings are realistic enough to say exactly what they depict. On the other hand, people sometimes exaggerate saying that it’s like photorealism. It is not and I don’t even try to paint photorealistically. I like to call my style just realism with a touch of my spirit. In my paintings, I try to be precise and capture the essence of the subjects, which are usually flowers.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Krzysztof Kowalski - Lilium Ragale - #doodlewash

Why do I paint mostly flowers? I think it has something to do with my childhood. My father was an alcoholic (he stopped drinking a few years ago) and art was some kind of a shelter from problems. I very often visited my grandparents who grew beautiful flowers in the garden.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Krzysztof Kowalski - Magic Glow - #doodlewash

I still remember the smell of huge peonies, lilies and tulips. It was like an escape to a different, colorful world where everything was beautiful, sincere and innocent. Also my mom has always loved flowers and, many times, I painted them for her to make her happy. I still do.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Krzysztof Kowalski - Pink Lilies - #doodlewash

Pink Lilies, 14.5″ x 11″

Floral style

I can paint flowers for hours. Each of them is different and tells a different story. The shapes of the petals, their colors and patterns always amaze me. In my paintings, I try to depict flowers realistically, trying to capture the incredible shapes of nature, but leaving some space for my interpretation. There is always that more creative part of the painting process than just reproducing the picture. Like I mentioned earlier, I’m not a hyperrealist. I always try to put in something of myself. My paintings always have a bit of my spirit.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Krzysztof Kowalski - Spirit of Hope - #doodlewash

Spirit of Hope, 20.5″ x 12.2″

My journey with painting flowers started with Janet Whittle’s Painting Flowers and Plants. When I first saw that book it was like magic came into my life. I saw how beautiful watercolor floral paintings can be. I read this book during one evening and I think it has influenced me and my style a lot. I wanted to paint like Janet. Her negative painting technique was completely abstract for me at that time, but I couldn’t stop looking at her paintings. I wanted to know how she did that, how to achieve similar effects. I started to absorb everything about watercolor painting from the Internet and books.

Botanical style

In 2014, I discovered a botanical style of painting and fell in love immediately. It turned out that I have enough patience to paint all the details. I started to read books about it, mostly from abroad, because here botanical style is not popular at all.

My first book about it was Billy Showell’s A-Z of Flower Portraits. It was the only book about this style in the Polish language (it is still the only one!). I was hooked. From my usual, floral style of painting, I went to another direction, which required even more precision. I really like to gradually build up something bigger from tiny bits and pieces. In 2016, a series of my botanical paintings was exhibited during the Museums at Night event in Gdańsk.

Botanical painting is very exciting, because I always learn something new about the subject I’m painting. In order to paint something correctly, you have to get to know the subject better. Here’s an example. When I was asked to paint 5 illustration for the Museums at Night event, the paintings had to refer to Maria Sibylla Merian’s artworks. My process of creating those five illustrations lasted about a year.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Krzysztof Kowalski - Attacus Atlas and Rambutan Detail - #doodlewash

Attacus Atlas And Rambutan Tree, Detail, 16″ x 12″

I wanted to know who exactly Maria was, how she was painting, what subjects she included in her paintings, how she made her compositions and so on. Later, when I tried to figure out what to paint, I did some research on each subject from my illustrations. And that was a very educational process! Did you know, that in China the Giant Atlas Moth (Attacus Atlas), which is the largest moth in the world, is called “snake’s head moth”? The name refers to the outer tips of the wings that look very similar to the head of a snake. That’s fascinating!

Patience

Patience is always my golden rule. Watercolor painting has taught me to be patient. When I started painting with watercolors, I had to finish a painting in one sitting. Now I can paint something even for a month, because I know that patience pays off. I’m often asked about how long it takes me to paint a painting. Of course it depends on how big and detailed the painting is. Here are some examples:

Materials

I think that the paper is the most important in watercolor painting. I always use 100% cotton paper, because other papers will not allow me to achieve similar results. I use both cold press and hot press papers, depending on what I’m painting. If it’s something in a botanical style, I always use hot press. My favorite hot press papers are Fabriano Artistico and Saunders Waterford (I’m planning to test Canson Heritage soon). My favorite cold press papers are Arches and Canson Fontenay.

There are several brushes which I use most frequently: Escoda Reserva #10 round, Raphael series 8408 #6 and #4 round, Winsor & Newton One Stroke 1” flat. Raphael brushes have an excellent point. They are very good brushes for fine details.
I always use professional watercolor paints and I carefully choose colors.

I’m a color junky and I try to be very conscious about the characteristics of paints. I always take a closer look at the pigments, not the brand, because I think the particular brand is not important when you use professional paints. All of them are excellent. What counts is the characteristic of the particular color. Most of my paints are Winsor & Newton, some colors are from Daniel Smith and one is from Schmincke Horadam.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Krzysztof Kowalski - Rambutans Wips - #doodlewash

There are four main steps in choosing the colors for my palette:

  1.  Six basic colors (yellows: warm and cool, blues: warm and cool, reds: warm and cool)
  2. Earth tones, which are three shades of brown: yellowish brown, reddish brown and some dark brown
  3. Frequently used colors, like Permanent Rose or Quinacridone Gold
  4. Additional colors.

I love colors. My palette has never been limited. Nature creates so many beautiful colors, why should we restrain ourselves from experimenting with them.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Krzysztof Kowalski - Big Porcelain Palette - #doodlewash

Big Porcelain Palette With 30 Wells

At the moment I have three main palettes. One is a big porcelain one with 30 big wells. I think that porcelain/ceramic is the best surface for mixing watercolors. I very often use dishes, saucers or I have even found a ceramic candle stand which works excellent. I also have a metal box for 24 half pans. And my latest purchase is a Mijello palette with 33 wells.

At my Teachable, you can find a detail lesson on materials I use. There is also a free short e-book about the colors on my palette and how to choose colors in general.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Krzysztof Kowalski - e-book - #doodlewash

Preview of my e-book. Everything you need to know about my watercolor palette

Process

I don’t like the stage of making a sketch. I like to use colors, I love colors and I want to paint straightaway. It happened many times that I avoided painting only because I knew I had to make a sketch. Not long ago, I finally bought a light pad (Huion, size A3) and my life is now much easier. I usually paint from photos, so I print out the photo, place it on the light pad, then watercolor paper on top and I just trace. It is so much faster and easier.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Krzysztof Kowalski - Peonies - #doodlewash

Painting from photos and using a light pad may be controversial for some, but in my opinion there is nothing wrong about it. I always say that if something can help you, just use it. I paint mostly from my own photos. In many cases it’s just not possible to paint from a real object. When I travel I take hundreds of photos, why shouldn’t I use them? There are also many websites and groups where people share their wonderful photos under CC0 license or similar (for example Paint My Photo or Pixabay).

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Krzysztof Kowalski - Peony - #doodlewash

I share my process of painting on my YouTube and my blog. You can find many photos from works in progress where I explain what colors I use and I show how I apply them in layers.

Example: Melitaea Didyma Butterfly

I always start from the lightest parts of a subject. In this case the butterfly’s wings have three main colors: very pale creamy color, orange and black. Keeping in mind that it’s impossible to apply a lighter color on top of the darker one, I started with a very pale wash of Naples Yellow Deep PBr24. When this layer dried, I added the orange parts on top.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Krzysztof Kowalski - Melitaea Didyma 01 - #doodlewash

The next step was to add some shadows, before adding the darkest darks. A mix of Naples Yellow Deep PBr24 with French Ultramarine PB29 worked here as my shadow color. Instead of Naples Yellow Deep, I could have used Burnt Sienna (which makes a grey with French Ultramarine), but I like to keep within my color scheme. If I know that I can create a color with the colors I have already used, I’m not looking for a different one.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Krzysztof Kowalski - Melitaea Didyma 02 - #doodlewash

Before adding blacks, I painted the head and the body of the butterfly. I used white tempera with a touch of blue watercolor to paint the hairs. At the bottom part of the body I used a beautiful mix of Phthalo Blue Green Shade PB15 with Cobalt Turquoise Light PG50.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Krzysztof Kowalski - Melitaea Didyma 03 - #doodlewash

Finally, I used black to paint dark patterns. My favorite black is a mix of Perylene Green PBk31 and Pyrrol Crimson PR264.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Krzysztof Kowalski - Melitaea Didyma 05 - #doodlewash

Layers

I apply many layers of paint. Usually the first one is applied wet-on-wet to map in the colors and leave the highlights. The next layers are wet-on-wet or wet-on-dry depending on the particular area. At the end, I usually take a look at a whole piece and I add shadows, unifying glazes or additional layers of stronger colors.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Krzysztof Kowalski - Peruvian Lily - #doodlewash

I like to build up the shapes by slowly adding one layer on top of another. This way we can achieve realistic results. The layers are very thin, otherwise it’s easy to overwork. And the golden rule is always the same: allow each layer to dry completely before adding another one. This is very important.

wip big brother lily

The Big Broth Lily and Swallowtail Butterfly, Work In Progress, 16″ x 12″

Sketchbook

I also have a sketchbook. The one I’m currently using is a Stillman & Birn Zeta series with hot press paper. I bought it with the idea of urban sketching in my mind, but it quickly became a sketchbook for everything. I genuinely admire watercolor sketches of others. I have always been in awe with Brenda Swenson’s sketchbooks. Absolutely gorgeous sketches. I use my sketchbook for sketching obviously, but also for color testing. If I’m working on something complex, it happens that I first make some color tests in my sketchbook, to see if the colors are correct.

Teaching

I’ve always loved to share my experience and knowledge. On my blog I’m posting photos of works in progress explaining what I’m doing. I also upload tutorials and demos on my YouTube channel (most of them with captions as English is not my native language).

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Krzysztof Kowalski - Owl - #doodlewash

My followers have also encouraged me to set up my lessons at Teachable, which I did at the beginning of 2017. Teachable is a very user-friendly platform. The lessons are more organized, detailed and I somehow found courage to record my voiceover, so it’s easier to follow the videos.

Future

In August 2017, I’m going to Indonesia for a one year scholarship. This will be the last year of my studies and after coming back, I am planning to dedicate myself to art much more than now and create more classes. I will have more time for art and I can’t wait for that! I want to share my joy of watercolors with others!

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Krzysztof Kowalski - The Indian Fantail Pigeon - #doodlewash

Happy painting!

Krzysztof Kowalski
Website
Etsy Shop
Botanical Painting Blog
Online Classes
Facebook
YouTube
Instagram
Polish Website

Creator of Doodlewash® and founder of World Watercolor Month™ (July) and World Watercolor Group™. Sharing daily watercolor illustrations and stories while proudly featuring talented artists from all over the world! If you’d like to be a guest artist on Doodlewash.com, contact me!

Recommended1 recommendationPublished in Featured Artists
38 Comments
  1. snigdhadotcom 7 months ago

    Beautiful paintings…. Awsome 👍👍👍👍😍😍

    • Krzysztof Kowalski 7 months ago

      Thank you! 😊🎨🌿

  2. Watercolorsfromholland 7 months ago

    Breathtaking beautiful watercolours and techniques!

    • Krzysztof Kowalski 7 months ago

      Thank you! 😊 🎨 🌿

  3. Susan Feniak 7 months ago

    Gloriously realistic. I am in awe.

    • Krzysztof Kowalski 7 months ago

      Thank you very much! 😊🌷🌹

  4. Pao Alfonso 7 months ago

    Holy moly. that’s gorgeous!

    • Krzysztof Kowalski 7 months ago

      😁 Thank you! 🌿🌷

  5. Heide 7 months ago

    Your work is EXTRAORDINARY! I am in awe both of your talent, and your discipline in applying it (40 hours for a painting is serious dedication). Thank you for sharing your work with us. And a big thanks to Charlie too!

    • Krzysztof Kowalski 7 months ago

      Thank you very much Heide! 😊🌿🌷

  6. Susanna Maurer 7 months ago

    What a great talent!

    • Krzysztof Kowalski 7 months ago

      Thank you! 😊 🎨 🌿

  7. jmnowak 7 months ago

    Such vibrancy and beauty. More good luck for your painting future. 👌🎈💝

    • Krzysztof Kowalski 7 months ago

      Thank you!😀🌹🌿

  8. M. L. Kappa 7 months ago

    Lovely work! Enjoy Indonesia 🌺

    • Krzysztof Kowalski 7 months ago

      Thank you!😀🌿🌷

  9. Luis 7 months ago

    I loved your entry and your work. Do you have any pieces for sell??

  10. Judy 7 months ago

    I absolutely love the sensitive colors and vibrancy in your paintings. Thank you for sharing technical information. As a professional illustrator, I really appreciated it!

    • Krzysztof Kowalski 7 months ago

      Thank you Judy and you’re very welcome! 😊 🎨🌹

      • Judy 7 months ago

        I appreciate watercolors – I’ve worked with dyes for most of my career. They colors are bright and beautiful, but are not lasting. For commercial art, that isn’t a problem. I specialize in illustrating food, but I also have enjoyed painting flowers. You inspire me!

    • Krzysztof Kowalski 7 months ago

      Judy, I’ve just checked out your websites and your stories… and I’m speechless. I just wanted to send you my positive thoughts and wish all the best with everything. Your story is so inspiring and you are such a talented person. Incredible. My best wishes! 🌷🌹🌷🌻🍀

      • Judy 7 months ago

        Aw, thank you Krzysztof!!! I am honored that you took the time to do that. My profession is art but my passion is really music. With the artwork I do, I am paid to please others – so that is the difference. I’ve never had the desire to create my own artwork – unlike the music I love.
        That is why I admire you. Your paintings have such warmth and soul. You are creating them in such a beautiful way!
        Thank you again. 🙂

  11. Sharon Bonin-Pratt 7 months ago

    Krzysztof, I am astounded by the beauty and complexity of your paintings. They are full of enchantment – I can hardly tear myself away from looking at one to look at another. Hopefully you’ll find time to paint when in Indonesia, but you will certainly make the opportunity to take photos. You’ve learned so much in just five years of watercolor painting. I would love to see your work over the years as you continue to paint and explore watercolors.

    • Krzysztof Kowalski 7 months ago

      Aww, thank you Sharon! 🍀I can’t imagine not painting in Indonesia, but I am planning to take a sketchbook and sketch my adventures 😁

  12. Brenda Swenson 7 months ago

    Krzysztof,
    A beautiful presentation of thought, words, techniques and examples. What a lovely article! Keep up the great work.
    Happy Painting!
    Brenda Swenson

    • Krzysztof Kowalski 7 months ago

      !!! 😀 Thank you so much Brenda! Your comment means a lot to me! I’m so happy 😀🍀🌷🌻

  13. beverlydyer 7 months ago

    Krzysztof your work is stunning. I’m a certified botanical illustrator, but find I often don’t have the patience to do the work. I do love learning about my subjects and adore field sketching at the North Carolina Botanical Garden. Cheers, Bev

    • Krzysztof Kowalski 7 months ago

      Thank you very much, Bev! 😊🌷🌿

  14. Jodi Sones 7 months ago

    I’ve been following you for awhile now. You are so amazing and am so glad to see you showcased here. Thank you so much for showing your art and techniques. You are totally amazing!

    • Krzysztof Kowalski 7 months ago

      Aww, thank you so much Jodi! 😊🌷🌿I’m very happy you like my art 🎨🌻 I’m here only thanks to Charlie! 😊🍀🌻🌷

  15. jofox2108 7 months ago

    Stunning, I totally love the bee!

    • Krzysztof Kowalski 5 months ago

      Thank you! 🙂

  16. Rina 7 months ago

    Veramente bravo….la tua pazienza da ottimi frutti. Ecco perchè i capolavori sono per pochi. Complimenti davvero!

    • Krzysztof Kowalski 5 months ago

      Grazie mille Rina! 🙂

  17. TanaBelle Watercolors 5 months ago

    WOW!!!! Beautiful work, Krzysztof!!!

    • Krzysztof Kowalski 5 months ago

      Thank you very much! 🙂

  18. MMcBuck 1 month ago

    Beautiful work!! Thanks so much for sharing…I’m off to see your lessons!

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