GUEST ARTIST: “Photorealism In Watercolors” by Meeta Dani

Hello friends, I’m Meeta Dani. I was born and brought up in Nagpur, India and am presently living in Vancouver, Canada with my family. Since my early childhood, I had a strong inclination towards all forms of art.

My Childhood

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Photorealistic Watercolor by Meeta Dani - DoodlewashMy interest in art began at an early age of 4 years with drawing and coloring. Every year during my summer vacations, my mother and I used to spend several hours learning new forms of art like candle making, pottery, clay modeling, etc. I did my post graduation in computer science and worked as a software engineer with reputed companies for over a decade. I was so busy with my personal and professional lives that I had no time to pursue any hobbies.

Back To My Artistic Self

In March 2008, I had to quit my software profession to take care of my infant. To keep myself occupied, I started taking drawing and painting classes for kids of all age groups. This was the period when I rediscovered my love towards art and started devoting time to pursue my childhood passion of learning new forms of art.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Photorealistic Watercolor by Meeta Dani - Doodlewash

In 2010, my mother died of Cancer. She always wished to see me as an artist. After her death, I started painting mostly using oils and acrylics and also participated in local art exhibitions in India. My family moved to Seoul, South Korea in 2013. I continued taking drawing and painting classes in Seoul and also participated in exhibitions in Seoul and Singapore.

Finally Painting In Watercolors

The blue doorIn 2015, I was diagnosed with endometrial polyp. As my mother had died of endometrial cancer, which was hereditary, my doctor advised me to get a biopsy done as there was a chance of it being cancerous. The reposts suggested that the polyp was non-cancerous, but this incident shook me from inside, and I was now more determined to become a professional artist.

During this same period, I saw mind-blowing watercolor paintings while browsing the internet. I could hardly believe that those were actually paintings and done using watercolors. I had never seriously painted in watercolors and photorealistic paintings looked so very interesting to me. I thought of trying my hand at photorealism using watercolors. I painted my very first photorealistic painting, ‘The Blue Door’

I Am Completely Self-taught

I was never interested in learning any specific form of art for a longer duration and so I never tried to learn drawing or painting professionally. All the paintings that I did during 2010-2014 were all of different styles and done using different mediums like oils, acrylics, mixed media, clay, etc.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Photorealistic Watercolor by Meeta Dani - Doodlewash

Painting in photorealistic style was new to me. I mostly learnt by watching YouTube videos and by experimenting with watercolors.

What Is Photorealism In Watercolors?

Photorealistic paintings are often based on one or multiple photographs. However, there are several artists who create photorealistic paintings mostly by their imagination and/or looking to actual 3 dimensional objects. The process of painting in photorealistic style using watercolors seems like solving a complex puzzle to me. It is sometimes as challenging as taming a wild horse.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Photorealistic Watercolor by Meeta Dani - Doodlewash

I am often suggested to paint in a loose style as watercolors are meant to be painted loose. My thoughts are a bit different. I think that watercolor is a medium of expression of art, and a medium should not force the artist to paint in a specific style. Rather, artists should use the medium to express artistic views the way they want. I have found that watercolor is a very powerful and perhaps the most versatile medium to paint in a photorealistic style.

Painting Different Subjects

I like to paint portraits, birds, wildlife, still life, interiors and basically everything which seems challenging to me. I always try to paint outside my comfort zone. Light is an integral part of most of my paintings. I love to add an extra dash of colors to make my paintings look more eye-catching. I use bold colors and love to have a single strong point of focus in most of my paintings.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Photorealistic Watercolor by Meeta Dani - Doodlewash

Tips On Photorealistic Painting In Watercolors

    1. Proper Planning – Planning is the most important and probably the most neglected stage of a painting. For a complex realistic watercolor painting, one needs to plan how to approach the subject so that the painting process becomes easier and more effective.
    2. Careful observation – Realistic painting is all about details, and observation skills play the most important role here. If you really want to improve then spend a lot of time in studying the subject carefully and understand it well before you actually start painting it.#WorldWatercolorGroup - Photorealistic Watercolor by Meeta Dani - Doodlewash
    3. Accurate drawing – Realistic painting requires an error-free drawing. If the drawing is not accurate, the painting will definitely not look realistic. Sketching techniques like grid technique, measurement technique, tracing, etc., can help to get an accurate drawing done.
    4. Perfect Values – Values and contrast plays a very important role in making a painting look realistic and more appealing. A painting that has a full range of values, bright highlights and crisp shadows looks aesthetically pleasing and more interesting to the viewer.#WorldWatercolorGroup - Photorealistic Watercolor by Meeta Dani - Doodlewash
    5. Appropriate Edges – One of the common mis­takes that most of the beginners make is to create a sharp edge for most of the shapes in their painting. However, a realistic painting with all sharp edges looks flat and unconvincing.
    6. Patience – To paint in realistic style one needs to have a lot of patience. You like it or not, the fact is realistic paintings take a lot of time to finish. Start with a small simple subject and try to paint it as realistically as possible. Choose a more difficult subject next time to improve your patience level.


About My Book

I have written a book called Realistic Watercolor Unleashed on painting photorealistic watercolors. In this book, I’ve revealed all the techniques that I use for painting photorealistic paintings using watercolors. This book not only covers traditional painting techniques in detail, but also describes different ways to avoid and rectify common watercolor mistakes.

book imageHighlights Of Realistic Watercolor Unleashed

  • This book is a comprehensive guide to realistic watercolor painting for artists of all levels.
  • It explains the scientific reason behind the behavior of watercolor paints.
  • It includes paper stretching, drawing techniques, masking, and painting techniques.
  • It explains how to make a strategy for a painting based on the complexity and type of subject.
  • It has seven demonstrations on a variety of subjects such as water, wood, fur, feathers, skin, blurred background, perspective painting, etc.
  • The book provides several tips on how to make a painting impactful.
  • It provides lot of tips and guidance on different aspects of painting.
  • It has a comprehensive list of watercolor pigments along with their characteristics, a few important color mixes, and a comprehensive list of complementary hues.

In this book, I have explained how you can design your own method for painting any complex subject like a professional watercolorist. This book is a perfect blend of in-depth theory and hands-on techniques that will inspire and motivate you to paint realistically using watercolors. It can be purchased from Amazon and on my website.

How To Paint A Blurred Background In Watercolor

The following is an example of how I painted a blurred background in my painting ‘The Look’. The reference image of chinkara by Sriram Reddy had a beautiful blurry background. I wanted to paint a similar background with a warmer feel. Painting the background first helps in judging the tonal values for the foreground. So, I decided to paint the background first and left a scope of darkening it later if required.

Step 1

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Photorealistic Watercolor by Meeta Dani - Doodlewash

Figure 1

I first sketched the outlines and few prominent shapes of my subject using measurement technique directly on the Arches 18” x 24” 140 lb cold-pressed paper-block. Watercolor blocks by Arches are very convenient for painting small and medium size paintings as the paper does not require to be stretched before painting. Once the sketch was ready, I applied masking fluid on the boundaries of the subject. This way I can be more carefree while applying the wet-on-wet washes on the background. I use Winsor & Newton masking fluid. It has a yellow tint and the masked areas can be clearly identified. [Figure1]

Step 2

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Photorealistic Watercolor by Meeta Dani - Doodlewash

Figure 2

Once the masking fluid was totally dry I applied a generous amount of clear water on the whole background area using my 2½” hake brush and blotted extra water using a large paper towel. I then dropped milky consistency paints (Olive Green, Indigo, Quinacridone Gold, and Brown Madder) and spread them gently using my round no.6 brush. After this, the paper was allowed to dry completely. [Figure 2]

Step 3

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Photorealistic Watercolor by Meeta Dani - Doodlewash

Figure 3

Once the paper was dry I applied the 2nd layer of colors in a wet-on-wet manner. But this time I wet only selected area of paper and dropped milky consistency paint (Quinacridone Gold, Winsor Violet, Olive Green, Sepia, Translucent Orange, Indigo) using my round no.6 brush and let the mixing of paint happen on the paper. I took care to keep the edges smooth and avoided any hard lines and puddles. The background looked patchy after the paper dried. I applied a layer of clear water with 2½” hake brush with a little scrubbing action. The paper was then allowed to dry thoroughly. [Figure 3]

Step 4

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Figure 4

Using the above procedure I applied 3-4 layers of paint wet-on-wet, each time the paper was allowed to dry thoroughly before the next layer of paint was applied over it. I applied clear water over the background and scrubbed it with the brush in-between applying two layers of paint. [Figure 4]

Step 5

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Photorealistic Watercolor by Meeta Dani - Doodlewash

Figure 5

After this point it was difficult for me to judge if the background should be made further dark.

So I removed the masking fluid and continued working on the main subject. [Figure 5]

Step 6

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Photorealistic Watercolor by Meeta Dani - Doodlewash

Figure 6

Once the foreground was done I felt that the background should be made darker to add contrast to the whole painting. So I added a layer of milky consistency paint (Brown Madder, Olive Green, Quinacridone Gold, Indigo, Bright Violet, Cerulean Blue) in wet-on-wet manner using a 2½” hake brush by wetting selected areas of the background. This time I was extra careful as any mistake could have spoiled the whole painting. [Figure 6]

I love passing on my knowledge of painting to others and I welcome anyone with their queries about painting in watercolor!

Meeta Dani

Recommended16 recommendationsPublished in Featured Artists, Tutorials
  1. Posey Gaines 5 years ago

    Awesome work Meeta! Thanks for sharing your story!

  2. Nay Aung 5 years ago

    Thanks for sharing Meeta!!!Though I’m not a photorealistic fan,I admire your jaw dropping detail works.Also admire your brave decision to be a professional artist.

  3. scribblersdip 5 years ago

    Absolutely stunning work! I can only imagine the time and effort it takes to complete a painting with such incredible depth, detail and dynamics – but the results are superb!

  4. Sandra Strait 5 years ago

    Your paintings are glorious! Thank you for the tips and the step-by-step tutorial.

  5. Mikhail Starchenko 5 years ago

    You’re simply amazing, Meeta! Love your works . Keep on painting, Waiting for more of your’s amazing artworks!

  6. Mary Roff 5 years ago

    Beautiful paintings. The cows are magnificent!

  7. Saswati Misra 5 years ago

    Amazing…. thanks for sharing your process in Doodlewash… !!

  8. Shar Kennett 5 years ago

    Wow! I am in awe! Thank you so much for sharing your methods. I look forward to getting your book. Even though it is doubtful I will ever have the patience to try even a tiny photorealistic painting, I suspect your book is loaded with information useful for any style of watercolor painting.

  9. Rocelee 5 years ago

    I always admire your artwork…it’s really superb! Thanks for sharing your step by step tutorials.

  10. Fantastic work, Meeta. Cheers!

  11. Sharon Nolfi 5 years ago

    Amazing work in every way.

  12. Sharon Bonin-Pratt 5 years ago

    Meeta, your work is beautiful. I can get lost in your images as they are fantastic and remind me of the beauty of the world. Thank you for the detailed description of creating a blurry background.

  13. GeorgieMoon 5 years ago

    Wow wow wow wow! How totally amazing! What an amazing talent you have. The apples are just fantastic.

  14. Thomas Blanchard 5 years ago

    Lovely work!! Great job.

  15. Marrianne Wadley 5 years ago

    Amazing to look at!

  16. Yvonne Reeder 5 years ago

    Thank you for sharing your art and your heart for art! I’ve so enjoyed become acquainted with you and your amazing artworks! Thank you as well for sharing your process – very interesting!

  17. Fantine Ponter 5 years ago

    WOW! You are a true inspiration! Thank you for sharing!

  18. Laura Hale 5 years ago

    Your art is so beautiful and so is your journey. Thank you for sharing.

  19. Carol Hartmann 5 years ago

    Wow, simply awesome. The contrast between the subject and background is amazing!

  20. Kaye Boggs 5 years ago

    Meeta: Your work is incredible.
    I am in awe and would love to be able to paint like that. I enjoyed reading your journey as well. It is amazing that you are self taught and so very talented.

  21. Jennifer McLean 5 years ago

    hello neighbor! I live on Vancouver Island. You have wonderful techniques and your painting are mind blowing. I’ve just started doing hyper-realistic paintings/drawings and hope to progress to larger painting. Thanks for the inspiration.

  22. Kyra Vicory 5 years ago

    your work is amazing!

  23. Lana Privitera 5 years ago

    Thank you for sharing your story, dear Meeta!. You explain your steps beautifully. There’s so much great information in your book that I’m reading it little by little, whenever I have a free minute -like when I’m waiting at the doctor’s office. 😉

  24. Mickey Baxter-Spade 5 years ago

    Your work is fantastic, all of it!

  25. Jill Gustavis 5 years ago

    Breathtaking work! Immediately saved your book to my Amazon wish list. Something amazing to aspire to, and thank you for sharing your background tutorial!

  26. Sandra Gilbert 5 years ago

    Wow, I had too look hard at your paintings and they still look like photos to me. Thank you for sharing your background technique. It is always interesting to see how other artists approach their work.

  27. Meeta Dani 5 years ago

    Thank you everyone sooooooo much for all your precious comments. I wish I could reply each and every comment separately. There are several ways of achieving a blurred background. I used the above method as I wanted a result similar to the reference photograph. I share a lot of WIP images and short videos on my Instagram page and also share the ‘ugly’ stages of my painting.

    The book is not only for artists who wants to paint realism. It’s for all styles of painting using watercolors. 1st 6 chapters are dedicated to techniques and knowing how to paint. Only the demonstration chapters are more into realism, but you will find many important things in demo chapters even if you do not wish to achieve photorealism.
    I truly believe in the power if this medium and I have shared all my knowledge in my book without keeping any secrets.
    Happy painting!!!

  28. Teri Casper 5 years ago

    Absolutely amazing art! So beautiful, well gorgeous is a better word.

  29. Kati Brooke 5 years ago

    Your artwork is amazing! I especially love the painting of the raccoon.

  30. M. L. Kappa 5 years ago

    Lovely work, Meeta, and I really enjoyed reading your explanations. I’ve followed you on Instagram 🌺

  31. Srividya Ramkumar 5 years ago

    That was a giant leap from figure 4 to figure 5 in your demo! 😀 your paintings are too good and very inspiring ,followed you on instagram and youtube . Looking forward for your tutorial videos from your youtube channel!


  32. Hajazana 5 years ago

    Love your story and your artwork!

  33. Wow…amazing work!!! Loved reading your story!

  34. SnehLata Maheshwari 5 years ago

    Hello Meeta your art is excellent.good information got from you.nice background.
    Meeta do u belonging to Uttarakhand India.
    If so u reminding my class mate
    .Bimla dani. Envay thanks for sharing.

  35. Smitha V 2 years ago

    Meeta your paintings are out of the world. Thank you for sharing your story here. Its inspiring and your explanation of how to go about painting the blurred background was very clear. I’ve just started painting. Painting like you seems like a dream.

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