Doodlewash - Watercolor painting by Anna Mason of monarch butterfly and white flowers

GUEST ARTIST: “Putting You In Control of Botanicals” by Anna Mason

Hello. I’m Anna Mason from Surrey, UK.

What’s your background and inspiration? When did you start painting?

Doodlewash - Watercolor painting by Anna Mason of four pears on tree

I didn’t study art at college or uni so I’m basically self-taught when it comes to watercolour. And – like a lot of people – I went for a long time without picking up my brush at all.

I LOVED painting and drawing as a child.  I did it throughout school, but then when it came to decisions about careers, I was ‘sensible’ and ended up studying history at uni.

By my mid twenties I was working in local government management and hadn’t picked up a brush for 8 years.  

But when you have a childhood passion, I don’t think it ever leaves you, and I began to really MISS painting (I also loved dinosaurs as a kid and still can’t get enough of Jurassic Park!).Doodlewash - Watercolor painting by Anna Mason of red flowers

So when I was 26 (10 years ago now) I was getting keen on gardening and I discovered ‘botanical art’ from some random googling.

Doodlewash - Watercolor painting by Anna Mason of Owl in tree

As soon as I saw it, I knew it was THE thing for me.  It’s intricacy and realism had a magnetic kind of appeal to me.

It brought together my love of nature (I grew up in the countryside) , gardening and COLOUR.

I’ve since ventured into birds, animals and even food, but I always come back to botanicals.

And I always work larger than life. 

The bigger I paint (I work from around 12″ up to about 30″ square) the more detail I can paint and the more impact the painting has.

So, when I began, I bought myself a quality set of watercolours and began painting before work, after work and at the weekends. 

I was hooked. I HAD to paint.

And my results were good. It took me about 3 months to ‘get my eye in’ to seeing all the detail and hone my technique.

I’m certain it only took that short amount of time because of the thousands of hours of painting I’d already done as a child.

18 months later, I entered and won Gold in a Royal Horticultural Society competition. 

And within 2 years I made the scary/brave move to quit my ‘sensible’ job to pursue my painting full time.

What’s your painting process?

My watercolours are all about realism. 

Doodlewash - Watercolor painting by Anna Mason of strawberry tart dessert

To that end I need complete control of where I put the paint. 

So I developed a method which is the total opposite to what you usually associate with watercolour.

Doodlewash - Watercolor painting by Anna Mason of apples and leaves

Instead of allowing any wet-in-wet effects, I work wet-on-dry – using wet paint but in tiny quantities (using really small brushes) to build up layers of paint – allowing each layer to dry first.

Working this way allows me to correct my values and hues as I work to get a really realistic result.

It sounds really controlled, and it is. But I work quite quickly and with a loose wrist. There’s a real flow and a freedom in the process to me.

Doodlewash - Watercolor painting by Anna Mason of strawberry close up

Do you sketch?

I do love sketching – but these days it’s always as part of my preparation for a major painting. 

So I might sketch a petal and play around with my colour mixing as I sit with the flower.

Doodlewash - Watercolor painting by Anna Mason of cherry blossom

But for the main painting, I’ll always take photos. I see that as part of the creative process.  I’ll set up compositions with my camera and play around that way.

Then when I come to paint – and a painting can take me a week or even 2 to do – I can work from a combination of the photos I’ve taken and any supporting sketches.

I begin the painting with a super detailed and accurate drawing (with measurements and/or use of a projector). 

Doodlewash - Watercolor painting by Anna Mason of yellow flowers

The accuracy of the drawing makes the painting process really ‘flow’ as I can then look back and forth from my photo to my painting without there being any drawing errors to interrupt that flow and I’m free to paint exactly what I see.

What materials do you use?

I use professional quality watercolours – the most transparent and bright I can find. 

Doodlewash - Watercolor painting by Anna Mason of Apples and leaves portrait

I have at the moment 20 colours in my palette. I LOVE vibrant colours that can match what I see in nature with the minimum of mixing, to keep them as transparent as possible (crucial for my layering technique).

Then I work on hotpressed (smooth) watercolour paper or even illustration board. This way I can achieve really smooth results with my paint – much smoother than would be possible when working on a rough textured paper.  

And I use small, spotter style brushes.

I have some videos where I explain all the equipment I use in lots of detail which you can see by clicking here!

What do you do now?

Portrait of Anna Mason and dog - Doodlewash

I spent 6 years working as a professional artist- exhibiting all over the UK and also in the US and teaching the occasional workshop. 

At these workshops, I met people who were struggling to get back to painting after often 30+ years of not doing it. 

I could relate.

But they were often so focused on wanting to get great results straight away that it undermined the confidence they needed to experiment and relax into their painting.

So, although I still exhibit my own work, helping adults to realize their painting dreams has now become a major focus for me.

It’s been really satisfying using the analytical left-brain skills I had from my previous jobs to break down the right-brain seeing/ painting process and explain it in a way that demystifies it. 

Doodlewash - Watercolor painting by Anna Mason of Hummingbird and flowersIn 2014, I had a book published and I launched my online school where I offer step-by-step tutorials via video.  

It’s been a huge success and I feel massively privileged to have helped thousands of people paint the way they’ve always wanted to.

I offer a free video tutorial via my website here so give it a go if you think this style of watercolour might be for you!

Anna Mason
Take her free class here!
Learn about her equipment here!
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36 thoughts on “GUEST ARTIST: “Putting You In Control of Botanicals” by Anna Mason

  1. WOW! I can’t believe these are watercolor! They are so lifelike! How amazing. and for the dinosaur comment, ME TOO!!!! I have not given up my childhood love of dinosaurs, sharks, or art. 🙂 wonderful to hear of another like me!

  2. Amazing pieces, and I appreciate your story. So wonderful, the calling you have found, both as an artist and teaching others. Very inspiring!!

  3. Astonishing work! For someone like myself, seeking a more loose, impressionistic approach – I don’t mind admitting that this level of detail and accuracy nigh on brings me out in a rash – but there’s no doubting how exquisite these works are! Off now to look at more of Anne’s work – thanks for the introduction Charlie

  4. I am overwhelmed by the beauty and realism of Anna’s art. Amazing!! I really don’t have the words. Anna I am a new follower on Instagram and Facebook. Charlie you have out done yourself sharing this one. 🙂 Thank you.

  5. I’ve been a huge fan of your work for some time Anna so I’m thrilled to hear about the processes you use to achieve your amazing art work.
    Thank you Charlie for sharing.

  6. WOW pretty much says it all. Astounding stuff. I had to do triple-takes at times, because I was positive it was your reference photograph on the screen. Amazing! Thank you for sharing so much information too. Bless you and your beautiful work! 💜

  7. “Stunning” does not even begin to scratch the surface of how gorgeous these paintings are…always a fan of botanical art, and Anna’s manages to take one’s breath away with the beauty shown here. Great feature post, thank you for sharing the wonder of art.

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