GUEST ARTIST: Putting You In Control of Botanicals With Anna Mason

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

Hello. I’m Anna Mason from Surrey, UK (follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter!)

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

Doodlewash - Watercolor painting by Anna Mason of four pears on treeI 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 treeAs 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.

Doodlewash - Watercolor painting by Anna Mason of apples and leavesSo, 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. 

Doodlewash - Watercolor painting by Anna Mason of strawberry close upSo I developed a method which is the total opposite to what you usually associate with watercolour.

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.

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 portraitI 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 - DoodlewashI 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
Website
Portfolio
Take her free class here!
Learn about her equipment here!
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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!
Published in Featured Artists
35 Comments
  1. Teri C 1 year ago

    Absolutely gorgeous work! Even better than photos. New follower here

  2. Art We Wonderful 1 year ago

    Inspirational work! Been loving Anna’s work on Instagram – it always gives me goosebumps… the good kind!

  3. truejoy1986 1 year ago

    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!

  4. Sand Salt Moon 1 year ago

    I follow Anna on Facebook – gorgeous artwork, lovely woman!

  5. Jessica Seacrest 1 year ago

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

  6. John 1 year ago

    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

  7. Amazing work Anne! I admire your level of finesse and realism 😀 thank you Charlie for hosting Anne.

  8. Beautywhizz 1 year ago

    Beautiful artwork.

  9. Susan Feniak 1 year ago

    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.

  10. Snehal Kank 1 year ago

    Amazing! Absolutely wonderful work! Really Very inspiring!

  11. Tori 1 year ago

    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.

  12. Teresa Robeson 1 year ago

    WOW! I’ve always been a fan of realism but I don’t have the patience to do it myself so I will just have to admire Anna’s amazing work! Definitely following her…

  13. wendymuldon 1 year ago

    This works are simply incredible! The strawberry tart melted my mouth! Your story is inspiring and beautiful. You are an awesome artist!

  14. When I saw this a few hours ago I fell of my chair gasping for air! what a beautiness!
    The high grade of detail is amazing! real good work!
    Realistic work in every sense!
    Nice to see this!

  15. M. L. Kappa 1 year ago

    Interesting technique with WOW results!

  16. Harrison Monahan 1 year ago

    WOW!!! These are so life-like! Great job Anna. I have to look twice to make sure these aren’t photos:)

  17. memadtwo 1 year ago

    I’ve always loved botanical art…your work is wonderful, so alive. (K)

  18. Sharon Bonin-Pratt 1 year ago

    Anna, your work is absolutely astonishing. I feel like I could touch and smell everything. Simply an art wonder.

  19. Jen 1 year ago

    Dang! This is amazing.

  20. waynejacques 1 year ago

    Gorgeous work Anna.

  21. Absolutely amazing!!! Who needs a camera when she / he paints like this!!!

  22. 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! 💜

  23. wildsherkin 1 year ago

    Gasp!! Amazing work – so beautiful. (Sigh). Px

  24. Cathe 1 year ago

    Absolutely beautiful and inspiring work Anna!

  25. artandmoondreams 1 year ago

    “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.

  26. […] 70 years old) so decided to take it up again in 2015 and enrolled in a 6 month, on-line course from Anna Mason.  When I signed up for her class, I decided I was going to do it MY way and not invest in all the […]

  27. […] breakthrough came when I discovered Anna Mason and took her online courses. She was exactly what I was searching for. Her style of detailed […]

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