I love painting florals. Somehow it always feels like coming home. My first loose paintings were florals; I think because flowers are forgiving, a petal can be a little distorted, and that’s okay, a bug chewed it! Flowers don’t need to be perfectly symmetrical, and they come in many colors. There’s freedom in painting flowers.
Floral paintings can have a bad reputation; once I read a watercolor article that stated that “serious painters don’t paint florals.” We’ll pause here for you to list the professional artists you know that have built a career painting flowers. I can list at least six without stopping for breath.
Flowers offer the opportunity to compose. Buy a flower arrangement, or snap a reference photo and move elements around to create a pleasing composition that suits your style.
Flowers give you the ability to edit; somehow it’s easier to simplify shapes and forms for flowers than for other representational subjects (like landscapes or portraits).
Flowers come in a range of incredible colors and shapes. I’m in love with the chartreuse-to-periwinkle hues and stately heights of the delphiniums in my garden, and the yellow-peach creeping rose that I planted last year. It’s so fun to try to capture their subtle shades of color!
How to Paint a Wet-In-Wet Flower on Dry Paper
One of my favorite warm ups when I come to the studio to paint is to create a wet-in-wet floral. I have two methods I use that I love for these warm ups and I’m demonstrating one below.
Step 1: Create a floral shape on dry paper using a clean, wet brush. Make sure it’s “shiny wet” for optimum paint flow. I’m working with the rounded shape of a peony, but I’m keeping the edges irregular to suggest the petals.
Step 2: Drop in a single color. Here I’ve placed Opera Pink along the edges of the petals, letting it flow toward the center of the flower. You shouldn’t need to rub, just touch the brush gently to wet paper to release the color.
Step 3: Add a second color. A Quinacridone Magenta adds rich color to create depth in the flower petals, and I’m letting it flow and mingle with the pink.
Step 4: I touch in a “center color;” Cadmium Yellow to warm up the flower center looks lovely and mingles well with the magenta. Don’t worry if a little color creeps down the stem.
Step 5: Paint the stem – add a green and let it flow along the stem and out the leaves.
Step 6: Tweak and touch in accent colors. I like adding a second color to the leaves (Cobalt Teal Blue) to lighten or darken the center of the leaves. This is also the stage where you might want to increase proportions of a disappearing color – if the yellow takes over in the flower, you might increase the magenta in a few areas to bring back balance to the shape.
Step 7: Adjust the shapes of your flower with your brush. I pulled a few lines out from the leaves to accentuate their shapes, and (below) adjusted the shape of the petal on the left as well.
Optional additional steps: Add spatter to give a little lively energy to the painting.
Soften out some edges and flow to create a hint of background.
Another great option for this exercise is to start your painting on a previously painted first layer wash. Use colors that complement the original hues in the first layer.
Be willing to abstract your flowers a little bit – keeping them loose means your intention might have been peonies, but someone else sees roses, and that’s okay. Lively shapes, patterns and colors can make a loose painting come to life without an excess of detail.
Watch the tutorial video here:
Don’t forget to include the hashtag #worldwatercolormonth when you share your work on social media. I can’t wait to see what you create with a little water and a lot of colorful watercolor paint!Recommended4 recommendationsPublished in
Angela Fehr is an internationally known watercolour artist and instructor living in in northern British Columbia, Canada. Teaching over 5,000 students in her online school, Fehr emphasizes fluid and intuitive painting, teaching technique clearly and encouraging students to explore their own unique style as they develop watercolour skills.