Creative Process: Flowers Make Me Happy

After many years I haven’t painted, I’m learning how to hold my brush, how to work with watercolors. I Practice, practice, practice. In between practice sessions I watch what other more talented people are doing. I read, I watch, I absorb all I can.

I’ve been reading about hand lettering & layout, and gave it a try. I love flowers, so I chose to concentrate on flowers.
As recommended, I wrote down my sentence, and marked the words I wanted to place importance on. You can see in the image above I tested out different layouts, until coming to one I liked.


I pencil a lot and erase a lot, so I’m using draft paper to draw my initial sketch, and once I’m happy with it, I use the pencil on the under-side of the drawing, filling in behind my shapes, then use it as tracing paper to transfer my design onto the watercolor paper. This way I don’t stress myself into “getting it perfect”, and don’t end up with lead residue in the paper’s ridges. I outline with pen the chosen lines, so I don’t get confused when tracing.

While I was sketching, I realized I like the flowers which came out, but don’t have room to put the text under them as I wanted. So I cut the flowers shape and glued it onto another sheet of draft paper, and added my text and frame onto that. Not the most elegant solution possibly, but it worked :-)

I regret not taking more photos while I was working (“The camera is my friend” is the new motto I’m trying to adopt).
Once I had my layout traced (in pencil) onto the watercolor paper, I went over some of the lines with pencil, and drew some more


Then I prepared my colors – pink hue, yellow for highlights, blue and some greens – a big puddle with several different shades in the “arms”.
I wet the flowers part of the paper, and splashed and dabbed some color. I’ve learnt from experience already not to move them around too much, that gives me those muddy, ugly shades everyone is talking about. I wanted a rougher look for the background, and so wasn’t too particular if I got some green where a pink petal would be.

Then – my favorite trick at the moment – spray it with clear water. It spreads the color a little more, giving it an interesting texture. I still do get too much water on then, and dabbed the residue water with toilet paper. Lucky I did, as this made the background in the flower areas lighter.

Next, after the paper dried (urghh! So hard to wait!) I used my new Sailor fountain pen (with Platinum black waterproof ink – read my review of both here) to outline (not ink it all yet!).
The next day, I started building color layers on the petals and leaves. I mostly use color with quite a bit of water, spread it around, creating darker areas and lighter ones. I then might drop in a second color while it’s still very wet (learning to avoid cauliflowers).

After a lot of back-and-forth building color layers on different areas I moved on to the text. I colored the background and added a darker shade to the frame and the letters (still only outlined in pen). Only after the turquoise dried, I inked in my letters.

Nearly there!

This was the fun part, my painting was already taking shape, and now I moved on to some darker hues for shading, and some highlights.
From what I’ve learned, I gather that the shades and contrast give interest, draw your eye to the most contrasting areas. I didn’t go very far with contrasts, but did try to accentuate some points.
The open flower on the left looked a little too flat, so I added a lot of dark in its middle, trying to add depth. The thin reddish lines radiating from the middle were done with (believe it or not) a porcupine quill I found in the fields. it creates a very fine line. I pool some color and immediately pull it with the quill.

In the next stage, my watercolor pencils came out. I decorated the text’s background, added veins to the petals and leaves, and more shades & highlights. To add further depth to the flower on the left, I used the pencils to create veins in the petals, defining better their shapes and curves.
Lastly, I signed it and put it in front of me, so I can adore my new creation all evening :-)

Materials used:

  • Winsor & Newton – Cotman gummed watercolor paper 190g.
  • Sailor HighAce Neo fountain pen with
  • Platinum Carbon black ink
  • Sennelier watercolor tubes
  • Royal talens – Van Gogh watercolor pan
  • Staedtler aquarelle pencils

Summing up

I appreciate detailed, step by step demonstrations, the kind that don’t take any part of the process for granted. Being a beginner myself, there are basic things I’m still uncertain of and experimenting with. I would be most happy if these process descriptions are helpful to you. If there’s anything missing or if you think I should clarify something, please let me know! Thank you.

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