Landscape demo in watercolor

I have started painting this landscape, the photo of which I had taken on the way upto Mt. Pilatus (I think!, my photo folders are all really messed up). The fall of the branches and stems looks so pretty, that I finally settled for this close up of the tree itself as the main focus instead of the entire view. Feeling euphoric to be painting in watercolour again!


I have put in a few leaves in liquid frisket to leave as highlights, then an initial wash testing the colors and getting my feet wet. I have used green gold and phthalo blue to get a green which I subdued with a red orange (Daniel smith Pyrrol scarlet):


Short demo of venetian sketch

This is a scene based on a photo that I had taken while on vacation some time back:


I started the sketch with a black faber castell Pitt water proof pen on a paper blank journal. The paper is archival quality but not watercolor paper, I just wanted to make sure
I loosened up and didn’t go into any kind of detailed rendering. With these sketches, I am looking more to establishing mood and atmosphere , at overall shapes and light and dark patterns, being free and having fun experimenting with different styles.


I have already started indicating a few shadows with the pen. I wanted it to have more color than the scene actually has, so I washed the walls with yellow from raw sienna + hansa yellow medium, pink from rub red + red madder and orange from raw sienna + pyrrol scarlet. The shadws are from dumonts blue and burnt sienna.


The green for the plants is perm. green light and hansa yellow medium with the dumonts blue and burnt sienna for the darks. The water is also washed with the same dark green with the color of the buildings thrown in.


Colored pencil Portrait Demo

Colored pencil portrait

Colored pencil portrait

The first step is the line drawing and I wanted this to be pretty accurate as I was going to paint it, so I felt my way on the drawing with a sort of grid, not with lines but with dots to indicate half way and quarter way points. I then transferred this drawing to watercolor HP paper. Before I start diving into the colors, I want to remind you that to build any form, be it a rock or a face, what is important is to understand that form can only be built up through light and shadow and so to get the values right, the colors are of secondary importance. The highlights here are coming from the other side of the forehead, the nose, the top of the lower lip, the cheek bone. The area where the forehead turns is in shadow, as is the area beneath the nose, inside of the mouth, the chin and the neck.

The colors I have used are Caran d’ Ache (a Swiss make) and Faber Castell (a German make) colored pencils. The Caran d’ Ache are slightly softer than the Faber Castell. Using small circular strokes and a sharply pointed pencil, I covered the areas of the neck and jaw with CA Reddish orange. This I went over with FC Cinnamon and FC Indian red and CA Burnt Sienna for shadow areas, burnishing (applying heavy pressure) as I went along to get a smooth appearance. The area of the nose is cooler (pinkish violet), here I went over with FC light flesh, FC medium flesh, CA pink, CA Bluish pale and CA Light grey. The highlights on the forehead and cheekbone have CA pale yellow as well. The more saturated area of the cheek has FC Light cadmium red.The lips have FC Deep scarlet red, FC Pink Carmine, FC red violet and FC magenta. Other colors I have used include CA Umber, CA Black, CA Grey, FC ivory, FC cream, FC Van dyck brown. Coming to the background, its not a great idea to use new/different colors here, for there´s the danger of the background looking to be a part of one painting and the face a part of another! The colors I have used for the rocks and weeds are  CA pale yellow, CA pink, CA Bluish pale, CA Grey, CA Light grey, CA black and FC umber.

Finished Painting – Joy of Nature

Joy of Nature

Joy of Nature

             I finished the painting a while back, the background was a little daunting and I spent a few sleepless nights over it(!), the upper portion, though it is quite light must have atleast half a dozen layers on it..  I have only one in-between step here:

Well, our traitor of a system crashed in on us and here I am back again, after having lost a few precious files and gained a few headaches but with a huge plus of acquiring a fab, cool , apple mac stand-alone. The thing is…  the colors in my latest paintings look a bit too saturated on this now… can’t control how they will look across different systems, I guess… I spent a lot of time thinking how great it would be to have a bio-chip with the google search engine woven into the inside of our left forearms’ ha ha… its like not having your right arm without it …. I mean … a dozen times in a day, its ….how do I use the new herb that I got..or do I place the new plant in the sun or in the shade…or …or…. geez…. actually I had suggested this idea to my husband (a long time back) because he was always punching numbers into his calculator, so I told him he should plaster that to his left forearm so he could just raise his arm and punch into it whenever he wanted.. ha ha… ok I am rambling now… time to sign off…

painting the leaves and midground

pansy and poppy leaves

pansy and poppy leaves

The two yellows mixed with phalo blue in different proportions will give you a variety of greens but they will have to be toned down with greens´ complimentary colour, which is red; but you can also use the orange to create interesting natural looking greens. i.e. I have used DS hansa yellow medium, DS new gamboge, MG phthalo blue and S translucent orange plus also S red madder dark to push the mix to a darker value. MG phthalo blue and S translucent orange also gives a very interesting dark-valued blue-green. DS perylene green can also be used in shadow areas. For foliage, the most important thing to keep in mind is that ready made greens or even those mixed from yellows and blues should (almost) never be used directly, they will have to be toned down with a red or an orange to create greens that donot look artificial. Just a bit of the red will give a fresher green whereas adding more of red will give you shadow greens.

pansy and poppy leaves

pansy and poppy leaves

painting the centers of the flowers and the garden light..


garden light

                   Wash in a layer of hansa yellow medium for the center of the smaller poppy. After this has dried, paint the pollen with new gamboge also painting in tiny shadows on them with your shadow yellow color. The stigma at the center is painted with hansa yellow medium also with shadows. Separate the filaments using negative painting by cutting the orange of the flower into the center, also use negative painting to further define the filaments at the right side. The center of the main flower is painted similarly but it is almost completely in shadow; so glaze over with a final layer of the shadow yellow colors.

                   For the garden light, first see and mark where the highlights fall, you need to get the right shapes for them. The top, left area is catching the blue of the sky, leave the center completely white, there are some orange highlights towards the right and blue-green towards the top right. Let dry completely. Mix some browns, orange-browns and violet-browns using the orange, blue and red madder dark. Wash in a medium value brown wet-in-wet and add darker browns as this is drying. For the light, keep all edges blurred; keep the center white and around it start adding new gamboge and orange around the yellow. White, yellow, then orange. The metal really makes a nice contrast to the delicate flowers while at the same time connecting it to them with the warm colors.

steps for painting stamens and stigma

garden light

painting creases and folds on flowers

poppy flowers

                   Images 1 and 2: layers of the yellows and orange in the same way that I had described earlier.

                   Image 3: I have started putting in the folds here, this time wet-on-dry.

                   Image 4: In the area which I have marked `a`, you can see that one edge of the folds is hard and the other edge is soft: for this type of fold, apply the shadow color wet-on-dry and then soften the upper edge with a damp brush. You can also lift out a thin area of highlight on top of this fold. I have also added WN winsor red to my mixes in areas which tend towards a redder hue. You can also use it brighten your shadow color if it looks too dull. Schminke red madder dark is a dull red which I have used in shadows, Winsor and Newton winsor red is a nice red which is not cool like Schminke´s ruby red.

                   Image 5: A large shadow here made by the petal behind the main one. You can do this wet-on-dry softening any edges if required. The top and bottom areas of the petal marked `a` and `b` are darker, add a little more of blue and red madder dark to the mix and add this while the wash is still wet. Add creases now with a darker shadow color. You can also do them later when the petal is completely dry: Add them wet-on-dry and run a damp brush over them to soften the edges. The edges of the large bottom petal tend towards red. Leave out highlights in all the layers, you can tint them later.

                  Image 6:  The area marked `a`has some winsor red and tends a lot towards red.

                  Image 7: The area marked `a` is a shadow color, if you make this too bright, it will pop forward and wont give you that cup shape over there.

               In general, I have first wet the petal gently (being careful not to disturb the previous layers), put in a shadow color whereever soft edges are required and then put in the darker shadows and also shadows having harder edges. Study the petal carefully before wetting it and then lay in the colors confidently without fumbling, as going back and forth is sure to ruin the wash. It doesn´t matter if you don´t paint the folds exactly as you see them; you only have to get a feel for the three dimensional form and get that sense into what you are creating.

              Paint the shadows on the butterfly created by the two wings overlapping each other, where they don´t overlap you should be able to see some nice bits of clean yellow of the first layers shining. The shadow colors tend towards green (specially the top wing) and some towards orange.

painting creases - steps

              Here´s the photo that I had taken on a nice, sunny day at the market:

poppy flowers

How to paint poppy flowers

Here´s where I am on my new painting of cheerful, sunny poppy flowers (which I found here at Weil am Rhein), a cute little tulip solar garden-light (a find at the Europa park) and a beautiful sulphur butterfly(from I wanted a true yellow here, not as warm as new gamboge and not as cool as hansa yellow medium, but somewhere in between like WN winsor yellow, but this is not completely transparent (you can see in the chart below, that it somewhat decks the black line, (colors are not reproduced exactly the same on screen)). So, for the first washes I have used a mix of the hansa yellow medium plus a little bit of new gamboge.

Wash over the petal with water and wait for half a minute or so to let the water sink in, then layer with a light mix of these two yellows (photo 1). Let it dry thoroughly and repeat this step leaving areas for the highlights (photo 2). Repeat again with a layer of Schminke translucent orange (photo 3), leaving the edges a little paler. Lift out highlights with a stiff brush. Repeat with another layer of translucent orange (photo 4). Add the shadows in the next layer. Adding just blue to the orange, will give a olive tinge to the shadow color, so add some Schminke red madder dark as well to brighten it. The layer  in photo 5 has this mix of S translucent orange, S red madder dark and (very little) MG phthalo blue. Add an extra bit of phthalo blue in the stronger shadow on the inside of the petal. Paint in creases on the top side of the petal. Lift off highlights.

On a 11 step value scale, you need to get to a value of 8 to 9 in the deeper shadows, 4 to 5 in the sunlit areas and 2 or 3 in the highlights.

For the butterfly, paint wet-in-wet a mix of the two yellows, favoring the cooler yellow (photo 3). Repeat this step for the next layer (photo 4). Repeat again, this time adding the translucent orange in some areas (photo 5).

How to paint poppy flowers -1

Spring Song (Apple blossoms and Prairie Warbler)


Strengthened a few colors here and there:

Spring Song

Spring Song

Finished Painting – Spring Song

Spring Song

                  For the warbler, the first layers are in DS hansa yellow medium and the next ones have a bit of DS new gamboge to get a darker value. The spots are put in wet-in-wet with a dull red mix. Add shadows with a dark brown mix under the wing and feather groups. The nest is in various shades of brown, after putting in a few squiggles and lines with masking fluid to save the lighter colored twigs:

Spring Song

my painting so far..


apple blossoms

                      The rest of the blossoms have been painted the same way as the previous ones. I have faded out the flowers as they move towards the left, to stop the eye from going out of the picture. So that there is not an abrupt jump from detailed and high contrast area (1) to no-detail and less contrast area (3), there is a middle zone (2) where there is somewhat of a detail:

apple blossoms

apple blossoms

               For the branch, mix some new gamboge to your violet (shadow) mix to get a pale brown, lay in wet-on-wet and before this layer dries, add a shadow on the underside with a darker (i.e less-diluted) mix of the same color. As it starts to dry, you can add some knots and lines with a detail brush.

painting the apple blossoms


apple blossoms

                 Apple blossoms are usually pink as buds and then start turning white as they flower; a few varieties are actually dark pink and some have just the edges that are pink and those are what I´ve chosen to paint. My photograph has the light coming directly overhead and the painting has it falling from the left, so I´ve changed the lighting accordingly for the flowers and leaves. As you are modelling each petal , imagine the direction of the light and ask yourself whether the area that you are painting will catch the light or fall in shadow.

                  For the first layer (protect the stamens with masking fluid), paint in all the form shadows first; I simply made up the folds and creases on the petals. Make a mix of the red and blue to get a violet and add yellow to dull the violet to a shadow color. Wet each petal separately, wait for a few seconds for the water to sink into the paper and lay in your shadow mix. After all these layers have completely dried, wet the petals again one by one and touch the edges of the petals with your red mix, as this starts to dry add the veins with a a slightly more concentrated red. The shape of the veins are very important as they suggest the form of the petal. The shadows that you have put in the first layer should show through in the next layer if you are using a transparent red; you can further define these shadows with a red-violet mix. I like this Cheap Joe´s Lizards Lick brush (in the photo above) a lot for painting fine details like veins etc, it has a sharp point and also has a good body of hairs at the top so you don´t have to load the brush so often. Remove the masking after everything´s thoroughly dried and paint fine shadows on the undersides of the stamens, paint the pollen with DS new gamboge and put tiny shadows in them:

layers for flowers

                 The leaves are a mix of the two yellows and phthalo blue and a hint of the red:

layers for leaves

painting the background

I put masking fluid with a masking pen, to protect the edges of the foreground. Let it dry thoroughly before starting to paint. The colors are DS hansa yellow medium, DS new gamboge, MG phthalo blue and S ruby red. Wet the background applying water evenly so that there are no puddles or dry spots. Float in the colors gently, the grey is made from a mix of the four colors. This layer has low values, the lowest being the area at the top left.

first layer

                   Let the first layer dry thoroughly, if you´re using a hair dryer, use it from a distance since its difficult to remove the masking if it gets heated. Wet the area again, this time with a spray bottle which has a gentle spray (a washed glass-reiniger/cleaner bottle works well for this) since a brush can disturb the first layer. Gently smooth out the spray with a brush if necessary. Lay in darker values using quick and confident strokes without going back and forth in the same area. Rock the paper to and fro to mix and blend the colors. Let dry thoroughly.

second layer

                  Mix some chinese white with the above colors (to make pale tints) to paint some background flowers and leaves. What freedom to be able to paint with white! Don´t forget to take into consideration that opaque colors dry darker when dry, unlike watercolors  which dry lighter. I´ve left mine to finish after doing the main flowers, so it will be easier to see where to place them and how many.

third layer

                        Here´s my value sketch:

value sketch

Spring Song

Prairie Warbler

Apple blossoms

spring song

                  I shot the apple blossoms at my child´s kindergarten, (yup, they get to eat nice, sweet, tiny little apples), I added some buds to get some value contrast. The images of the warbler and its nest are public domain images from the FWS. I like warblers a lot, mainly because of their color, which is my favourite!  This painting is about the joy in life, which is always there, coursing behind everything; which we stumble upon when we live any experience fully.

Listen to Prairie Warbler song

New painting – Spring Song

spring song sketch

               I´ve just started on this, a rough sketch but I´m satisfied with it, except maybe lift the bird`s chest a bit like its in the middle of a full-throated song? Will post back..

Ode to Summer – revisited


               I just can`t get it out of my head about this picture that it feels a tad dry without the cool blue of water in the fountain. I didn`t put it in before because I thought that blue wouldn`t sit well with the predominantly warm colors in the rest of the painting, but now seen again from a fresh perspective, I feel it will work. So, I`ve put on a layer with Faber Castell watercolor pencils, of helio turqoise (which is a green blue) first, and on top of that, a layer of light phthalo blue. Watercolor pencils are transparent when wet, but opaque when worked-on dry, so it has pretty much covered the grey tones in the underlayer. So….here it is.. ta da……..! ha…ha..! Do you like it better this way?

Ode to Summer - New

                      Ode to Summer

Inner Sanctuary


Inner Sanctuary

Passion Flower and Brazilian Tanager - crop 1

Passion Flower and Brazilian Tanager - crop 2

Painting the mid and backgrounds


                Here, I`ve put in the first layers for the rest of the leaves and stems. Add some red or violet into the green of the stems in a wet in wet wash:

first layers for leaves and stems

                Here are the second layers for the same leaves and stems. Drybrush the stems after the wash has completely dried.

second layers for leaves and stems

                 There are two yellow green small leaves to the left of and below the main flower. The yellow green of the leaf below these two leaves is subdued because it is in shadow. The bird is sitting on a green wire which I`ve made into a rusty wire so as to add colour and interest. Perpendicular to this, to the right, is another rusty wire. Wash in a mix of orange brown made from ruby red, cobalt blue tone, cerulean blue tone and hansa yellow medium.

starting on the background

                 Don`t look at painting the background as something to be dreaded and to be got over as quickly as possible before moving on to another project. Instead, think of it as  something exciting and challenging, where you get to be creative in order to create the scene you want. The elements in the foreground, that you either highlight or push back, the new elements that you introduce in the mid and background all play a role in evoking a particular mood. Think about how color and value changes move the viewer`s eye in the painting.

                I`ve chosen to add berries and a passion fruit to bring the orange down and into the rest of the picture and also so that it looks like the bird has had something to eat! The berries have been painted in on a wet in wet wash. Keep the reds subdued by adding cobalt blue tone so that they donot attract more attention than the bird. For the passionfruit also, the orange has been subdued by adding blue and the edges have been softened with a damp brush to push it into the midground.


                For the rusty wires, add another layer of orange brown and float in translucent orange here and there. Drop in a darker brown or red brown on the shadow sides. Drop the colors so that an indented pattern is formed rather than making it a smooth wash. Add a few squiggly lines with a darker value when the wash is damp and also again when it has dried completely.

Blue Passion Flower and Brazilian Tanager

Finished Painting – Inner Sanctuary


           A very happy new year to you, my dear readers. May you find fresh wells of inspiration in your hearts and souls this year.

          Here`s my finished painting that I have named “Inner Sanctuary”. When I looked at it after putting in the background berries, I knew immediately that, that is what it is.

         I will continue with the demo in my next posts.

Inner Sanctuary

More buds and leaves


                  This leaf behind the bird has some of the darkest values. The first layer is a greyed yellow, the second one has the shadow green flowing into the first wet in wet.

first layers for leaf in shadow


              Here I`ve brightened the green a bit:

second layers for leaf in shadow


                The darkest values are put in here. Tint the veins to a dull yellow green:

details for leaf in shadow

first layers for bud

second layers for bud


                  If you compare this bud to the foreground bud in my previous post, you can see how far back into the picture this one looks. Its not only because these colors are paler but also because the highlights have been subdued. This differentiation in planes is necessary in order to give depth to the picture plane, that is the third dimension:  

bud details


             One half of this leaf has an yellow underwash, the other half is bent in another way to catch the light differently, it is bluish grey:

first layers

                 Here I`ve wet the leaf leaving the lines for the veins dry. Don`t worry if some of them merge a bit, they will look more natural that way. Then I dropped in a green mix at the corners of each segment. They make beautiful shapes on their own which look very natural and unforced, the beauty of watercolors!

second layers

 second layers


            Drop in darker mixes in the same way and tint the veins. Paint the stem in yellow greens and pale pinks.

final details


                  I`ve done these leaves in a different way. I had painted the entire leaf that is at the corner without leaving the whites for the veins. This is a watercolor technique that is not used so much. The lighter valued yellow veins have been painted on a damp wash. Usually while a wash is damp, it is at a delicate stage where you would not want to mess around too much, since that would cause streaks and `cauliflowers` in an otherwise smooth wash. But it is a perfect stage where you can paint in details like veins or other growths with a stronger mixture (that is less water on the brush than on the paper) to get darker valued elements in the leaf. You can get lighter values like the yellow veins in this leaf if you take a watery mix (more water on the brush than on the paper) and stroke the veins in carefully on a damp wash. The water pushes away the darker color on the wash giving lighter colored veins. Experiment a little with the amount of water you are using. This method is useful for details which need not be too prominent. I`ve also put in the yellow spots this way. On the leaf to the right, the spots are in colored pencil. The effect looks quite different on both the leaves:

light veins painted on darker wash