About painting whites and mixing greys


                 It promises to be a beautiful, white christmas, here, this year. The mornings are beautiful with the soft, white light in the mornings and evenings sparkling with necklaces of  tiny, yellow  lights dancing in the wind. Have you noticed when it snows, that it is lighter and brighter than you would normally expect with such a weak and watery sun? Its the light reflecting and bouncing off the snow on the ground, bushes and low roofs (that is normally absorbed) that makes it look like there is more light than there actually is.

                 The three primary colors mixed so that they are  equally dominant gives a grey. Equal dominance is not the same as equal quantity;  ruby red, cobalt blue tone and hansa yellow medium mixed in equal quantities will not give a grey, it will give only a dull red since the red in this instance is much stronger than the blue or yellow. Usually you will need more of the yellow to yield a grey but here you need more of both the blue and yellow. Once you have made a true grey, you will notice that it looks rather boring and you wont find the true grey so much in shadows anyway (except in shadows cast by black objects). So instead of making them equally dominant, shift the mixture so that you have one or two dominant. Having the blue dominate gives a blue-grey; having the yellow and blue dominate gives a green-grey; having the red and blue dominate gives a violet-grey etc. Having these colors in shadows makes the subject much more alive. This is especially true when painting whites. Keep all the layers for the bud very light and soften the edges. I`ve also used a bit of cerulean blue for the green areas.

Passion Flower bud

first layers for the bud

second layers for the bud

                 The petals marked 1,2 and 3 below have pure white or pale yellow highlights. This makes them look as though they are sitting on top of the other petals which are in shadow and whose highlights should not be as bright as the  ones on top so as to give that three-dimensional look.

Final Layers

                   This leaf catches the light and is the most yellow-green of all the leaves in the painting. Paint the first layers with yellow and blue.

first layers

                 Mix a yellow-green for this step with just a hint of blue. While the wash is still damp, stroke in the veins with  red-violet and violet mixes. The veins should gently flare into the wash while still keeping their shape.

paint the veins

Painting the Passion flower


               This flower is not completely white, it has soft hints of violet and red-violets as well. The highlights should be kept white even if they are small areas. Even small areas will tell that it is a white flower and not a pale lilac or light colored flower. There are very few shadows in the reference photo of this flower, you can strengthen the values of a couple of them and even invent a few more to define the form of the petals a little better.

Blue Passion Flower


                 I started painting the petals and sepals here, wet in wet. The mixes are from S cobalt blue tone and S ruby red. Add a little DS hansa yellow medium to tone the violet down to get shadow mixes. Favour the red for the red-violet mix. Paint with a darker mixture on a damp wash to get the streaks. The yellow areas are yellow green made from DS  hansa yellow medium and S cerulean blue tone.

first layers for the petals and sepals


                 The filaments have the same violet and red-violet mixes. They have a small white band somewhere aound their centres, so draw an elliptical shape passing through all of them and leave white areas. The lower portions of the filaments have red-violet bands and the upper portions, violet bands or dots.

starting on the filaments

more filaments

                  Fill the centre area of the flower with a yellow green mix. The white bands of the filaments also have individual shadows to them, make one side darker than the other with a toned down violet mix.

darker values for the filaments

                    The anthers are a little warmer, I added some translucent orange to the yellow-violet mix. Paint the stigmas with yellow and yellow green mixes. Add shadows with cobalt blue tone and put it some violet dots while the wash is still damp.

second layers for the petals and sepals

                 Add a layer of greenish- yellow and also a red violet shadow mix to the centre of the flower and add details.

Blue Passion Flower

Painting the Tanager


                                                                  Brazilian Tanager

               For the bird, the first layer that I`ve put in, wet in wet, is a very light mix of  Daniel Smith hansa yellow medium and Schminke translucent orange, favouring the yellow, leaving the white of the paper for two regions 1. where the throat overlaps the mantle 2. where the wing converts overlap the breast area. These two regions have light- valued feathers which I`ve saved in all the successive layers. Also, save the white for the eye, beak and feet.

base layer

                          The next layer has a mix of hansa yellow medium and ruby red, the colors I`ve used for the leaves and flower. Using translucent orange alone here in this area will set it apart from the rest of the painting, as though it does not belong to this painting, always spread your colors throughout the painting.

second layers

                 The upper part of the bird is brighter, more of the mix in the previous layer here, favouring the red. The lower portion is in shadow, I`ve used a mix of ruby red and cobalt blue to make a violet, to tone down the yellow-orange mix.

third layers

                   In this layer, I`ve used the same shadow mix as above, to further define the bird, favouring the yellow for the lower portion and the red for the upper portion. I`ve used a violet mix for the wing area, large areas of pure black can sometimes look like holes in the painting. This violet mix contains ruby red, cobalt blue tone and also cerulean blue tone because you need a darker value here which cobalt blue alone cannot make since it has a low tinting strength. Cerluean blue tone has a medium tinting strength (phthalo blue, on the other hand is quite strong) The lesser wing converts have some orange as well. Wash in a little bit of orange in the eye, then drop in a dark violet. Don`t flood in the highlight, the eye will look dead without it.

fourth layers


¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† For the final step, paint in feathers with light strokes. You can do this on a slightly damp wash, or lightly wash them away after painting them, so that they don`t look too harsh. The feathers have the same colors as the body, translucent orange and the shadow mixes. Paint in just enough to capture its essence, too much will look laboured… although the effortless look really comes with practice and not through any technique. You can observe this yourself¬† if you`ve painted the same subject a couple of times. The outlines in all layers have been softened with a damp brush¬†near the head and¬† chest area, to get that fluffy look. This can be more refined while putting in the background. The feet and beak have the same violet mix. You can grey it down a bit¬†by adding¬†some yellow for the feet. Leave a highlight for each of the claws. Dry brush a little on the feet and beak.

Brazilian Tanager

Painting the Foreground Leaf videos


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Foreground leaf..


              I`ve painted the leaf with the following colours: Daniel Smith Hansa yellow medium and Schminke`s Ruby red, cobalt blue tone and cerulean blue tone. Hansa yellow medium is a cool yellow, the veins in this leaf appear cool although not as cool as Hansa yellow medium but its always easier to make an yellow warmer than to make it cooler. I`ve chosen Cobalt blue tone mainly because a warm blue is needed to make a good violet (for the flower) but it also makes for nice, subdued highlights on the leaf. It has a fine, powdery texture which works well here because this is not exactly a smooth leaf. I work mostly wet in wet except for the final layers. I usually put a lot of water and wait for it to sink into the paper, then start working so that the paper stays damp for a longer time. Thoroughly dry between layers, otherwise the colors from the previous layers will mix into the ones you are applying now, creating mud.

Leaf in watercolor


                        The first layer is the yellow, leaving the white of the paper for the highlight areas. 

base washes

                  A very light blue-grey mix (tending toward blue) of cobalt blue tone-ruby red-hansa yellow medium on the highlight areas.

base washes

                      A yellow-green mix (tendin towards yellow) of hansa yellow medium-cerulean blue tone:

 base washes


                    With the blue-grey mix, I started to just roughly block in the vein structure. In the beginning, when you are learning, it is actually good if you copy the structure as you see it,this exercise is helpful for learning to distinguish subtle changes in color and value. Success in building forms rests almost entirely on this. Later, ofcourse you can improvise on your own. 

establishing the vein structure..

establishing the vein structure..


                          Here, I`ve strengthened the yellow-green mix whereever necessary, the bluish areas are lighter in comparison:

 strengthening the colors..


                 The finer veins are worked in with a darker value on a damp wash:

strengthening the colors..


                  In the previous layers, I had wet the leaf area leaving the veins dry, here except for the central vein, I wet the entire area, so that the veins don`t look that prominent:

final details..

final details..


Form shadows, cast shadows, Highlights

                   Sometimes I had divided the leaf up in segments to paint smaller areas, but mostly I worked on the leaf as a whole. Its easier for me to see the shadows this way. The upper part of the leaf is in cast shadow (marked CS on the photo), thrown by the leaves above it. The lower part is brighter and more yellow. The right part has an important form shadow (FS) on it, this shows how the leaf is turning in on itself, just below that is a highlight. Also on the upper right of the leaf is a highlight , caused by the reflected light from the white flower above. 

Passion flower painting demo – Sketching it in


                    I`m very excited at the thought of painting something in watercolors again, I miss the flowing washes and its slightly unpredictable results.If you want to follow along with this demo, here are my references of the blue passion flower (Passiflora Caerulea) and the Brazilian Tanger. These two combined  makes for quite an attractive and interesting effect with the secondary triad of violet, orange and green. If you want a different mood, a violet or blue or green bird would give a more serene look. Unless you are aiming for a fantasy landscape, it would be nice if you choose flowers and birds/butterflies/bees etc that belong to the same habitat and those that would be naturally be attracted to each other.

Passiflora Caerulea

Brazilian Tanager


                      The first step in drawing is always blocking in the general shape and size of the form that you are drawing. Here since there is more than one element, the way in which one is placed in relation to another has also to be observed. The round flower is an ellipse shape seen in this perspective. Lightly place all the elements that you want in your composition with a HB pencil. You can slightly enlarge or change leaves or other elements so that they fit right in the size of the paper that you have chosen. Place has also to be made for the bird, which must be brought to scale with the flower. In real life, the blue passion flower is about 10 cm and the Brazilian Tanager about 18 cm (including tail) Don`t  make them way too larger than life-size, about life-size or smaller than that is alwys better.

step 1


                       Start to draw the petals and the shapes of the leaves roughly, leave the details out for now, just see that everything is sitting together perfectly, that you have got the directions in which they face properly. I made the stems that are too straight a bit curved.


                    This step takes the most time but is also the easiest and most rewarding because you can`t make any major mistakes now. Take an 8B pencil and start to put in all the details to your heart`s content. You have the HB pencil lines from the previous step as guidelines but you can distinguish the marks that you are making now since they are much darker. If you are having reproducing the exact curves, run the pencil along the curve in the photo and then draw it on the paper, the hand will follow the same movement. Don`t forget the tendrils, they are the prettiest of all things on a creeper. The flower has what at first glance appear as 10 petals, but they are actually 5 petals and 5 sepals, surmounted by a carona of blue or violet filaments, 5 greenish yellow stamens and 3 stigmas.  I`ve left out the background leaves and details for now, so that it doesn`t look too confusing. They can be put in directly on the watercolor paper after some colors have been layed in. So now , this is ready to be transferred. Rub the back of the paper with a charcoal stick, wipe off most of it with a facial tissue, place on watercolor paper and pencil in all the lines once again. Wet the watercolor paper which has the tranferred drawing now and stretch it on gator board.Wetting it seals the pencil lines on the paper so theydon`t get wiped off but make sure they are very light. If the details disappear after a few layers of color, draw them in again. (You can find more information on how to stretch watercolor paper in the Beginner`s Cove section)            

final step 

yellow roses and painting loose style‚Ķ


                 Shade colors for yellow objects are obtained in the same manner as for other colored objects, except   that you would need a very light value of the shade color, as yellow gets dirtied very easily. In flowers, they very often tend towards green because of the light reflected from leaves nearby. A light glaze (over a yellow area) of yellow`s complement, which is purple, will give a shade color that doesn`t tend towards either brown or green. Raw sienna looks like a good shadow color for yellow but I find it makes the area too dull.

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†Areas where the light hits the object directly (highlights), is not where you would find the most saturated color. The light washes the color out and they are just¬†pale tints of the local color. Some artists like to keep them pure white to keep that sparkle. Areas facing slightly away from the light source have the most saturated color. Here, the roses at the centre of the painting (which are directly in the sun)¬†look so beautiful and vivid with pure yellow half tones and white highlights…¬†¬†

yellow roses

yellow roses


                  These roses are the farthest away from the viewer and I`ve painted them in a loose style. While painting loose, the trick is to think in terms of shapes of the values rather than shapes of the individual elements. Have all your mixes ready and lay in a clear water wash, leaving areas where you want white highlights. Lay in the lightest wash, this can be of different colors. As the wash starts to dry, lay in stronger values. I think it helps to do it when one doesn`t have a lot of time and is rushed, because then you wont go into details! Think in terms of chunks of foliage areas Рlight, dark or mid tone?


                I`ve changed the pink roses to yellow-orange, kept the purple clematis though, they give a bit of contrast to the yellow roses. S translucent orange, red madder dark and cerulean blue tone mix gives a nice deep brown for the pots, I didn`t want the terracota orange here in the background.


            Here`s the completed painting. One of my concerns was in getting the yellow rose shrub to look like it was growing in a curved manner, its not on a straight plane behind the statues. I have achieved that by having less details for the roses as they go from right to left and ofcourse, they keep getting smaller and smaller. (but I have kept the higher chroma in the distance, they are glowing in the light and thats what attracted me to these rosese in the first place)



Back lighting


                 Objects lit up by back lighting can look very beautiful and dramatic at times  like here in this section of the painting. The leaves at the top are glowing as if with their own yellow light. Its a little different than how you would usually paint dense foliage; the leaves nearest to the viewer are in deep shadow whereas the leaves behind them are lit up. Really, its the light that creates the magic, as I`m sure you have heard before. You`re walking on the side walk on a dull, cloudy day, the trees look like green-gray lifeless forms; then suddenly the clouds part, revealing the sun`s face; the leaves start glowing fiercly and little shadows are dancing about everywhere and its like you`ve stepped into paradise!

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Here are some photos, I`m not writing about the painting process itself; you know the drill….. I will probably add more shadows and fine-tune¬†the values after I finish the rest of the painting. If you`re thinking yellow would be¬†somewhat distracting at the top edge of the painting, I`ll just say that I hope that the yellow roses towards the left¬†will form a downward path leading the eye towards the focal point.

rose garden

Work in progress ‚Äď Rose garden


                  I`ve just started doing the foreground roses. Some of them are in deep shadow, especially the one at the extreme right, so I`ve put in an orange wash for them (with some yellow at the centres). Even though we would expect shadow areas to be cooler, here the ones in the sunlight are reflecting the blue light from the sky and they look cooler (i.e. pinker) than the ones in shadow.


                  Strengthened the base colors here:


                   Put in krapprot tief (red madder dark) for the roses in shadow. This color, looks quite bright when it is wet but becomes dull when it has dried, perfect when you need warm, red shadows. The previous layers of bright orange lend luminosity to the roses even after the shadow color has been applied and they don`t look dead.


                    Started giving form to the individual petals here:


                     I`ve also used S cerulean blue tone for the shadows in the sunlit roses.

Background foliage painting techniques


                  I think its worth taking as much time to master background techniques as you would take for learning foreground techniques. The background should subtly enhance the foreground without overpowering it.   


           The photos below are crops, I`ve put some numbers on them to mark the places:

1. After you have finished painting the foreground leaves and flowers, quickly mark some interesting shapes and patterns that the leaves behind make with a pencil. You don`t have to draw all of them. Now take a very dark value of green and starting painting the area around these shapes (your mix should have enough water that it flows well from the brush) Once this dark value is established, its amazing how easy it becomes to put in the values for the middle layers. You can push the leaves backward or forward to any plane.

2. See how if you put in the background color and value on the top (or to the side) of the leaves, it gives the appearance of them emerging from the shadows. These leaves form the connecting layer between planes. This is important, not all leaves are facing directly towards the viewer.

3. You can also leave out small white shapes in the dark value. After the bg has completely dried out, you can brush in a very light yellow green or green to give the impression of small flickers of light that have managed to penetrate the shadows.

4. Another trick is to simply lift out color with a damp brush leaving behind soft-edged leave shapes.


             Photo Below:  Its important to put in shadow areas on veins and stems too. Compare leaf 1 to the same leaf in the first photos. Here I`ve put in a shadow color on the top and bottom part of the vein. The highlight is only in the middle area and that is where it is the brightest yellow-green. The same goes for leaf 2. The middle portion of the vein is almost white just as the rest of the leaf in that area.

          For the stems and branches, don`t automatically reach out for the burnt sienna. You can get a wide range of green-browns, reddish browns and violet browns with the colors already used to make the branches look more interesting. Also you can take a little artistic licence and exaggerrate the colors whenever possible. In the reference photo, apart from the red of the roses, its largely a mass of uninterrupted green. I`ve used yellow brown and violets and reds for accents to make the area a whole lot more interesting.

the background leaves..


             Here is a photo of the rest of the foreground leaves. They look very light but this will help in pushing them forward from the background plane. I`ve also started on a couple of veins for the main fg leaves. A fine dark line on one side will make the central vein look more prominent. For the rest of the veins I`ve used DS chinese white tinted with a yellow green.


                  Here I`ve done the bunch of leaves on the right side, they are somewhere in the middle layer; in shadow , so of a dark value. Done wet on dry, with few details like central veins here and there and a couple of shadows to establish some form for a few of them. 


             Started with a few of the background leaves..


                I`ve put in a very dark value in between the background leaves that I had painted (photo above), so this forms another plane. I`ve given the wall behind the foliage a rose-grey tinge instead of a neutral grey. Red is the complement of green and using this contrast makes both the colors (green in the leaves and red in the wall) appear more vivid than in any another combination.


                   Here (the portion to the right of the wing and above the larger rose), I`ve used another method; I took a dark value and put in that first, leaving white shapes for the leaves by negative painting.  Now I can either bring in the dark value of the bg into the white areas with a damp brush or use other colors (using other colors can be a bit tricky, you have to make sure that they are subdued enough so they don`t jump forward into the fg plane). You can also gently lay in a clear water wash over the bg leaves and drop in darker values (like I did on the right side of the buds). Whatever method you use, the aim is to create the illusion of foliage growing in multiple planes, one behind the other. Every area need not be perfectly understandable to the eye, that is not how you would see it in nature. Bits of information here and there lets the viewer construct reality but also give room for imagination.  


¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† If you would like to follow along, here are my references….. The roses looked so beautiful that I just took pictures from every angle so now I have been able to construct this scene, but still I had missed a spot …….ha haaaaaaaa and I don`t have information for an area (top part, above photo) guess I`ll have to improvise..

red roses and rose leaves..


               I have started painting the roses in the foreground in the somewhat loose style as they are not the main focus here in this painting. In the first wash, I dropped in S ruby red(cool) and WN winsor red(warm). 


                 In these second washes, I`ve left the areas or petals having the lightest value (from the first wash) alone and strengthened the  remaining areas.


                   Here, I`ve put in shadows with S madder red dark and also with a mix of  ruby red with S cerulean blue tone.


              This rose is nearest to the viewer and has more of details to it than the others. I used some S translucent orange too, for the sunlit petals.


                    The first washes for the leaves contain DS hansa yellow medium, S cerulean blue tone and a bit of the reds. Mix three puddles Рyellow green, green and blue green and also puddles of the primary colors. Now you can add any of the primaries to any of your three green mixes to get the exact tone or shade of green that you need in each area. You need to add the red too to these particular green mixes to tone them down; if they were new, young leaves they would have those bright colors but not here. I`ve left a fine white line for the main veins. 


                 I`ve layed in stronger colors and also started with shadows. The shadows make a beautiful pattern here on the leaves, its a good idea to draw them in first. Shadows too have colors, they are not grey but they should always be duller than the sunlit areas. Add more of the reds for them but not so much that they dominate the greens and start looking grey. 


               Strengthened the shadows a bit more with the same colors.

the angels..


¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Here are my little angels all done…. I`ve let the water area be for now, I want to add some greens and rose petals instead of the muddy water in the pic. This is going to be a challenging painting to do…. the foreground area has cool tones whereas the background has warm colors in the roses. By having¬†this strong contrast and details in the foreground, I`m hoping to push this layer to the front. Making the yellow in the roses duller would¬†push them further away……… but I really don`t want to do that….what are flowers without their colors?


         The hair locks and cheek area (left angel) have their shadows strengthened. Dark values for eyebrows and lips.


                 The right angel has its entire face in shadow, this pale wash will be the color for the highlights. 


                 The mouth of the pot at the  right will be in shadow. The top of the wing will also be in shadow because it forms a hollow shape. Started defining shadows in the rocks at the base. 


                  The stone structure behind the bottom most pot will have a very dark value as this area has to be pushed back. The inside of the pot at the right also has a very dark value. Added cast shadows.

Ode to Summer – Rose garden


¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Come summer and every¬† shrub, plant and tree seems to be blooming (wish this season would never end) but roses attract our attention almost exclusively….. so after two weeks of¬†composition and drawing, I`ve my very own rose garden to paint. I`ve also included these adorable looking¬†angel statues; the roses are from several other photos carefully woven together and around the statues so that¬†they look like this place actually exists. The foreground roses grow along a wall perpendicular to the plane of the statues, then turn around perpendicular again so that there is another plane behind the statues (bg) along which grow roses again¬†and purple clematis.

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Its really worthwhile taking the time to get the drawing accurate so that you save a headache later on while painting, a little bit off on the faces and the effect of the painting can well be ruined. I`ve started painting the angels and they have been a lot of fun, its on CP paper, and it takes washes well, I wanted a bit of tooth so that I get some texture for the stone. … These angels… Can you guess their age? (a special angel age?) Their control of body movements suggest to way older than toodlers but they look more like babies. Babies have heads that are large in proportion to their bodies (their eyes too¬†appear huge in their faces(because of their¬†large eyeballs), maybe to¬†make their “Oh! wont you please pick me up”¬†look, work¬†better!), these proportions are¬†sometimes used in paintings and sculptures of little¬†children to make them look more pleasing to the eye.

           In this base wash, I`ve put in a very pale wash of Hansa yellow medium over the entire structure, except where the water is going to be. Its a nice sunny day and I want the sunlit areas to be warm.


¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†I`ve started putting in the ¬†first washes here¬†with a mix of DS hansa yellow medium, MB rose lake and S cobalt blue tone (this has some sedimentary properties). Pushing the mix to a violet-grey or a blue-grey instead of a complete grey ensures that they don`t end up looking too drab.For the chest area (left hand statue), make a clear water wash extending to the shoulder but not in the arm region (so that a hard edge forms there), drop in light shadows (the light falls from the right hand side). In watercolor, you always paint from light to dark, but sometimes I like to put in some¬†shadows (like in the wing) because it makes it easier to see what middle values are missing. How beautifully the statues emerge from the stone that is at the base…. Soft edges behind the leg region sets the thigh¬†apart from the rest of the stone. The right hand angel is mostly in shadow, the stomach protrudes, so a highlight there…..


                  Stronger shadows in the wing, shadows beneath the locks of hair. The back of the head is in shadow. 


               Shadow at the left hand side of the face.., the shape of this shadow is very important. It defines the features. The cheekbone catches the light, the eye socket is in shadow. Keep limbs nice and rounded. Wet in wet washes give the appearance of smooth stone like marble but you can try wet on dry (maybe a bit of salt) for a grainier texture.

finished painting – spring blooms


  Here is my painting completed along with a couple of crops below it:




        Here I`ve started on the background, just working my way on small bits around the foreground elements. There is an evergreen tree behind the lilac plant on the left hand side, so I`ve let some texture form there. Apart from the darker value, this texture is what separates the bg from the fg leaves.


        For the stems and branches, I`ve used perylene maroon with a touch of the dark mix of the leaves. The shadow side will have a darker mix but instead of a straight line, if you make irregular horiontal strokes, it gives the impression of bumps and rough texture of the bark.


             These birds are Feldsperling (German sparrow or Eurasian tree sparrow), they like the country side and feed mostly on seeds.. (but I`ve spotted them many times around Mc Donalds!) Wet on wet washes give these the fluffy appearance. The fence takes a bit of dry brush work after a very pale wet in wet wash of some neutral colors. For the iron nail, use perylene maroon with a bit of yellow and a bit of indigo. With a damp brush lightly bring the color down to make a rust streak.

the leaves..


¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Leaves are flat and one dimensional but the way they twist and turn makes the¬†shadows within them which can be used to define their form.¬†The ultramarine blue and new gamboge¬†make nice yellow green to green¬†mixes without¬†having to dull them with a compliment. Schminke`s indigo (this is quite opaque)¬†can be added to give the blue greens.¬†A bit of ruby red added to the UB blue and yellow¬†mixes gives some nice darks for shadows. Since these are small areas, they¬†can be most conveniently done by the wet on dry method. Leave a fine line for the¬†central vein in the first wash and gently blend it in with a¬† yellow green in the next wash.¬†It won`t look right if you u paint it in after the leaf has completely dried.¬†While doing the individual leaves,¬†the overall form of the plant has also to be kept in mind… the upper leaves catch the light, they¬†have the most yellow in the yellow greens, the leaves at the bottom are in shadow and they are the¬†darkest,¬†a few leaves which are flat and without details will give the illusion of depth. In my reference, there`s very little interest in terms of the value arrangement and¬†all the values¬†lie almost exclusively in the mid range. By making the lights lighter and shadows darker, I`ve extended¬† this range a little.

            The lilac leaves right under the lilacs reflect a little of the flower color, so drop in a bit of the reds in the leaf washes. This adds interest to the leaves and ties the flowers and leaves together visually. The peony leaves actually do have a bit of the warm red in them at the edges. I`m going to make them a bit darker and cooler since here the peony bush is placed under the lilac tree. Always check whether the veins are opposite are alternate flowing, here they are alternate.

the peonies..



          I put some masking fluid to save the whites for the water droplets. Don`t leave it on for more than 2-3 days. The lower flower has quin red , quin red mixed with new gamboge (to get a red orange), perylene maroon for the shadows, also a bit of ultramarine blue and ruby red. It is yet to open fully and is warmer than the upper one which has the same colors but more of ruby red. Perylene maroon may look very bright with a burnt orange hue while it is still wet, but gets a lot more dull towards a maroon shade after it has dried.

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† If you`re having trouble with values,¬†start out with¬†painting a single¬†flower or leaf with a single color¬†from a black and white photo.¬†Choose any dark valued color¬†so that you¬†can make use¬†of the maximum number of values. A yellow will not give you the complete range. Any deep red or blue will work. Make a value scale with the color from 1 to 9 or from 1 to 5 if thats all you can differentiate for now.¬†There`s a section on¬†this in Beginnier`s cove > color theory > values.¬†Wet a petal with clear water,¬†let it sink in a bit while you determine¬†which the lightest value is on that particular petal in the photo. It can be a 1 or 2 or 3 if its a sunlit petal but also in the higher range if it is in shadow. Lay that value in, determine what the next value is and lay that (the mix will be stronger now) on the first wash but not completely covering it. This wash¬†will gently flare on the first one giving a soft edge if you have the right amount of moisture both on the brush and the¬†paper. (u will get better with practice). You can continue doing this with the next values all the way till the darkest. But if the petal has reached the damp-dry stage before you have complete it, stop and let dry completely while you work on another petal.¬†Later, make another wash of clear water and¬† start putting in the darker¬†values. If you are confident you have got the hang of this, do the same flower with the full set of colors. Choose only the three primaries if you have a problem with color harmony. The red closest to the flower, a yellow to warm it and a blue for a cooler hue. Lay in the lightest values, but which color is that lightest value? Is it a bright¬†red-orange, a red, a red tending towards violet¬†or a dull red tending towards maroon? You can`t go wrong if you`re careful at each stage. Slowly you will realize you`re making¬† color choices instinctively and without fuss. Have fun and good luck…….

the lilacs..


                    This is what I`ve worked on in the previous week, I`ll try to be more regular and post every monday from now on. The sky is a mix of ultramarine blue and ruby red, paling towards the horizon. The addition of new gamboge to this (made slightly stronger) mix greys it down and I use this for just a slight suggestion of rain clouds. Very simple so that it doesn`t compete with the complex foreground. For now I`ve left the central area at the top blank until I decide if I should have just a hint of the sun shining through.

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† I`ve already done a demo on lilacs, so I wont go into it much here. I just went wild with all the colors that I had mentioned in my previous post.¬†I worked wet-in-wet first while adding the sunlit and shadow colors and kept on working¬†on details as it¬†got dry. The floret¬†consists of four petals with a dot for the center but the four petals¬† are seldom visible the way they are stacked, safer to make groups of two petalled ones with the four petalled ones here and there.¬†Go over¬†the areas that you have painted with a clean water damp brush (if the area has already dried) so that you have soft edges. You can paint these in two ways, study the whole flower carefully and put in the values as exactly as possible or have your colors ready and just plunge into it, after all you have seen them before a hundred times, you already know subconsciously how they`re arranged, if you don`t let yourself think¬†then what you already feel inside will come out beautifully. Both methods work but I don`t have to¬†tell you¬†which one is more fun…….. (but also¬†more scary!)¬†


Mid-spring blooms tutorial ‚Äď drawing, composition and colors


¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† After a long weekend, I was on the way to pick up my son from his kindergarten and I had a fragrant surprise waiting for me……. the tulips, daffodils, snowdrops and primroses were all gone and instead¬†were sweet smelling lilacs, pansies, peonies……everywhere. Its amazingly beautiful and utterly fascinating how the landscape changes so suddenly. It¬† can be ahem.. dangerous too if your`re anything like me in memorizing directions – left at the pink rhododendron bush, right at the yellow sunflowers …. Once we had shifted to a new house and summer was nearing its end. I went out for groceries not noticing while going that the yellow rose shrub at the corner¬†had completely stopped flowering and while coming back I had lost my way!¬†No worries, now I look to the buildings for directions not plants which I know will cheat on me!¬†Well, anyway, coming back to the lilacs, I took this photo while it was still raining. The peonies are so huge they were drooping very heavily to the ground in the rain so that snap is¬†from when they had picked up a little but not completely dry.¬†I¬†worked out a composition from these two and another one of sparrows. These cute little birds are very common here hopping their way about searching for food.¬†¬†It doesn`t matter if your sketch done on location¬†or photo doesn`t have all the details. You can fill these out from other sources like the net or field books.



¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† ¬† I`m still working on the drawing but some tips for a drawing like this – the stems are the directional elements so place these accurately first, you can shift them about if you feel it helps the composition, follow with roughly placing the flowers and foreground leaves. You can use a measuring scale or a grid. Now that you know these are accurately placed, you can take your time at filling in the details, maybe some bg elements (these can also be done later at the painting stage so that the drawing doesn`t look too confusing and you don`t have to find your place all the time) Also in a maze of leaves like these, it would help to sit for a longer period of time rather than short sessions because again you will end up having to keep finding your place in the pattern. Some of the lilacs are blurred and this is good, it adds interest to the painting if there is a combination of¬†detailed ones and blurred ones;¬†hard edged and soft edged.¬†You can leave out some leaves and stems, choose the ones which add to the realistic effect and leave out ones which complicate the pattern unnecessarily. This is easier¬†said than done for me. I think to myself that the highlight on this leaf is so pretty, the fall of this leaf and this stem is so graceful and so on and so forth that I usually end up having most everything….¬†But you can choose to have it as loose as you want to. For me, it is a pleasure to lose myself in this world of nature and forget for the time being the daily battles in life; and the longer that time can be the better. I have transferred the main elements from another sheet of paper to the watercolor paper and am drawing out the rest freehand.



                     For the peonies, the color choice was simple, the orange red is almost the exact hue of M Graham`s quin red (PR209).  Another red which I chose for them, one which is warmer is PV 19, Schminke`s ruby red and Maimeri blu`s rose lake are almost the same hue (is the ruby red a tad cooler?) and though one is listed as semi transparent and the other semi opaque, they have the same level of transparency. For the lilacs, I`m going to change the color from this purple in the photo to a lovely burgundy shade that I had seen some time back (the first I had seen on lilacs). Burgundy is the tertiary shade (shade is a color mixed with black, tint is a color mixed with white and tone is a color mixed with grey) of violet-red. (tertiary color is a color made by mixing a primary with a secondary).Using this color ensures that there is harmony when the eye moves from the orange-red, red of the peonies to the red-violet of the lilacs instead of the jump there would be from the orange-red of the peonies to the violet of the original lilacs. (that said, I also feel that any riot of colors would work for flowers). Winsor and Newton perylene maroon (PR179) mixed with Winsor and Newton quin magenta (PR122) is the color I was looking for. Perylene maroon can also be used as the shadows for the peonies which would tie the two flowers together. Coming to the blue, I had my heart set on Winsor and Newton`s dumont`s blue for the sky which leans towards violet, the next spoke in the color wheel instead of a pthalo blue which leans towards green and which would have been a jump. But Dumont`s blue which has some red in it does not make clear greens, so I have opted for Daniel Smith`s ultramarine blue and new gamboge.  

Lily Haven completed


                 Here`s my painting completed:



                Continuing with the demo, these are the base washes for the leaves. Mostly I have used new gamboge towards the right hand side as that side is hit with direct light and is warmer.


               The next washes are the greens. I let the bluish violet highlights remain from the previous washes. Also let the yellow veins showing through. Here`s a small trick for soft edged veins and small highlights. Wet the entire leaf and gently blot the water with a tissue. The leaf will be just a tiny bit damp. Now lay in water again this time leaving out the veins or highlights. Drop in color and there! soft edges.


               The final layer has deeper colors and shadows. I left some spots for white with masking fluid for pollen grains which have fallen on the leaves and also for water drops.



                 I used hansa yellow medium for the first wash in the wings, the abdomen has raw sienna as well and a highlight in the center. The next wash has new gamboge for the wing nearest to the viewer. Then I picked out the markings in mauve. Masked the legs and antennae and painted them after the bg was done. Grey for the legs and mauve for the antennae.



¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† I usually like to do these small thumbnails with different colors in the bg. You never know, sometimes you might surprise yourself! Here, I had already decided on the complementary yellow- purple color scheme but still wanted to see the analogous yellows, oranges¬†and greens……


               I wet the top area first and dropped in my colors; threw some salt in while the wash was still damp. After this had completely dried, I brushed away the salt, wet the area again, adjusted the colors a bit and put in some stronger colored dots in the white spots the salt had left behind. I quickly added in a stem with a bud and some leaves behind the foreground leaves.


                 Put in greens in the bottom area. Left to dry completely.  


                  Now the area in the middle. Dried. Then I made the area at the bottom, darker valued. After it had dried, I used the same dark value as a wash on the bud and leaves that I had added previously. This makes them recede into the bg. The leaves at the extreme left merge almost completely because they are glazed with a darker value whereas the bud and stem form a middle layer. I also lifted out a few leaves with a stiff slightly damp brush.

               Waterdrops:     Waterdrops will be the same color as the surface they are on. The highlight will be on the side facing the light source. This is due to reflection of light but refraction causes the area around the highlight to be dark. Using this light against dark principle along with a shadow underneath the drop is sufficient to create the illusion of water drops.