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 



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