Have you ever wondered how to get started with watercolor?
Or... how do I get my watercolor florals to look effortless and organic?
Then I've got a treat for you! After many requests, I have finally pulled together my top 5 tips for creating watercolor flowers!
For the sake of ease, I have put together a little video for you as well as a written list down below the video for those of you who still prefer to read (or just can't stand the sound of my "stage voice"—I don't blame you! hah)
TIP #1: WORK FROM LIFE
Don't copy another artist's work, or the watercolor floral mug that you just adore. Use pictures of real flowers. Or better yet? Put actual flowers right in front of you!
This will help you to avoid the cookie cutter effect that often happens with beginner's watercolor flowers. You fall into a formula and before you know it, every one of your beautiful botanical looks exactly.the.same.
Hmm, not what we're going for!
To mend this, look at real flowers (or dogs, or people or whatever you are illustrating) and follow the natural variations that happen. I like to use Pinterest to find these images. Again, I'm not searching "watercolor florals", but I'm looking for photographs of actual flowers so that I can illustrate them. If you don't already have a Pinterest board for this, you can re-pin some of the images on my Botanical board.
Do you already have an amazing reference board?? Leave a link to it in the comments, I would love to explore it!
TIP #2: WARM UP
This is critical. Whenever I fail to warm up, I end up really messing up my final piece... and then I have to start over.
It doesn't have to be long or intense, just get your fingers moving again, feel how the paint moves and create something FUN! This is where most of my calendar artwork comes from each month, so if you like those, there's proof that not every warm up is a total loss ;)
Ps. Have you signed up for my monthly desktop calendars yet? They're free and come to your inbox each month, my treat!
TIP #3: DON'T FEAR NEGATIVE SPACE
Negative space to modern watercolor is similar to gesture drawings to figure. They don't follow the outline of the objects exactly, but show up just enough to help the viewer to define the shape.
If you feel like your flowers just look like large colored blobs, try leaving some white space (negative space) between each of your petals, and the folds of your petals. It's okay if you accidentally merge two together! If fact, it's a good thing if there is some variety in this aspect. Give it a try and let me know what you think of the exercise!
TIP #4: ADD DEPTH
There are lots of ways to add depth to your paintings, but my favorite ways are through size and value.
For size, try to mix up the different florals that you are including. Do you have a large peony in there? Then add in some medium sized leaves and petite flowers in a different color to help balance out the composition.
My other favorite trick to add depth is value. Value refers to how light or dark an object is. The goal is to get a variety of values within a single piece—shoot for 3-5 values.
Let's go back to our previous example: Let's say your large peony is a deep wine color. Then your smaller flowers and leaves need to be a lighter color. Let's say your smaller flowers are a rich mustard yellow color (which is on the lighter side of "medium"), then your leaves should be lighter or darker than that.
Pro tip: I love to go back in after my painting have dried to add in a few extra leaves to the "background". I make these extra light so that they are hardly noticeable. This takes my paintings from "good" to "great".
TIP #5: DON'T OVERWORK
I struggle with this! It's easy to keep adding to your artwork and trying to make it better or "fix" things that you don't like, but with watercolor it's better to come back and add more later than to go to far and have to start over!
Try to relax—if you notice yourself going over the same element over and over again, or feeling anxious, then stop. Walk away from your painting for a few minutes or even overnight. Trust me, you'll like it better after a break, and you'll be able to see with fresh eyes how you need to continue.
My favorite watercolor supplies:
Pinterest Board: https://www.pinterest.com/blusheddesigns/botanicals/
Strathmore 300 Series Watercolor Paper: https://amzn.to/2JZ7jmN
Winsor and Newton Starter Kit: https://amzn.to/2OlEKmD
Paint Brushes: https://amzn.to/2AdmzNb