Posts tagged watercolor tutorials
Watercolor Tutorial Lesson Six: Plants

Hello there! It's time to pick up where we left off before the holidays and get those brushes out again! These past tutorials can be a refresher for you before we begin.

I thought we could spend a few weeks talking about flowers and leaves since there's a lot to cover on that subject, and they're really fun to paint. At first we're just going to practice in our sketchbooks until we feel more confident to combine a few of the skills I've taught you into one nice painting.

The book I'll be using as a reference is called "Natural Companions" by Ken Druse. You can purchase a copy here. It's gorgeous! I'll probably be using it in other tutorials as we go along.

1. Paint a leaf with three brush strokes.

Start with a #10 round brush and the color yellow-green. Use the tip of the brush to create a small line, then press down harder to make a wider, darker line as you paint the outline of a simple leaf shape. Then, with a slightly bluer green, fill in the center of the leaf by pulling the brush along. 

Leave a slight white line to define the center of each leaf. Try adding different green hues (some warmer and some cooler) to each leaf. 

When your leaf is painted but still wet, drop a bit of color into the wet areas to add dimension.

2. Now change colors and brushes to paint the flower petals.

I moved to a smaller brush- a #6 or 8- to paint the flower petals. Work your way around the center of the flower clockwise, pulling the paint from the center outward until all the petals have been added. Some of the petals might touch, which is fine, while others will look a bit separated from the center. You might want them all to touch or be separate, it's up to you!

Here's another look at the floral picture I used as reference...

3. Add a smaller flower and a few buds.

The object of this lesson is to practice your brushwork, so don't worry if your painting doesn't match mine exactly. In fact, I'd encourage you to create your own painting all together!

Wherever you want to add a smaller flower is fine. Be sure to move down a size in brush. 

Then go in and add a few small buds with very simple lines, making sure to put varying degrees of pressure on your brush as you go to make sure the line isn't uniform. You want it to be varied.

4. Add a stem and darker lines to the leaves.

Since I like a fair amount of dark values in my paintings, I'm going to go in and add some dark details to the leaves. Use a #8 brush and a blue green to add varying lines to each leaf to show the veins and folds of the leaves.

Add a yellow-brown stem by gently pulling the tip of your round brush down and around. I like to add a curve to it like it's blowing in the wind.

While the stem is still wet, drop a darker value into the wet areas by tapping the end of your brush and letting the pigment flow into the wet areas of the paper.

5. Add the finishing touches.

Toward the end of every painting I like to lean back and look at the painting as a whole. If there are any gaps of white space that make it seem out of balance, add a leaf or a simple flower bud. You might even want to continue the painting to fill the entire page! It's up to you.

I make my living painting houses and people and animals, not flowers. So, there's plenty of room for improvement in my flower-painting skills. I don't claim to be an expert floral artist, and in fact, would advise you to search the internet for supplemental help when it comes to floral painting techniques. Yao Chang is one of my favorite floral artists and shares a lot of her techniques on her blog

I do, however, know enough to get you started in the right direction. I'm going to share more about botanicals in the coming weeks including tips for painting botanical wreathes and combining florals and lettering.

And don't forget- painting flowers looks easy but is actually a very delicate thing. The more you practice, the better you'll be! Good luck and have fun!

Watercolor Tutorial Lesson One: Learn to Paint a Free Form Abstract
learn to paint with michelle schneider, the art of michelle, free watercolor tutorial

learn to paint with michelle schneider, the art of michelle, free watercolor tutorial

Today I'm going to teach you how to create this free form abstract painting:

learn to paint, free watercolor tutorial, free form abstract

learn to paint, free watercolor tutorial, free form abstract

(Click here to review previous tutorials.)

This exercise is a massage for your brain. I first started painting these free form abstracts after I had Josie. Months of care taking, breast feeding, sleep deprivation, and everything else that comes along with a wonderful new baby, left my brain in a cloud. I was completely exhausted and desperate for a little "me" time. Like, I think I might be going a bit crazy here, desperate.

So I set some new rules for myself that I want you to think about before getting started with today's tutorial:

  1. Paint what you feel.
  2. Paint for play instead of purpose.
  3. Paint for you and your pleasure and no one else.
  4. Don't be afraid to make an ugly painting.
  5. It doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful.

This first lesson will help open up your mind to creativity and should be very meditative and calming and F.U.N.

set up your workspace, the art of michelle, artist's studios

set up your workspace, the art of michelle, artist's studios

1. Set up your workspace.

If you're right handed, place your brushes on a folded paper towel to the immediate right of your paper. Fill your cup with warm water which will help the pigment in your paint dissolve, making the colors brighter on the paper. Squeeze out a dime size drop of paint, one color into each well, onto your palette and arrange the paints from warm colors to cool. Start with yellow, orange, red, purple, blue, green, then add the neutrals clockwise around the palette. (Do the exact opposite on all these things if you're a leftie.)

It's important to have an organized palette because your number one enemy to creating beautiful paintings will be colors mixing to brown. Organizing your palette from cool colors to warm in separate wells keeps the colors pure and makes for a much brighter and happier painting in the end.

2. Select your biggest brush and add the first color.

It's usually wise when working in watercolor to start a painting with the largest brush and lightest colors. Think: big to small, light to dark. 

Make marks on your paper with this first color that are free flowing. Experiment with holding the brush lightly against the paper and then pressing it down gently while making strokes. See how the line varies in thickness? See how when you press the brush down a bit and release, a little more water flows out of the bristles and leaves a cool texture?

Try to keep the lines from touching at this point.

free watercolor tutorial, learn to paint, learn watercolors for free

free watercolor tutorial, learn to paint, learn watercolors for free

3. Change colors and add texture.

Rinse your brush out completely in the warm water and load it with a different cool color (blues, greens, purples). Turn your brush slightly at an angle in relation to the paper and use the side of the brush to make broad strokes. Then try making a different, smaller, leaf shape by tapping the brush gently on the paper in one motion. The water will collect and dry unevenly, which is one of my favorite reasons for using this medium!

Just let the water do it's thing.

learn to paint using watercolors

learn to paint using watercolors

free form abstract painting with michelle

free form abstract painting with michelle

4. Use a scrap piece of paper to test colors.

Before adding the next color to your painting, test it on a scrap sheet of watercolor paper. Keep in mind that colors will look very different from your palette to your paper. Testing helps you know whether or not the color on your brush is the one you actually want.

artist watercolor palette, painting with an artist

artist watercolor palette, painting with an artist

learn to be an artist, free form abstract painting

learn to be an artist, free form abstract painting

5. Repeat the process with each brush and color.

Always rinse your brushes out completely between colors and NEVER leave the brush sitting in water. Brushes should always be stored laying flat while drying.

Use your size 8 brush next and experiment with a new color. Try to make at least 5 different kinds of lines and shapes with each brush. Try circles and dots and pressing the bristles down at different pressures. Use the very tip of the brush and the side.

Do the same with the rest of your brushes. Make as many different marks as you can with each of them. Try to use every color on your palette! If you run out of room, start a second painting.

watercolor tutorial, free watercolor lessons

watercolor tutorial, free watercolor lessons

learn to use watercolor, learn to paint with michelle, colorful abstract painting

learn to use watercolor, learn to paint with michelle, colorful abstract painting

6. Let the painting dry and add a second layer.

Watercolor dries very quickly. Some of your marks are probably already dry. Let's use a #4 brush and add texture on top of some of the marks you've already made. This technique is known as working wet on dry. I'll show you how to get amazing texture by working wet on wet in future tutorials, but for now, let's stick with the easier technique that allows you more control.

Add lines and dots and organic shapes to this second layer.

watercolor techniques, watercolor tutorial, free online painting lessons

watercolor techniques, watercolor tutorial, free online painting lessons

7. Add the finishing touches.

You can be done with this painting whenever you want to be done. I usually stop when I feel a sense of satisfaction or when the page is full. 

Do you feel like you have a better sense of how to use your brushes? Do you feel slightly more confident in your color palette? 

Feel free to paint as many of these "free form abstracts" as you want! A great way to come up with new shapes and colors to paint is to study reference materials. Pay attention to your surroundings, go for a walk, study a leaf or a flower, check out botanical books from your library and try to notice all the shapes and colors around you. Try to emulate that in your painting.

free form abstract art, colorful watercolor painting

free form abstract art, colorful watercolor painting

Leave your questions in the comments! (Click the "comment" button at the top of this post.)