Project Finding a Natural Setting for Flowers

I live near an iris farm, which sometimes makes up for the dairy farm that moved in next door. I took the picture for this painting where the flowers are breathtaking and meticulously labeled. I sometimes like to think of the title of a painting before making it. This flower is called Color Me Blue, which seems the perfect title.

When painting flowers in a natural setting, you don't need to worry about copying them exactly. Each frill on a petal can wriggle in a different way. Each leaf can be different. Start with the outline drawing, but don't stress over making an exact copy because it doesn't matter.

The composition you're copying is a backwards letter "C." The center of interest is in the lower left-hand third.

1. Decide what size you want your painting and transfer the drawing in Figure 7-8 to your paper.

I chose a vertical format for the upright iris on 8-x-10-inch paper, but you can copy the image any way you want.

See Chapter 8 for help on transferring the drawing pattern to your paper.

Figure 7-8:

An iris drawing to trace, enlarge, and transfer to watercolor paper.

Figure 7-8:

An iris drawing to trace, enlarge, and transfer to watercolor paper.

Loose Watercolor Painting Irises

2. Activate your paints.

I used lilac and cobalt blue in the flowers and a variety of yellow (including yellow ochre), green, and blue in the leaves and the background. A small bit of cadmium orange and burnt sienna accents the flowers and their stems.

3. Start by applying a transparent wash of lilac in the flowers using a round brush.

I used the same #10 round brush for the entire painting out of laziness. Yes, even the tiny letters were done with the tiny point that can do itty-bitty detail. When pushed down, the bristles splay into a big wash fan for large areas, such as making the grassy areas in the foreground.

Lay the brush down nearly on its side to sweep in a lilac wash quickly over the flowers. Put the point of the brush toward the edge of the flowers and wriggle in the edge quickly. Don't worry about a very smooth wash; the variety in light and dark looks like shadows. See Figure 7-9.

painting layer of the flowers.

4. Let the flowers dry completely.

5. Paint in the background using the wet-in-wet technique (for more on this, see Chapter 3).

A. First wet the entire area around the flowers with clear water so the paper remains damp.

To keep the paper from buckling and to give you extra time with the background, dampen the back of the paper with a wet sponge.

B. Quickly cover the background area with a variety of greens, yellow ochre, and some drops of lilac. Keep it damp, transparent, and loose.

C. Flick some drops of clear water in the background green with your fingers. This will make little backwash blooms for texture. If water hits dry paper, like the petal, just leave it to dry.

See Figure 7-10. When you're happy with the background, let it dry.


6. When the background is dry, paint the details. See Figure 7-11.

A. Use a darker green and paint the dark spaces between the leaves. The leaves appear by negative painting around them with darker background colors. (You can find more on negative painting in Chapter 3.) You can follow the drawing or just put leaves wherever you see the need.

Remember your composition. Use variety. Make different heights, widths, space widths, and colors in the leaves.

B. Detail the flowers with some darker blue and lilac. The most detail is on the lowest flower, and the darkest darks are placed near it, making this flower the center of interest.

The words "Color Me Blue" on the tag next to the bottom flower are an irresistible draw of attention painted using burnt sienna. If this isn't enough to make the center of interest, hammer it home by adding the warm cadmium orange touches, with the cleanest application at the lowest flower.

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