Shining through glass

paint to do the sections of fruit behind the glass to make them a little lighter than the pieces not obscured. To achieve the bright white edges on the bottle, I used a razor blade to scrape off the paint. You can also save this white edge using masking fluid.

You can use many methods to achieve the same look, and one technique you can use when painting glass is glazing. You paint everything behind the glass, like a stem or leaves or a tabletop. Use clean hard edges. Let it dry. Then glaze (a little pigment in a lot of water layered over other layers) a color of your choice over the glass area. (Chapter 3 tells you about this technique in depth.) Depending on the paper, this softens edges and looks like glass in front of your items. Ironically, when framing a picture, the glass used is called glazing.

Saying it with flowers

Flowers are the inspiration for many still-life paintings. They also provide a vertical counterbalance to horizontal lines.

Flowers also can symbolize meanings and set the mood for the painting. For example, sunflowers indicate a casual painting with a touch of country atmosphere. Roses, however, set a formal mood.

Shaping up your flowers

Flowers are mostly circular and oval, but look at the general shape of the flower before you begin sketching the simplified shape. (See more on drawing in Chapter 8.) Reduce the complexity of the flower to simple geometric forms. For example, trumpet flowers are a circle attached to a cone or triangle shape. When you have all the general shapes in, then you can go back and refine the details.

If you have a bouquet of flowers, you may want to first sketch the entire shape of the bouquet as a circular shape. Then, within the big circle, sketch the individual shapes representing the individual blooms.

Sketch on tracing paper. Start loose. Put another piece of tracing paper over the first rough sketch and draw a little more carefully. Forget the eraser. Put each refined stage of the drawing on a new piece of tracing paper. You can look through the tracing paper to see the sketch below. When you get the drawing the way you like it, take the top tracing paper sheet and place it over the watercolor paper. You can now move it around until it's in just the right location relative to the sides of the watercolor paper. This allows you to crop some parts of the drawing if it adds interest. Try to avoid the "lollipop" look in the center of the page. Read Chapter 7 for ideas on better composition and Chapter 8 for info on how to transfer your drawing to watercolor paper.

Avoid the every-flower-looking-forward-and-perfect syndrome. Have some facing sideways and backwards. Have some buds. Have some flowers past their prime. If you do this, you have created a whole life cycle and now have the symbolic circle of life in your painting. The painting now has more content. It will interest the viewer longer too.

Staying simple

When painting flowers, start simple. At first choose flowers with fewer petals. Daisies, pansies, and tulips are great flowers to start exploring. (Chapter 4 has a painting of daisies.)

You don't need to paint every detail between each petal. The viewer's brain lets him see the separations between the petals. If you explain too much — paint every hair on the dog or every petal on the flower — your painting is less interesting than a simpler rendition that involves the viewer. In this case, less is more.

Paint a simple pansy with five petals.

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