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Signs of spring

Develop confidence and skills as you paint an experimental study of loose and lively flowers in watercolour, with Fiona Peart

Painting flowers in a loose watercolour style can be exciting, while embracing the unpredictability of watercolour can result in some wonderful effects. One of the nice things about painting flowers is that, if your flower petals or leaves look a little wobbly or the colour isn’t quite right, no one will know.

Experimenting with the techniques we develop is key to success so avoid always wanting to paint a finished picture, as this can put added pressure on your painting session.

I am going to show you a way of working here, which I hope you will enjoy, as you don’t need to work on the whole painting all at once. Instead you can work on small sections at a time, joining them together as you go. You can also begin anywhere you like. Some sections will stay sharp and in focus, whilst others will run, suggesting softer areas; the choice is yours, depending on the effects you want to achieve.

This is an experimental process and initially I suggest you use the paints you currently have and work on the watercolour paper you are familiar with so that you have fewer variables when you are experimenting. Please think of the list of materials (below) as a guide only.

Demonstration Spring Blossom

I selected a red and a green water-soluble pencil so that any marks I made would disappear once the paint was added, and those that didn’t could be erased afterwards. I began with a simple line drawing, using the red where the flowers would be and the green for the foliage areas, and I shaded where I intended to use darker colours (see Step 1, below).

A drawing is not always necessary, but it can be helpful to have something on which to experiment, rather than a blank sheet of paper. I wasn’t planning on this being a painting as such, but a place where I could try out different ideas before beginning my final piece (see the end of this demonstration for the finished painting). Some elements I knew I would use and some I thought I would reject. I wanted the main flowers in the foreground to appear in focus, and a mere suggestion of others in the background so the background needed to be wet into wet with strong colours dropped onto the wet surface. I began on the top left, using the outer shape of the flowers as my hard edge. As long as the outside edges were wet, I could fade any colour into that wet area thus enabling me to work on different parts of the painting while others were drying. If you are left-handed, you might prefer to begin top right.

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About Leisure Painter

Welcome to the May issue of Leisure Painter. This month we have practical advice, step-by-step demonstrations and instructional features on drawing and painting with watercolour, acrylics, ink, oils and coloured pencil. Try 12 confidence-boosting exercises to help you draw and paint figures, be inspired by the travel posters of the 1930s to produce contemporary-looking poster-like paintings, and learn to paint a plethora of subjects, including landscapes, animals, birds, flowers, seascapes and more. Enjoy your month of painting with Leisure Painter.