I was given permission to post some of my work on the upcoming book, “Must Paint Watercolor Flowers” (Quarto Publishers, London) for which I’ve been commissioned to paint three floral watercolors. The painting is the easy part; taking the photos, correcting them in Photoshop, and writing about each of the steps takes much more time and isn’t nearly as much as fun. I thought I’d break this into a few posts so they won’t be too long.
My first step after being given my choice from a couple dozen excellent photos (which I’m not permitted to post) was to do some rehearsals in my sketchbook. I used several pages to experiment with how I wanted to approach the metal pitcher, mixing colors for the leaves, the buds and the yellow-green flowers (above). Then I experimented with color mixtures for the orange flowers and the large amount of darks (below — combinations of Winsor Green and Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Sienna, Sap Green and Sepia, Winsor Green and Winsor Violet).
Next step was to transfer the photo to my watercolor paper. Initially I was going to make the painting small enough to fit on my scanner but decided to use the maximum size the publisher allowed since it was such a complex painting. I chose a 12 x 16″ Arches 140 lb. cold press watercolor block (block is easier to set up for photographing). If I’d been given more time and/or if the photo wasn’t so complex, I probably would have transferred the image by drawing freehand or using a “gridding up” method but with a two-week deadline I used a quicker method.
I enlarged the photo in Photoshop and printed it in sections (before figuring out I could have more easily used my copier to do the same) and taped them together. Then I placed a sheet of Saral Transfer Paper on top of my watercolor paper and laid the enlarged print on top of the Saral. Using a ballpoint pen, I traced over the shapes of the flowers, leaves, stems and shadows which transferred graphite lines from the Saral paper onto the watercolor paper.
See what I mean about how complicated the image is! I’d left too much of an overlap on the tiled together enlarged photo and some areas didn’t get a good transfer so had to freehand some of the drawing, clean up some lines and darken others. This is my new favorite mechanical pencil, the Papermate PhD Ultra.
I wanted to paint the pitcher wet-into-wet and so I applied Winsor and Newton Colourless Art Masking Fluid to some of the shapes around and projecting into the pitcher to make it easier to paint wet into wet more freely. I used a cheap disposable brush to avoid messing up my good ones. I prefer Cheap Joes Golden Fleece rounds for watercolor and even though they aren’t expensive, I don’t want to ruin them with masking fluid.
I like pulling off the mask with the rubber cement pick up tool. I think it’s made out of the same stuff Vibram shoe soles are made from. The pitcher and the table have had their first washes. Next step is starting on the flowers and that will be in the next post.