Focusing on flowers

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Goldfaber Aqua watercolour pencil
Flowers make beautiful and interesting artistic subjects; no matter the variety, flowers have a timeless and classic visual appeal. And if you’re looking for a good subject to start with in watercolour pencil, flowers are an excellent choice. You can use the painterly effect Goldfaber Aqua watercolour pencil offers to render the soft, translucent quality of blossoms and foliage.
In this example, Debra K. Yaun uses water-soluble pencils in both ways, dry and wet, to render two simple flowers against a plain, dark background, creating strong contrasts and a dramatic finished piece.

Artist's Tip: Simplify the Subject

Sometimes the best way to approach a subject is to “zoom in” with your camera. To capture the simple beauty of these colourful amaryllis blossoms, crop in closely, eliminating the unnecessary details in the background.

Step 1

First carefully draw the flowers on watercolour paper with a graphite pencil. Indicate where the veins in the petals are to help give them shape. Next lightly layer helio blue reddish over the shadow areas and on the veins in the petals. Then shade the stem and the centres of the flowers a little darker with helio blue reddish.

Step 2

Next use a medium round watercolour brush to apply a light wash of water over the blue areas. Then add Indian red to the dark centres of each flower and layer cadmium yellow over the helio blue reddish in the centres. Also add a little cadmium yellow to a few outer petals to indicate reflected colour from the centres. Use permanent carmine to lightly fill in most of the petals, but leave the lightest areas and the yellow centres untouched.

Step 3

Now stroke water over the petals with a medium round brush, pulling the water from the centre of each flower out and along the veins. Add a layer of permanent green olive over the helio blue reddish on the stem, leaving a lighter area for the highlight on the left side. Next use permanent green on the stem and reapply helio blue reddish over it. Add a wide stripe of permanent green next to the helio blue reddish and then layer permanent green over the cadmium yellow in the centre of the flower.

Step 4

Use scarlet red for the outline and dots on the petals, varying the size and density of the dots to make the pattern random. Use a dry pencil on dry paper to add these details, but if you want a more intense colour, you could apply the pencil to damp paper. Keep in mind that the pencil dissolves a little when it touches the wet surface, so take care not to tear the paper.

Step 5

Finish the pattern on the petals, and then add a little blue violet to darken the shadows in the petals. Then use a brush and clean water to soften and blend the dots, centres, and edges of the flower petals. Next create the pollen detail at the ends of the stamen with cadmium yellow and burnt siena. Look at the reference photo often to make sure that you are capturing the detail accurately. Now it’s time to create the background; you need to choose a colour that won’t detract from or conflict with these bright flowers, as you want them to stand out as much as possible.

Step 6

Cover the entire background with a layer of helio blue reddish, adding Indian red and blue violet here and there for interest. Then use a large flat brush and apply clean water to the biggest areas of the background, causing the colours to blend. Next switch to a smaller brush for the areas that touch

Step 7

Now use a smaller brush to smooth the purple shadows and the centres of the flowers. Add scarlet red along the edges of the wet petals, and add a few more bright spots along the edges of the petals. Also apply more permanent green to the stem and centres, and add another light layer of helio blue reddish to the stem. If the background needs to be darker, so add more helio blue reddish, blending it with water. Then go back and define the edges of the stamens with purple violet, also applying more permanent green to the stem. Add more helio blue reddish to the top of the stamen and layer some purple violet and permanent green in a few areas of the background to help tie in the colours of the stem. Finally darken the background a bit more, using a circular motion to layer Van Dyck brown over the existing colour.

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Excerpt from "Watercolor Pencil Step by Step", published by Walter Foster Publishing, a division of Quarto Publishing Group USA Inc. All rights reserved. Walter Foster is a registered trademark. Artwork © Debra K. Yaun. Visitwww.quartoknows.com