Botanical Watercolor Basics
The featured work this week is White Orchids.
White Orchids is a watercolor.
Many may wonder how to get started with a watercolor.
Here is a step by step that I hope is some help. If you have any questions. Be sure to post them on the blog so we can share what everyone is learning and I can get better at teaching on line!
First begin with a live subject with a single lighting source to simplify the values on the forms. Remember a good drawing is like a good translation, the values accurately describe the forms just as the right words give accurate meaning.
I recommend 90-140 Arches watercolor paper. It is archival (you never know when the Louver will call!) and not too bright white. Arches also comes in different finishes: cold press, hot press and rough. In order to capture the detail and some natural texture of the subject I prefer cold press, for intensely detailed work use hot press.
The Pencil Sketch
Arches is an unforgiving paper so be sure to use a light hand a at least a 2H pencil when drawing the sketch. Harder leads are ideal because the particles are not "loose" and can mix in the wet paint thus dulling the colors. Not not use a spray fixative on a watercolor sketch as the chemicals will coat the paper and cause the paint to bead and not adhere/soak into the paper.
Sketch the shapes of the shadows and lightly apply value, you can keep this simplified and you can be very detailed and use a broad value range for a detailed and dimensional effect.
Next is the shadow mix. The object is to mix a cool blue/grey and apply it thinly over your pencil values. The cool blue/grey can be achieved by mixing burnt umber and French Ultramarine in equal parts. You can also use Payne's Gray or a mix of French Ultramarine and Alizarin Crimson. Each mix will give you a bluish/purplish/grey. The warmth or coolness of your shadow mix depends on the local colors in your subject. Be sure to have a test piece of paper (the same as the one you are working one) and mix you shadow mix and local colors and test how they work together. When applying colors for natural subjects be sure to employ mostly graduated washes with soft edges. You can get this effect by gently running your clean damp brush over a semi dry wash.
Be sure to let the shadow mix dry completely before applying the local color. Remember in watercolor if you want white leave the area untouched so the paper shows through.