Watercolor Painting – Echinacea
I haven’t been talking about something I’ve been doing lately, more than I have in a long time, and that’s that I have returned to painting and drawing. You may or may not know that I got my degree in watercolor, and since college, I have not done a lot of painting. First, because I had to get a job so my husband could finish his degree, then another one because his first teaching job paid peanuts so we couldn’t afford to live on his salary, then when we moved back to Michigan I had to get another job so we had enough to live on until his next teaching job started, and then we wanted to buy a house and then we had kids! You know what I’m talking about right? There’s always a reason why you can put off doing something you love. In the meantime, of course, I sublimated the creative impulse with various crafts, most notably card making and scrapbooking for the past 20 years (wow, has it been that long?!?) At the end of last year, though, I started painting again. Yesterday, I finished a small watercolor painting of echinacea flowers from a neighbors garden that I had first drawn in pencil. If you follow my Instagram account, you already know all this! I started an art gallery page on this blog to show my paintings, but I thought I should start posting about it too and talking about the process I go through plus talk about the best watercolor paints and other products I have found to use in drawing and painting.
I start with a photo. I love drawing from photos now, because the smart phone has really revolutionized the process of drawing from photos. First, you can zoom in and out of the photo (which I take at the highest resolution), and so you no longer have that flat look that resulted from drawing from photos back in the day. It’s like you’re looking into the photo and the dimension turns out to be just like real life, in my opinion anyway. I took this picture on the way back from voting of one of my neighbor’s front garden. I love echinacea (cone flowers), so I was eager to sketch these.
When I paint, I usually sketch first, though not always. I love sketching in graphite, and my favorite pencil is the Palomino Blackwing Soft Graphite pencil. They are pricey, but they are very worth it. I got hooked after I got one in the ArtSnacks box I used to subscribe to. I love this T’Gaal pencil sharpener, which gives me a choice of 5 different points for pencils, and I use a kneaded eraser for erasing, though the Blackwing does have something unique in artist pencils, it’s own eraser that is replaceable. This Blick Studio Sketch 6 x 9 sketchbook is my favorite size, purchased from Blick Arts Supplies. They have a sweet sale on their sketchbooks right now, buy 2, get 1 free. I went and stocked up today because this sketchbook is starting to get full. You can see I essentially cropped the photo for the sketch, because I wanted to focus on just the cone flowers.
After I lay in the basic sketch, I start doing the shading. I use an artist chamois to add soft shading in the background. I love this Tombow Mono Zero fine eraser to create the ghost images in the background as well as erasing in tight areas. The blending stump also is an important tool for carrying that soft shading into the tight spots. I highly recommend the Pro Art ones (made in Taiwan) because they work SO much better than other ones that are made in China. Trust me. If the stumps say, “Made in China” AVOID them. You will also need a sandpaper block for those stumps so you can keep the points sharp and clean. I also use something not pictured here, which is an Alvin Drafting Dry Cleaning Pad. It picks up all that excess graphite that can rub off on your hands and blur your drawing.
I decided to do a watercolor painting of this, and since I didn’t want to do a large painting, I cut a piece of Strathmore 300 series watercolor paper and taped it with artist’s tape to my clipboard. I usually prefer Arches paper watercolor block, since you don’t have to tape your paper down, but I didn’t have a smaller block, and since this sketch was done on a 6 x 9 sketchbook, I figured it would be easy enough to convert the sketch to a painting if I kept it the same size. I use a harder pencil to draw on the watercolor paper so that it doesn’t get blurred by adding water. I like Staedtler graphite pencils for this.
After I sketched again on my watercolor paper, I masked off the petals with Pebeo Drawing Gum. This allowed me to keep those areas white until I was ready to add color. I wanted the focus and the brightest white spots to be on those petals. I used this rubber tipped brush from Loew-Cornell to apply the gum, which is a really great tip I picked up from a watercolor group I belong to on Facebook. Unfortunately, they don’t make them anymore, but you can get similar brushes made by Royal Sovereign. I let this dry really well while I was out running errands today. I then proceed to paint over this to create the background for the flowers, and then I removed the gum before I put the color on the petals. I’m sorry I didn’t take any process photos of the steps I took in painting this…next time, I will.
I used Daniel Smith Watercolors for this painting, which are very high quality artist’s watercolors. I really feel they are the best watercolor paints on the market today, as there are many, many colors available. They are not cheap, but they are worth it. Luckily, you can buy them in tubes or you can buy dot cards that let you try before you buy.
It’s important to use the best watercolor paints you can afford when you are doing paintings because the cheap ones will fade when exposed to light. Cheap paints are fine for card making, though; they are just not something I’d use on a piece of art I want to last forever. Luckily, good paint goes a loooonggg way, and once you find your favorite colors, you really only need to replace those every now and then. I use Daniel Smith paints squeezed into half pans and allowed to dry. This makes them more portable. I put my half pans in some inexpensive watercolor palettes I get on Amazon. I pry the brackets out that come in the palettes because they have a tendency to rust, and I stick my half pans in the palette with Elmer’s Tack n’ Stik putty.
For brushes, I usually go for the synthetic Taklon style brushes because they are more economical. I have a hodgepodge of different brands, including Grumbacher, Utrecht, Trekell, and Princeton among others. Some of them are ones I bought when I was in college, and I never ever throw anything like that away, so I still have them. Today, in addition to stocking up on sketchbooks, I picked up some brushes in smaller sizes that I didn’t have many of since I got a really good price at Blick’s back to school sale.
I do a layered approach to watercolor and like to build depth by adding many layers. In between layers, I love my Stampin’ Up! heat tool to dry my paper because it has two settings, one for heat embossing and a lower temperature setting for drying ink or paint that doesn’t scorch or warp my paper. I used to use a hair dryer, but this way I combine two uses in one tool.
This is the result:
I love how it turned out. It feels really good to be painting again. This painting is for sale, so please feel free to contact me if you’re interested!
I don’t claim to be an expert in watercolor, mostly because I am still learning, and I will keep learning until I’m dead. Watercolor is a wonderful medium, and there are so many ways to paint.
I’ve created a link list of the stuff I used, which contain affiliate links. Buying through affiliate links does not cost you anything extra but remits a small percentage of your purchase to me (except for Stampin’ Up! links), and this helps support my art and my blog. Stampin’ Up! links go to my BFF, Wendy Weixler’s SU! site. She doesn’t pay me for this, but I’m always happy to send business her way.
Please feel free to ask questions about my process. I’m going to be doing more posts like this, and there is something else coming out of my return to drawing that I think you will be very excited about. I’ll be updating you about that as it gets closer! Ta!