Watercolor Flowers: Discovering Shapes Within

We will draw the principal flowers in position, but not the foliage. The placement, as well as the shapes of the foliage, will be developed from the design opportunities found in the wet-into-wet underpainting. I know this may sound like voodoo art, but it is possible to see shapes within a wash, especially in a charged wash.

These beautiful poppies make a wonderful subject for a floral painting. They look as if they were make of white crepe paper. I have seen them as large as a salad plate.

For more from Jan Kunz, preorder your copy of Painting Watercolor Flowers that Glow.


22″× 30″ (56cm × 76cm) 140-lb (300gsm) Arches cold-press watercolor paper

Alizarin Crimson, Cobalt Blue, New Gamboge, Raw Sienna, Rose Madder Genuine, Ultramarine Blue, Winsor Blue, Winsor Green, Winsor Red

1-inch (25mm) flat
Nos. 6, 8, 12 and 16 round


1 Getting Started

Wet the entire paper with clear water. Paint warm and cool shapes across the page using considerable pigment on your brush. Try to avoid at least a part of the flower shapes. Your finished wash should be about value 4. Let it dry.


2 Creating Floral Images

Your background will differ from mine. That is as it should be. No two washes are exactly the same. After the wash dries, begin to paint the flowers by darkening the background colors around them.

Next study your painting and look for subtle shapes within the wash. Go slowly and use your imagination to add stems and leaves as you “find” them. Make the most of the background shapes you have created.



3 Thinking Creatively

Continue developing the flower shapes and adding detail. Look for places where you might lose an edge. This is a good way to make the background a part of your painting. Ask yourself if you should glaze back an area, soften an edge or add a stem. An unforeseen circular shape has developed behind the central blossom in my painting.



4 Checking Edges and Shapes

I use that white shape to suggest another flower. Overlapping shapes help give the illusion of depth. The final step is to survey your work. Are the value relationships consistent? Are the darks dark enough? Use your value scale to check again.


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