Painting Flowers Step by Step: Multiple Stamens

The idea of painting a flower that has more than one stamen may seem a little intimidating. My advice is to try not to get caught up in every detail. You can either use masking fluid to save the whites of the stamens or you can do it the way I prefer—by working with the negative space surrounding the lightest stamen. Masking fluid can leave harsh lines; working with the negative space can result in flowers that look more lifelike.

1.  Using different combinations of Naples yellow and permanent alizarin crimson, French ultramarine blue, burnt sienna and burnt umber, I added a little color to all of the petals, so I could see the petals’ shapes. I wet the paper first, then applied the color, starting at the petals’ edges.

2.  Once each petal had a shape, I worked on the shadows. Using a small brush, I differentiated one stamen from another by using a color darker than the one I used for the petals or the shadows. I applied only a few more strokes.

3.  As I deepened the background color, the flower became clearer and brighter. As I worked, I realized what areas needed to be enhanced. Three or four layers of paint are usually necessary to create a saturated color.

4.  At this point I’d achieved rich, deep color in the area behind the stamens, but I needed to balance the values throughout the painting. So I increased some of the darker values in the background and in other areas.

Multiple Stamens Palette

  • Naples yellow
  • Indian yellow
  • permanent alizarin crimson
  • French ultramarine blue
  • burnt sienna
  • permanent sap green
  • indigo

Self-taught as an artist, Birgit O’Connor has shown her luminous paintings all around the world, including China. Her new book, Watercolor in Motion (North Light Books, 2008), will be in bookstores in March. A frequent and longtime contributor to The Artist’s Magazine and Watercolor Artist (formerly Watercolor Magic), she teaches workshops in her studio in Bolinas, California. Currently she’s working on a second book, Watercolor Essentials (North Light Books, 2008), which will be released in the fall. For more information, visit her website at

This demonstration first appeared in Birgit O’Connor’s article “Fancy Flowers” in the March 2008 issue of The Artist’s Magazine. Don’t miss her other online demos:

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