Gorgeous Blooms Perfect for Beginners — Plus Step-by-Step Directions!
Artists, rejoice in the loveliness of Marie Boudon’s easy watercolor flowers — perfect for your journal pages, handmade stationery, and definitely pretty enough all by themselves, too! In her book DIY Watercolor Flowers, Boudon guides you through the basic techniques of flower painting with illustrated instructions of your favorite blooms and floral “arrangements.” She shares some of her favorite tips, demos, and techniques from her modern, vibrant art instruction book here.
Painting Flowers and Leaves with Marie Boudon
My suggested techniques are very relaxed. I am not attempting to reproduce the plants realistically. I’m aiming for brushstrokes that let me approximate the shape of the flower. Explore the possibilities with your brushwork and bring flowers to life on paper!
I suggest you paint roses from three different angles. Look at these sketches to get a better understanding of how I arrange the petals. Try carrying out your own experiments with roses of different species and shapes — there are so many to choose from!
View from above Start with the center of the rose using a well-pigmented mix. Use the tip of the brush to paint little circles.
Then rinse your brush well and squeeze it out. Using the tuft of the brush, paint broad petals around the center. Make sure you leave some negative spaces so that the rose appears to reflect the light.
Add details using the tip of the brush and a concentrated mix to suggest outer petals.
Side view Start from the center with a heavily diluted pink.
Add more pigment as you move further away from the center. You could also do the opposite to create a different effect.
The shape of the biggest petals gives the impression of them enveloping the center. Look at the sketch at the top of the page to get a better understanding of how they are arranged.
Rosebud Rosebuds are diamond shaped. Start from the top, using a concentrated mix to paint little circles.
Shape the right-hand side of the diamond using a more diluted mix.
Paint the left-hand side of the diamond, leaving a little negative space in the center to give the bud more shape.
Like roses, it is hard to choose a single way of representing peonies. Getting to know the flower and its specific characteristics from different angles adds interest to paintings, which appear less “flat.” Depending on the peony species and stage of blooming, the extent to which the flower has opened will vary, the petals will be different widths and the centers different colors…have fun with this fascinating flower. Half-opened Peony To paint a peony that is still slightly closed up, start with a mix of Carmine Red, Opera Rose and Payne’s Gray. Paint semicircles curving towards both the inner and outer sections of the flower.
Add to the petals, using a more diluted mix made from Cadmium Yellow and Rose Madder Lake.
After rinsing your brush, paint arcs to form the outer petals, this time pointing only towards the inside of the flower. Don’t forget to leave negative spaces.
Paint little lines with a fine brush to represent the center of the flower, using a mix of Cadmium Yellow and Quinacridone Gold.
Fully-opened Peony Using a mix that is not very concentrated, paint the petals quickly, leaving white spaces.
While the flower is still wet, apply concentrated Cadmium Yellow pigments to the center to create a gradation effect.
Once everything is dry, paint three big pistils using the same mix as for the closed peony. Create the illusion of lots of stamens, all around, by painting little dots.
Add thin lines, connected to the pistils, using a fine brush.
Sideview The overall shape of the flower is conical. Start by painting the front part of the flower using a diluted mix.
Increasing the concentration (to add dimension), paint the background of the flower.
Alter the tint slightly with each brushstroke by adding pigments. Leave a negative space in the center to paint the stamens with the same mix.
Dahlias are magnificent flowers that come in many different shapes and vivid colors. Once again, the movement of the brush will give life to the flower.
Apply an initial color in a quite concentrated form to shape the bottom of the dahlia. Paint little marks pointing towards the center of the dahlia.
Take a second, very diluted color and add marks to the top of the dahlia. Pretty color gradients will start to form.
Once the flower is almost dry, add slightly finer marks using the second mix in a slightly more concentrated form.
Anemone petals are wide with rounded edges. The flowers often have two layers of petals, which are suggested through the use of negative spaces and different colors. In order to take care with white spaces, start painting petals using brisk and bold straight strokes.
Add a curved stroke across the top by pressing on the brush head. Wash your brush before painting another petal. It is essential that the flower is not too dark so that the black center creates a lovely contrast. It is the unevenness that gives the flower its natural look.
Finish off the petals, slipping some underneath using a darker mix.
Once everything is dry, paint the center using Payne’s Gray. First the round, uneven center and then the stamens.
As with the peonies, paint an uneven ring of tiny dots all round the center.
Then connect them together using a fine brush.
I use leaves with simple shapes. I’m not attempting to reproduce the foliage to match a specific flower. This simplifies the creative process, letting me paint more freely and with greater spontaneity. What matters is having foliage in very varied shapes to add interest to compositions.
Eucalyptus is a lot of fun to paint. Create the stem using a very diluted mix. Then paint the leaves at different angles, varying the color and size. Use the technique shown on page 40 to create color gradients.
Use a fine brush to paint this palm leaf. Paint the central stem and then add the little leaves around, painting from the inner edge outwards.
I use this type of simple round leaf a lot. Paint the stem, using the tip of the brush and then press on the tuft, working outwards. A single brushstroke and the leaf appears! I love adding more concentrated pigments to the stem to create a color gradient.
For this simple pointed leaf use the tip of the brush, this time working from the outer edge inwards and finishing with the stem. Press down hard when painting the body of the leaf. You can leave a carefully shaped white area to suggest light.
Putting simple leaves together
You can assemble your individual leaves, whether round or pointed, into sets by means of little stems. Try not to make things symmetrical or too even, so that the leaves retain a natural look. Play with leaf size, especially for the smallest ones at the tip of the stem. Also try experimenting with colors and tonal values.
Want more easy watercolor flowers?
DIY Watercolor Flowers by Marie Boudon is designed for people who love modern, vibrant and spontaneous watercolors and are hypnotized by the beautiful colors and textures of flowers! It is a proper step-by-step guide for you, rather than just a series of tutorials. You will also find insights on how to choose your color palette, flowers and composition, seek contrast, perfect your brushwork and so on—with many different blossoms and blooms to achieve magical results with. Marie would also be thrilled to see your creations, so tag her on Instagram (@tribulationsde-marie, #fleursaquarellemarie)!