Medium: Watercolor Category: Floral

This demonstration entitled "Building Color" is from the book, Watercolor in Motion by Birgit O'Connor, published by North Light Books, an imprint of F + W Publications. Reprinted with permission of the publisher. All steps and text included.

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building color

Here, instead of mixing color on the palette, you'll allow two pigments to blend directly on the paper. Both pigments can appear separate in intensity, but with a nice transitional blend into a third color. The white areas you leave, the amount of water you use, and the different values will give the washes a luminous appearance.

M A T E R I A L S _____________________________________________________________

Paper -- 1/2 sheet 300-lb. (640gsm) cold press
Brushes -- No. 30 natural-hair round, Nos. 14 and 20 sable/synthetic blend rounds, Nos. 3 and 8 synthetic rounds, 2 to 3 inch (5 to 8cm) mop, bamboo hake or wash brush
Pigment -- Carbazole Violet, French Ultramarine, Indian Yellow, Indigo, Prmanent Alizarin Crimson, Permanent Sap Green, Quinacridone Magenta, Winsor Red
Other -- Graphite pencil

Draw, then begin the petals one by one
Lightly sketch the flower on your paper. Then work around the painting one petal at a time (see step 1 close-up below). This allows you to have more control over the color and blended transitions.
step 1 close-up | petals one by one
Begin with water
Apply clean water to only one petal using a bamboo hake or large wash brush.
Lay down color
While the surface still glistens, use your no. 20 sable/synthetic blend round to apply a mixture of Winsor Red, Quinacridone Magenta and Permanent Alizarin Crimson along the edges and down the middle (one quick stroke).
Transition and blend colors
Immediately after you've applied the red, add Indian Yellow along the other side. Lift and tilt the paper and allow colors to transition and blend. The amount of water will determine how well the color mixes.
Allow to dry, then move on
Move on to the next petal or work areas that aren't next to the wet petal. Allowing the paper to completely dry prevents color from bleeding from one petal to the next.
Repeat the color application
Repeat the color application from steps 1 to 4, then allow to dry again. Be sure to leave enough white space between colors to allow the two to gently blend together and give the illusion of highlights.
Lift and tilt to blend
Lifting and tilting the paper side-to-side will control the flow and direction of color. This back-and-forth motion moves the water and color, creating smoother blends. Heavier 300 lb. (640gsm) paper works best for this technique and helps to avoid any buckling.

Examine the values
Once each petal is filled with color, allow the painting to completely dry so you can see the overall values in the painting. It should look similar to this. Notice how much lighter the color has dried. The painting will have the same value overall.
Add another layer to build intensity
Be selective where you reapply color. Using the same pigments and brushes you used for step 1, begin adding more color. Lighter highlights do not need to be reworked; add additional layers in areas where more color or darker values are needed. Work toward building contrast so lighter areas move forward.
Add the shadows
For the shadows, use the same colors you used for the petals with the addition of small amounts of Carbazole Violet, Winsor Red or Indigo. Use the no. 14 sable/synthetic blend round for larger areas, and the no. 8 synthetic round for smaller ones. Avoid going too dark too fast; you can't go back. If you try to lift the shadow color out, it will leave a dark line around the shadow, which creates an overworked appearance.
Add the details
When a painting has a strong dominant color, the details and different hues can be enough to break it up. Treat details within the petals first. Use a no. 8 synthetic round and a mixture of Indian Yellow, Permanent Alizarin Crimson and Carbazole Violet to add in details and highlights. Let the color flow back into the center. Use Indian Yellow mixed with Indigo (or just Permanent Sap Green) for the very center of the flower. For the tops of the stamens and the background, use Indigo or your choice of complementary greens, and your smallest brushes.
Change the composition or colors as much or as little as you wish. This way, you start to find out what you will like within your own paintings. Here, I brought in more Indian Yellow, kept the values lighter in the shadows, added a tiny bit of Permanent Sap Green into two of the corners and mixed French Ultramarine with Indigo for the background.

Red Tulip
by Birgit O'Connor

22" x 30" (56cm x 76cm)
Watercolor on 300-lb. (640gsm) Cold Press

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Artwork and Text Copyright 2013 by Birgit O'Connor,
All Rights Reserved.
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This demonstration is from Birgit O'Connor's book, Watercolor in Motion, published by North Light Books, an imprint of F + W Media, Inc. Reprinted with permission of the publisher.

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