Watercolour Preparation: Sunflowers

Just wanted to share my on-going sunflower watercolour painting from my art class and how I’m progressing.  I started about the beginning of June and completed the pencil drawing in the middle of that month.  However we got interrupted by holidays, then illness followed by a few sessions on Nihonga (which by the way was also a good break).  This pencil drawing, in 2B pencil, is the outline to be filled in with watercolour.

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Drawing flowers realistically, especially as elaborate as sunflowers, is a challenge, given the way the petals and leaves curl up, roll around and wither.  Something worth practising over.  And remembering that leaves have jagged edges and bases of the petals are tapered rather than round as I tend to do in my more cartoon-like drawings.  Then there are the shadows and highlights.  That I definitely need to work on!  Filling in the colours was a bit easier but you need to be knowledgable about colour theory.  The phase illustrated in the below picture must have been in about July.

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Back then, I had less confidence about mixing colours and brush application.  Nervous about making silly mistakes like painting in the wrong yellow or going outside the outline.  So I worked slowly with hesitation.  But over the past few months, I started practising at home for fun and gaining more experience with watercolour painting.  From palettes and tubes as well as from pigments as in Japanese nihonga and gansai.  So by the time I was back today to resume for the first time in months, I felt a bit more confident.

Of course I am far from being professional (I’m not anyway).   With time, I’m starting to grasp the concept of shadows and shades.  And with experience, gaining the knack of mixing colours to my liking or what is appropriate.  However, I still have a lot to learn.  Today, I learned more from our instructor, Sugawara-sensei.  Suggestions like adding some orange and reddish tones for the shadows and contours, to enhance vividness, was indeed helpful.  I had thought one ought to use opposite colours for the shadows, but for flowers and nature, different rules apparently apply.  For the stems and leaves, I was advised to paint the highlighted bits in yellow first and then paint over in green.  And for the veins of the leaves, leave them blank and paint around them before filling in with a lighter colour.  For the bottom leaf, you can see I didn’t do that.  But for the one above, I did.  Totally makes sense!

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So next week, I’ll be continuing the painting and hopefully it’ll look more complete.  As for now, this is what I have so far and I think it’s not looking too bad!  And am really enjoying every minute of it.

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