A good artist is never "off duty", and the best advice experienced painters in watercolour can give to beginners is to be aware of potential paintings all around, all the time, any time. If you wait until the muse strikes, you may wait forever. "Ontario Trillium" is one example of always being "on duty". Image size is 15" X 11", on 300 lb Arches cold pressed, using W&N Artists quality paints. Click here for a larger version. http://watercoloursforfun.com/BlindLinkTrillium.html
For those not familiar with this plant, Trillium is the native flower of the Province of Ontario. It blooms only in Spring and for a very short time. It grows wild and results in a carpet of blooms in woodlands across much of Ontario. The blossoms are up to two inches across and are accompanied by broad, slightly shiny leaves on long slender stems. I came across this stunning display while wandering around "Garden Artifacts", a beautiful garden centre in our village of Uxbridge. I went along to check out the aquatic displays, statues, waterfalls and assorted pots, but wandered to the outskirts of the grounds in search of the unusual. I found it by being "on duty".
This a tricky plant to photograph and paint. The white flower is an intense white, and the leaves are clustered thickly around them. As I sat and planned this painting, it occurred to me it made a fine example of painting negative spaces, so I decided to turn this into a step-by-step demo. You may never paint Trillium of course, but the techniques used here may help you in future paintings. My original, simplified demo on painting negative spaces can be found at
The first step was to get an accurate image on paper and try to lessen the confusion by putting a small x's where the darkest areas would occur. This had the odd effect of making this look like a "paint-by-numbers" project, but I knew once I began I would soon get lost amid this greenery and I was glad I tried this method.
Next I masked off the white flowers to ensure their eventual whiteness would be preserved.
Now a word about palettes, colours and general cleanliness. Although I retired from commercial art many years ago, old habits die hard I'm afraid. I always clean my palette before each new painting, as well as cleaning up my painting area. Here I show my relatively simple palette, and I'm using my "break-up" brush to mix clean pure colours ready for use.
Here I'm putting on the first wash of green, which is the first of many layers to come. Unfortunately I misjudged the tone and had to make it darker later, but it was a start. I throughly wet the paper first, let it almost dry, then applied the colour.
Now I mixed and applied my second layer of green, carefully leaving in the centre of interest leaves, and lightening up the edge of one. You'll notice I made a false start on the top LH corner leaves before I realized I was out of sequence. I was able to correct this later on.
This shows the amount of colour I mixed to cover the paper for each wash. Too many painters in watercolour fail to mix enough colour, or have tiny wells which soon run dry. This means a panic as you try to match the existing colour before the layers dries out. Always make sure you have enough "paint in your wagon" before you start the journey. On bigger washes I have separate wells for this purpose.
Leaving the false start on the upper LH side, I apply the next layer, painting around the leaves I wish to leave in. Now my "paint-by-numbers" X's come in handy as it's starting to get confusing.
It's at this point I realize my first wash wasn't dark enough, so here I'm applying a darker wash over everything but the centre of interest leaves. The white blossoms are protected by liquid misket of course. Are you still with me?
More "palette talk" as I show you how I mix up enough of the various tones of the same green to build up my layers.
Now I begin to build up my darkest tones - the ones which had little x"s in the original drawing. I'm beginning to get confused now but I concentrate on one small segment at a time.
Here's a close-up to show you how I'm progressing.
I don't want to get too far ahead of myself, so I stop putting in the darkest values at this stage and begin working on individual leaves.
I've just about used up my 15 images for today, and probably your attention span, so I'll see you here tomorrow?