Watch The Video
I recommend watching the time lapse video from my YouTube channel first to get a general understanding for how the painting progresses from start to finish.
Have you ever been stuck for a subject to paint? I’m lucky enough to live in a rural area in a country that is renowned for its natural beauty. Maybe you feel frustrated as a landscape painter because you want to paint local scenes but you don’t feel that they are worthy of being painted because they aren’t epic or panoramic enough.
Perhaps travelling to more suitable locations isn’t possible for you. The fact is, there are no shortage of worthy, interesting subjects to paint no matter where you happen to be but sometimes you might just need to focus in a bit closer than you’d previously considered.
This photo I took of a group of daisies is a good example of how you can always find an interesting subject on your own doorstep if you are prepared to look a little bit closer.
I’ve linked to where you can purchase the paints and the other art materials I used from Amazon.
Sap Green: Winsor & Newton | Daniel Smith
Pthalo Blue: Winsor & Newton | Daniel Smith
Ultramarine Blue: Winsor & Newton | Daniel Smith
Cadmium Yellow: Winsor & Newton | Daniel Smith
Cadmium Orange: Winsor & Newton | Daniel Smith
New Gamboge: Winsor & Newton | Daniel Smith
Arches Watercolor Paper Block, Cold Press, 9″ x 12″, 140 pound Buy from Amazon
My starting point was the reference photo above. A simple image of three daisies. What appealed to me about this subject, is the way that the daisies are grouped together in a triangular formation.
This creates a strong focal point. Each individual daisy is a different size and angled differently to the others giving the image enough visual variation to be interesting.
Loose Painting Tips
For this particular painting, I’m not going to try and copy the photo. I’m going to keep the background very loose with broad wet into wet strokes.
The daisies will be very distinct and hard-edged. This is a “Loose” painting, so I’m going to be using a large brush primarily. A large brush forces you to focus on the most important parts of the painting and discourages any temptation you may have to fuss about tiny details.
I’ve decided to paint negatively. This means that I’m going to paint around the main subject and put the background in first. It’s often necessary to paint this way when the subject is lighter than the background, because we can’t paint light colours over dark with watercolour.
I could have masked off the subject with masking fluid of course. The advantage of masking fluid is that I could have worked at a more leisurely pace. However, as the main shapes didn’t require a lot of detail, I decided to use the simpler water masking method instead. Working quickly, by necessity, facilitates a loose painting style.
Masking With Water
I used a DaVinci No.4 Round squirrel hair brush and loaded it with fresh clean water. This particular brush can hold a lot of water and is large enough to cover big areas quickly. It also has the advantage of being able to form a perfect point, so that I can be very precise with it when painting around those delicate petal shapes.
I painted around the three daisies as quickly as I could, because I didn’t want the first brush strokes to dry before I’d covered the whole background.
I placed some Pthalo Blue, Ultramarine Blue, Cadmium Yellow and Sap Green in one of the larger wells on my palette. I didn’t pre mix them too much as I wanted the colour to mix freely on the paper.
I began painting with a synthetic round brush this time. I painted from the top down allowing gravity to do it’s work and let the paint naturally flow down the paper. Note that the paint will only flow into the areas where the water has been placed and never into the dry areas.
As before, I needed to work quite briskly with the paint brush, as I didn’t want the background to look streaked and patchy. This would happen if an area was allowed to dry and was then painted over. This is due to the transparent nature of watercolour. Once an area dries. Painting over it darkens it. This is a common technique known as glazing and can be a good thing when it’s intentional.
The effect I’m aiming for here is a loose abstract wet into wet background that gives an impression of greenery, so I’m trying to avoid creating any hard edges at this stage.
As soon as I had the entire background area painted in. I allowed it to dry. Once dry, it’s o.k. to add more water and and start painting wet into wet again.
Once a painting is dry it essentially becomes inert but it’s important to be certain that it is completely dry. Adding water before the painting completely dries could potentially cause back runs ( i.e. Cauliflowers) For a more detailed explanation on this please see this post.
Building up the painting in stages. I added more water to the paper and more of the of the same greens and blues towards the bottom of the painting. I’ve made the paint a little thicker this time by no adding less water to it. This instantly creates a loose impressionistic foreground with a few strokes.
As I’ve said. I wanted this painting to be a loose one overall but at the very end stages It’s all about adding those little details that brings the whole thing to life.
For the yellow centres of the daisies, I took my small round detailed brush. A Winsor & Newton Cotman no. 3 round 111 and stippled some spots of Cadmium Yellow. Cadmium Yellow is a warm yellow that creates a strong contrast with the cool blues and greens of the background. I also added a few little spots of New Gamboge ( A darker warm yellow) to indicate some tiny little shadows.
For the shadows on the petals, I used very dilute washes of Dioxazine Purple.
Finally it was back to the large synthetic brush to quickly paint in the stems and flick in some blades of grass in the foreground with an even darker mix of greens and blues.
It’s important to take a step back at the end stages of a painting. Although It might be tempting to keep piling on the details it can ruin the effect you are trying to create. This is called “Overworking” and spoils the freshness and spontaneity that is the hallmark of a loose painting.
Total time for this painting was slightly over 20 minutes so a fairly quick and straightforward one to attempt. I hope you enjoyed this tutorial. If you found it useful I’d appreciate you spreading the word and sharing it on social media.