Watercolor Painting of Cacti
I went scouting for painting references at the Los Angeles Arboretum awhile ago. Local outdoor gardens are a good place to bring a cup of your favorite coffee to-go, and your camera. Wander the grounds that someone else has planted and manicured to snap reference photos of plants you don’t have in your yard as painting fodder. (After the pandemic is over.)
This watercolor of a prickly pear cactus (Opuntia) in the sun was painted from photos taken during my wanderings in the garden. Do you make plans to take your camera out to gather painting ideas? Scheduled image gathering sessions?
Even if you don’t have a fancy DSLR camera, you can take great painting reference photos with your phone. (I wrote about using your phone to snap still life painting fodder here.)
Source Photos for Watercolors
I collected several hundred sunny photos of flowers, cacti, leaves, fountains and shadows along the pathways of the arboretum.
It was a fun harvest, and I couldn’t wait to get back to the studio to see the images on a larger monitor.
If I want to paint a face, or a still life, I browse those reference images on my computer, by subject. I use a Mac, and the Photo App allows you to create customized Albums.
I keep my art reference photos organized by subject for easy retrieval. All my photos are uploaded to the Cloud, so they’re visible across each of my devises. I can print the photo larger, or just open it on my ipad to pinch the image in or out for details while I’m painting. Do you do that too?
This Opuntia cactus looked fun as a painting subject, because the orb shape of the fruit reminds me of Christmas balls, but with don’t-touch-me spikes.
Resources for Painting Succulents in Watercolor
- Anna Mason is a fabulous Botannical and still life painter with extraordinary attention to details. You can watch a quick video of Anna painting an echeveria in Watercolor, or sign up for one of her full length classes on watercolor painting.
- Craftsy is another source for great online courses, and they have some freebies too. This text and photos introduction to painting cacti in watercolor is a fast, simplified way to paint a handful of succulent watercolor postcards. (You could also paint rocks into a cactus cluster in a pot too.)
- Philip Boelter paints a line-up of cacti in pots, using gouache on black coldpress watercolor paper (<–check it out). Have you tried painting in gouache, or metallic paints on this paper yet? Especially for botanicals (insert eye brow wagging here). It sounds like an afternoon of fun to me!
- This cacti watercolor painting video has no verbal instruction but the demonstration is close-up and fun to watch. Watching another artist paint has enough hints about process to fuel some fresh inspiration. Grab your brushes and get started!
- Owen Mann made a series of beautiful succulents in pottery clay and glazes, and dubbed them Floramics. See his lovely work here.
Audiobooks in the Studio
These books (below) entertained me beautifully while I painted this cactus watercolor. I totally enjoyed listening to each of them.
I especially loved the book The Vanishing Velasquez. If you like non-fiction history, observations on historical traditions of painting portraits, artist to patron protocol, hierarchy in a King’s castle in the 1600’s, and analysis of Velasquez’ paintings from a deeply humanized perspective, listen to this book. 🙂
Painting Watercolor of Succulents
I think I’m painting cacti and succulents because I don’t have any flowers in my yard. I’ve got plenty of photos, but roses aren’t front-of-mind. There are prickly pear cacti just across the street though.
Winter is approaching – and today – very high winds are howling outside my studio window – three days after the 3rd anniversary of the Thomas Fire. Painting is a salve, in the truest sense of the word.
I have some watercolors started with a rose and plum still life, and a few miniature figurative dry-brush portraits. I’ve also got three or four new drypoints from produce containers. But each of them are at the midway point, so stay tuned.
Let’s keep each other accountable, and try really hard to finish some art this week, okay?
Thanks for visiting, and happy art-making from my messy studio to yours!
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Gabrielle Zevin – The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
These things are never fair. People like what they like, and that’s the great and terrible thing. It’s about personal taste, and a certain set of people on a certain day.