Floral Watercolor Painting – Finding Inspiration in Small Still Life Arrangements

a watercolor painting of flowers - yellow roses in a blue vase

Prepping to Paint Still Life in Watercolor

This post has a series of tips and resource links to help you with preparations and planning on your floral watercolor paintings. (Here are some examples [below] of floral still life set ups for watercolor snapped with my cell phone. You can use these to paint from if you want.)

Painting Flowers in Watercolor

Here are steps to use your phone’s camera to seek out still life arrangements around your house. After you’ve snapped a dozen or more images, look at them in the view finder of your phone, or as a thumbnail on your computer. Choose the image that reads best in a tiny format (good composition is easier to identify in a thumbnail), and paint that image larger on a watercolor block.

If you’re interested in using the grid method to draw your reference photo on watercolor paper, this post – and the accompanying video – will help you with the step-by-step instructions to use a simplified grid system get a more accurate still life drawing under your watercolors.

Different still life scenes benefit from particular watercolor painting methods. In this post, survey five different watercolor painting tips to use on all or just parts of your watercolor floral still life painting. Read on….

a child painting with watercolors
Before we become old enough to care what others thought, we enjoyed the process and painted colors we liked, all the way to the edge of the page.

Planning Your Watercolors

Do you draw with light pencil before you start a floral watercolor painting? A soft pencil road map helps to guide my brushes in watercolors, and that under-drawing softens the road-bumps of decision-making my artist brain has to climb over. Instead of trying to duplicate the shape of a petal with a brush of wet pigment while gazing at my reference still life, the shape is already mapped in washable pencil. (Do you use washable graphite? It dissolves when you touch it with a wet brush.) That frees me to think about color mixing and mark making. Wet into wet? Dry brush? Gradient values? Glazed layers of color? So many other choices!

Study for Poolside Can-Can – Watercolor

Making Your Own Still Life Set Up

Setting up a small still life near a window during the brightest part of the day (like the scene above) is an excellent way to fill your art-reference coffers. Here are a couple of posts to help you get started with that:

  • Figuring out what to paint can be a huge obstacle to your creative output. I encourage you to create your own still life set ups – and snap photos of them with your cell phone or a digital camera. Follow these still life arrangement set up guidelines – which were written for linocut prints, but are exactly the same for watercolor paintings.
Watercolor Pencils on a floral still life

Sketchbooks are an artist’s private room to practice new approaches in both painting and drawing. Have you tried new painting methods or tools (watercolor pencil) in a watercolor sketchbook like this one from Etchr?

Try Not to Reinvent the Wheel

Generations of artists before us have halted painting long enough to document – in text – their approaches to floral watercolor paintings. If the subject is compelling, but also intimidating to you, reach for help in the form of a book.

Watercolor is known as a challenging medium. I’m always a bit gob-smacked when beginners try to figure it out with no help. I think I would have tossed my brushes by the third painting if I didn’t have guidance and tips in my watercolor painting journey.

Really, there’s no need to torture yourself with watercolor painting skill-building in isolation. #artjail Art-making is supposed to be fun! Watch youtube tutorials, join watercolor groups on Facebook, and collect books for your art reference library.

Here are some great books on floral watercolor painting:

a watercolor painting of flowers on a kitchen counter in process
Working on a watercolor painting of a kitchen counter still life
floral watercolor painting of pink and white roses in a vase in front of a window on reflective tiles

Be Wise About Your Artistic Journey

Be a good steward of your own creative process. Pay close attention to what you tell yourself while making art. If you want to stretch your skills to paint better floral watercolors, put a plan together. Don’t just wing it.

Shore yourself up. Dig deep to find out what helps you learn the best way. Be deliberate while moving obstacles from your path to get to your art supplies more frequently.

And be selfish with your art-making. No one will follow you around to make sure you get some painting time in this week. You are the only one who can insist on that, so be firm in your convictions to make more art, more often.

Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll see you in the next post –

Belinda


a watercolor painting of flowers - yellow roses in a blue vase
Graham Thomas Roses in a Blue Vase – watercolor on paper

Art Quote


Each drawing and painting is an experiment and a mirror reflecting our perceptions of reality. Unfortunately, we rarely paint what we see. We paint an unconscious projection of incorrect ideas – what we think we see. The more we study visual appearances, the more our awareness and understanding of light and form will grow, and the better equipped we’ll be to draw and paint the world around us according to its inherent wisdom, nobility and beauty.

Anthony Ryder

6 thoughts on “Floral Watercolor Painting – Finding Inspiration in Small Still Life Arrangements”

  1. Your blog is really a gift to me. I get caught up in my roles as cook, cleaner, gardener, bla bla and put painting and art in general aside as “recreational” (as if the enjoyment I get out of doing any kind of art could ever be a negative thing). Not giving art-making the importance it deserves. You are such a gentle and positive reminder to me. Thank you for taking the time to write and share what you are doing. It is so valuable.

    1. Hello Eunice, Thanks so much for writing. I know the tug of war you’re describing, and I think you have a lot of company in that struggle. I hope you’ll consider meeting with others to make art regularly, since showing up for something you’ve committed to is sometimes easier than showing up for ourselves. Once you get in the groove of that, you may find it easier to parse time for your art at home. Paint on.

  2. Your ‘notes’ are one of the most valuable resources for good, common sense knowledge I’ve ever found. The generosity of the online art community is a wonderful wonderful thing, and you one of the top ambassadors. Thank you Belinda.

    1. Hi Lauren, What a kind and lovely note. I agree that the online art world is very generous, and we are – in every sense of the word – a community. I’m grateful to be a part of such a Good Tribe, and I appreciate your compliments towards my part in it. Happy art-making to you.

Write something.... pretend we're neighbors, and we’re painting watercolors together in the garden....