Magnolia in watercolor

This week i just wanted to paint flowers, Magnolia flowers. It’s a very fascinating tree for me, as it blooms so beautifully right after winter. It’s almost magical !

Magnolia, Uppsala

My reference picture isn’t from this year. As you probably guessed, magnolias aren’t yet in bloom here in Stockholm. So i’ve searched for a reference in my image library and found this one from Uppsala botanic garden where i went last year. I don’t have sketches to show you, i didn’t draw one for this painting. And i didn’t managed to find my previous tries from last hier in my archives…

The painting of magnolia i show you today is the first one i’ve achieved with a nice result. It was a bit of a challenge to hit the record button without knowing if i’ll be able to make something nice out of this subject. But i think it was worth it ! The hardest part in this painting is to associate blues, pinks and whites without making them bland and too simple. Here is a little tip : it’s better to avoid mixing violet (for darker shade of pinks) with cerulean blue and rose madder lake. This mix makes a beautiful violet, but it’s a bit flat and not strong enough for this particular subject. So i prefer to mixed my violet with pink and Lunar blue. It brings more depth to my colors and makes beautiful mixes. It’s a lot darker than cerulean blue but it has a strong power of granulation, even stronger than cerulean blue.

Watercolor of Magnolia in video

Supplies :
Brushes : Escoda Aquario nº18, Rosemary & Co serie 39 1/2″.
Paper : Canson Héritage rough.
Colors : Cerulean blue (Daniel Smith), Quinacridone gold (Daniel Smith), Rose madder lake (Sennelier), Lunar blue (Daniel Smith).

And here you have the finished painting (click to enlarge) :

Watercolor pencils

If there is one thing i do like to do with watercolor, it’s experimenting. And it’s been a while i haven’t just done that ! So this week, i’m experimenting with watercolor pencils.

My inspiration picture isn’t very important today, but if you want to see it, here you have it just above this ! On my picture we can see just some anemones on the ground. This flowers are the first blooming here in Stockholm ! But the main subject for this video is watercolor pencils. For a long time i didn’t like it, but now i can tell that i didn’t like it because i didn’t know how to use them !

I’m saying exactly the same in my video but i do think it’s truly important so i’ll tell it again here : do not buy the boxes with selected colors (unless you do really like/want the colors !). As the pencils are not made to be mixed together, it’s not possible to create new colors from primary colors. This is why i don’t recommend the boxes but i do recommend buying the color you like really or you’re sure you’ll use. That’s why i have Indanthrene blue, it’s a color i use a lot right now and i’ve also chosen Chromium green opaque because it’s quite similar to the greens i mix usually. So i’ve created my own little set of color i’m sure to like and use. And since then i’m using watercolor pencils a lot more !

I’m using this tool mostly for sketching because i find that they are adding energy and interesting textures to a sketch. For now i haven’t use them for a bigger watercolor painting, but i can see myself using them in this kind of painting too.

Watercolor pencils in video

Supplies :
Brush : Escoda aquario nº18.
Paper : Saunder Waterford rough 190gsm.
Colors : Indanthrene blue (Sennelier), Mayan yellow (Daniel Smith), Rose madder lake (Sennelier), Burnt sienna (Schmincke), Quinacridone gold (Daniel Smith).
Pencils Albrecht Dürer (Faber-Castell) : Naples yellow, Earth green, Chromium green opaque, Caput Mortuum violet, Van Dyck brown.

And here you have my final sketch (click to enlarge) :

Brushes comparison : natural vs synthetic

This week i tacle a big controversy : natural brushes or synthetic brushes.

Lot’s of watercolor painters are natural (squirrel and sable mostly) brushes afficionados. And i have been influenced by this thinking too. And natural brushes are very very nice brushes to paint with, no doubt in that. But they have quite a big drawback : the price. So lots of companies are proposing now synthetic version of their brushes. And sometimes they aren’t much cheaper than natural ones…

natural brush vs synthetic
Top Escoda Aquario (natural), bottom Jackson’s Raven (synthetic)

My brushes are quite miscellaneous in shape, size and quality but i admit that the one i’m using the most are natural hair brushes. Essentially, they are very soft and can manage a lot of water. So i wanted to know if a synthetic brush could replace my very trusty but old (the point isn’t very pointy any more) Raphaël 803 brush. And for this trial i decided to put to the test the cheapest synthetic mop brush i could find. So i’ve chosen a Raven mop brush from Jackson’s Art Supplies because i have easy access to them here in Stockholm. With a price tag at 16€ for a 1,3 cm diameter, it’s unbeatable !

Of course there is differences, but nothing crazy ! So in the video i compare it to my most expensive brush i own, my Escoda Aquario and paint the same painting side by side with the two different brushes. In a nutshell, the synthetic brush is a bit less flexible and i have some small troubles to release water on the paper, but it’s a very good brush nonetheless ! And i’ll use it with great pleasure, mostly for plein-air or when i’m travelling because this brush is less fragile than a natural one (and cheaper to replace is something happen or if i lose it). It would have been nice to know about this brush four years ago when i started to paint !

Brushes comparison : natural vs synthetic in video

Supplies :
Brushes : Escoda Aquario nº18, Jackson’s Raven nº4.
Paper : Canson Héritage rough.
Colors : Indanthrene blue (Sennelier), Quinacridone gold (Daniel Smith), Rose madder lake (Sennelier), Burnt sienna (Schmincke).

And here you have the finished painting (click to enlarge) :

Birch tree in watercolor

This week’s video is a bit peculiar. This theme is not seasonable, but it was chosen by my student from my watercolor workshop : painting birch tree.

It’s always a bit weird to talk about my watercolor workshop, because i don’t feel like a teacher. I just want to share my passion for watercolor in the same way as i do on Youtube. I’ve started this workshop a year and a half ago and it’s a wonderful experience !

But let’s got back to today’s subject : Birch tree. I’ve chosen this fall scenery just because i add a lovely reference picture. It’s a very simple image regarding composition : a background and a foreground very well defined. The colors are a perfect mix of fall colors with so much richness in the gold hues. Few months after this picture was taken, i sketched this scenery in my sketchbook very quickly. Not a perfect nice sketch, but a really good base for a futur work.

And my video is just about going from my sketch to a more finished painting. The composition was already good and the colors were very interesting so there’s nothing to change drastically. I’ve worked the background a little bit more and i put a lot of details in the foreground. At the end it’s in fact quite an easy picture to paint. Even if you have the impression that the trunks of the birch tree have needed a lot of work, it’s in fact just some texture. Which is very easy to paint with a dry brush charged with pigments.

Watercolor birch tree in video

Supplies :
Brushes : Escoda aquario nº18, Raphaël le “803” nº2, Rosemary & Co serie 39 1/2″.
Paper : Canson héritage rough.
Colors : Indanthrene blue (Sennelier), Quinacridone gold (Daniel Smith), Quinacridone burnt scarlet (Daniel Smith), Burnt sienna (Schmincke).

And here you have the finished painting (click to enlarge) :

Colorful tulips in watercolor

Tulips were the first flowers i try to paint in watercolor 4 years ago ! And i haven’t try again to paint them since then ! So this week, i’ve focused all my work around tulips.

I don’t have really a reference picture this time. The first image is the one that has triggered my inspiration but also each bouquet of tulips i’ve seen this past few days at the florist, the market or even the supermarket. The second picture is the first painting i’ve done of tulips 4 years ago ! And honestly, it’s not as bad as i remembered ! But it’s still a very stiff watercolor painting with no unity between elements.

As i explained it in the video, i’e had quite a long process for this painting. I’ve started from a picture and paint just what i saw (third painting above). This study isn’t bad and maybe even quite good for some parts of it. I love how the stem is merging with the petals for example. But i wanted to go a little further in my idea and paint something different. So i changed totally the composition of my painting and also the dynamique and you can see the result in the last picture above !

But i went i little bit more further in my idea for the painting i’ve recorded. I’ve keep the composition like my last study. But instead using realistic colors that i was able to see in my reference image, i try to use more colorful and dynamique colors. Of course they aren’t realistic, but they are more adequate to my mood. And i love so much the phtalo turquoise !

Colorful tulips in watercolor

Supplies :
Brushes : Raphaël le “803” nº2, Silver Brush Black velvet 1/4″ in a dagger shape.
Paper : Canson Héritage rough.
Colors : Indanthrene blue (Sennelier), Phtalo turquoise (Daniel Smith), Quinachridone gold (Daniel Smith), Winsor red (Winsor & Newton), Rose madder lake (Sennelier).

And here you have the finished painting (click to enlarge) :

Wisteria and house front in watercolor

This week i’m fighting the cold in Stockholm by painting a picture i took during last spring : a house front in London with a lovely wisteria climbing the wall.

That’s totally crazy how much houses nearby London have wisteria on their wall ! Wisterias and english style make beautiful neighborhood. During my trip there i’ve made some sketches of these houses. But today i wanted to paint something more in the same loose style i painted another house. A freer style, much more in simplification and impression than a very realistic picture.

So i painted a first try on one of my watercolor sketchbook. I’ve tested my colors, but also diverse elements i wanted to try in order to add texture. So i tested some watercolor pencils and a fountain pen. I’ve made marks with them and try different textures. But i have to say that the watercolor pencils wasn’t a good idea as i didn’t have the right shade to match my painting. But it was quite interesting nonetheless, and i hope i’ll be able to talk about them more in a near futur. The fountain pen was much more interesting, but i think it’s more convenient for a sketchbook and i don’t really use it for bigger painting.

But i didn’t end up using all this research in my final painting. They allow me to have a better idea of what i wanting and it was nice to try something else. One thing i should have been more careful about it was my sketch. I could have avoid this big mistake of perspective !

Watercolor of a house with wisteria in video

Supplies :
Brushes : Raphaël le “803” nº2, Silver Brush Black velvet 1/4″ dagger shape.
Paper : Canson Héritage rough.
Colors : Indanthrene blue (Sennelier), Viridian (Schmincke), Verona gold ochre (Daniel Smith), Quinacridone gold (Daniel Smith), Rose madder lake (Sennelier), Quinacridone burnt scarlet (Daniel Smith), Lavander (Daniel Smith).

And here you have the finished painting (click to enlarge) :

Mimosa in watercolor

This week, i’m painting flowers again but flowers i’ve never painted before : mimosa !

Sadly i don’t have any reference picture to show you this week. I’ve worked with a real bouquet in front of me and didn’t think taking a picture of it before it turn bad… But this was a very simple flower bouquet : a branch of mimosa and some branches of eucalyptus. Nothing extraordinary but a nice armful of spring !

As i said in the video, i’m painting this kind of flowers for the first time ! They are not, i think, flowers difficult to paint. If you focus on the general aspect and on texture more than painting every details, you’ll be fine.

I’ve made some “mistakes” in this first time painting mimosa. The biggest one is my choice of yellow. I haven’t think and plan a lot before my painting (which can be a good think sometimes) so i took the first yellow i saw in my palette. Which was Winsor yellow deep. And it was way too warm for the mimosa. I have also the feeling that it dry even warmer on the paper ! But after studying my flowers in front of me, i was able to note that mimosa is more a neutral yellow hue and maybe almost on the cooler side. So i did another painting after my video and tried again with Mayan yellow (Daniel Smith) which is more neutral than the Winsor & Newton one but in comparison a lot cooler. And this was a way better choice of color !

Mimosa à l’aquarelle en vidéo

Supplies :
Brushes : Escoda Aquario nº18, Raphaël le “803” nº2, Silver Brush Black velvet 1/4″ in a dagger shape.
Paper : Canson Héritage rough.
Colors : Indanthrene blue (Sennelier), Viridian (Schmincke), Winsor yellow deep (Winsor & Newton), Quinacridone gold (Daniel Smith), Burnt sienna (Schmincke).

And here you have the finished painting (Click to enlarge) :

Winter forest in watercolor

This week i’m switching subject and let flowers on the side, but not the snow ! So i’m painting a forest landscape in winter.

My reference picture is a forest with a ray of sunshine and some leftover snow. A lot of information and a very lovely atmosphere. The challenge here will be the beam of sunshine which is my focus point and specify the whole atmosphere in the picture. So how to keep this part luminous ?

For once, as the contrast between dark and light values is really important, i’ve painted a value study. With only one color, indigo, i’ve painted this forest scenery trying to keep the light light and the dark dark. it’s quite easy to paint and it allows me to see what’s important in my painting for a good understanding of it. It’s a good way to identify the areas that can be simplified without losing sense in the image.

And then in a second study, i painted the exact same scene, but with colors. So that i was able to choose my color correctly and it allows me also to see if the composition is good. I’ve noticed with this second study that i need to have cold shadows in order to make the beam of light even lighter and warmer. This contrast of cold/warm color is essential to create the atmosphere i need in my painting.

And thanks to all this background work, the painting i’ve recorded in video was quite easy to paint. I did know exactly where i was going and i haven’t barely any hesitation.

Watercolor of a winter forest in video

Supplies :
Brushes : Escoda Aquario nº18, Rosemary & co serie 39 1/2″.
Paper : Canson Héritage rough.
Colors : Cerulean blue (Daniel Smith), Indanthrene blue (Sennelier), Verona gold ochre (Daniel smith), Quinacridone gold (Daniel Smith), Quinacridone burnt scarlet (Daniel Smith).

And here you have the finished painting (click to enlarge) :

Frosted flowers in watercolor

Some flowers again this week ! Yes it’s winter and i have a lot less inspiration, so i count on my stock of personal pictures to help me. This week, i’ve chosen a picture of frosted flowers.

My reference picture is quite a complicated image with a lot of informations on it. All this informations are not needed to understand it, but you have to identify the one you could remove without damaging the understanding. With this idea in mind i’ve painted a couple of studies. in my first try, i’ve tried to paint as much informations as i can. And the picture at the end is very messy. But i’ve learned something : my background isn’t necessary to understand the picture.

With the things learn in my first experience, i’ve been able to paint a second study. And the picture is already a bit more interesting and a bit easier to read also. The frosted flowers are more recognizable. But when i look at this second study, i can see two points that can be improved. First, the stem of my frosted flowers are not necessary in my picture (in my taste). Without them, you could still understand the picture. Second, the darkest parts of my painting have been painted with neutral tint which “kill” my blues. All the shadows are boring and so flat.

And now it’s time for my third try, the one in video. Maybe the simplification is a bit extreme, but it has the advantage here to bring an atmosphere in my painting. No more background, no more stems, not much more information than just my flowers.

Watercolor frosted flowers in video

Supplies :
Brushes : Escoda Aquario nº18, Escoda Reserva nº6, Raphaël le “803” nº2, tooth brush.
Paper : Saunders Waterford rough
Colors : Cerulean blue (Daniel Smith), Indanthrene blue (Sennelier), Verona gold ochre (Daniel Smith), Rose madder lake (Sennelier), Wax pencil white Neocolor (Caran d’Ache), Acrylique white opaque pen (Posca).

And here you have the finished painting (click to enlarge):

Primroses in watercolor

For this week vidéo, i’m keeping the spring theme, or more the transition toward spring theme, with this lovely bouquet of primroses emerging from the snow.

My reference picture (thanks Mom) is very simple. The subject, primroses, is well framed by the snow. It looks like an easy painting coming, and without lots of worries. And yet. I have had so much trouble with this picture ! First it was the colors that were problematic. In my first study, i’ve tried to follow the colors i was seeing in the picture. But these are quite dark flowers against a dark background. Dark + dark = no contrast and a very dull painting. But there is something to learn from it : i should do more studies with just one colors and looking for values in my image !

In a second study, it was my composition that was lacking of dynamique and unity. But well, i was looking for trouble there as i was painting a square subject in a rectangular sheet of paper ! And even this problematic composition is not something that you see right away, it broke the dynamic and it looks like my flower are just laying there next to each other without something linking them.

And sadly my last attempt (the video) doesn’t combine all the good points of my studies. I made mistakes again with my composition and there is something still lacking ans i can’t point what. Even if i’m not totally happy with this painting for now, i will not try again. I will move on, paint something else and when all my frustration disappear i will come back to this subject and maybe i’ll be able to paint what’s in my head !

Watercolor primroses in video

Supplies :
Brushes : Escoda Aquario nº18, Silver Brush Black velvet 1/4″ dagger shape, Raphaël le 803 nº2, Raphaël 903 nº12.
Paper : Arches rough.
Colors : Indanthrene blue (Sennelier), Quinacridone gold (Daniel Smith), Rose madder lake (Sennelier), Lunar blue (Daniel Smith).

And here you have the finished painting (click to enlarge) :